25 Adventures to enjoy in Durham this Autumn

This is an advertisement for Autumn 2020. Some of the information may have changed since this post was first published in October 2020 but hopefully you can still use this post for inspiration. Please always check with venues direct for the most up to date information before heading out. 

There is so much to explore and discover in Durham across half term and beyond. This post features 25 ideas for days out and events across the county, perfect for the season. 

25 Adventures to enjoy in Durham this Autumn

The tourism businesses mentioned in this post have taken every step to ensure they are Covid-secure. Please ensure you follow local restrictions and Government guidelines. This Know Before You Go post features advice on how to #LoveDurham safely. 

I have not included opening hours / booking information in this post as circumstances can change and I would hate to provide the incorrect information. I strongly recommend you visit each venue's website and social media before booking & setting off for the most up-to-date information. Some of the photos in this post were taken pre-COVID. 

25 Adventures to enjoy in Durham this Autumn 

  1. Raby Castle , Park and Gardens 
  2. Ushaw: Historic House, Chapel & Gardens 
  3. Low Barns Nature Reserve 
  4. Bowlees Visitor Centre, Low Force & Gibsons Cave 
  5. Grassholme Observatory 
  6. Hawthorn Dene 
  7. Durham Town Hall 
  8. Tanfield Railway 
  9. Art Hunt at The Riverwalk 
  10. Wharton Park  
  11. Hardwick Park  
  12. Derwent Waterside Park 
  13. The Bowes Museum 
  14. North Pennines Stargazing Week 
  15. Auckland Castle Deer Park 

    Reader recommendations: 

  16. Broom House Farm
  17. Durham University's Botanic Garden (this is closed until early 2021 but thank you for the recommendation - it is on my to-do list for next year)
  18. Locomotion 
  19. Hardwick Park (recommended by readers and myself)
  20. Finchale Priory
  21. Causey Arch
  22. Hall Hill Farm 
  23. Blast Beach, Durham Heritage Coast  
  24. Beamish, The Living Museum of the North  
  25. Hamsterley Forest 

Raby Castle 

We visited Raby Castle in October and absolutely loved our time there. The estate and gardens are perfect for an autumn stroll. There are over 200 acres of parkland to explore (with accessible routes). Raby Castle is home to over 600 wild deer (roe and fallow) and over the next few months you may be lucky enough to spot Stags rutting and roaring. 

The walled gardens are beautiful and feature lots of hidden nooks and corners to explore and there is a lovely adventure playground hidden in the woodland (including a zip wire).

Don't miss the Stables Cafe - they have ample indoor and covered outdoor seating and serve delicious homemade food. I recommend the Raby Burger. 

Special events for Autumn 2020 

24 October - 1 November : Scaries & Fairies October Half Term Trail (included with admission)

Ushaw: Historic House, Chapel & Gardens 

Ushaw Historic House, Chapel & Gardens is an independent charity offering over 500 acres of land to explore. Explore the Victorian architecture and stunning gardens & grounds. 


Low Barns Nature Reserve 

Credit : Low Barns Nature Reserve 

Low Barns Nature Reserve is one of the region's most important wildlife sites and you can expect to see an abundance of birds, plants, mammals and insects. There are various walking routes and the terrain is flat making it a place for everyone to enjoy. Takeaway food is available from the on-site cafe and their loos are open too. 


Bowlees Visitor Centre, Low Force & Gibsons Cave 

Gibson's Cave : Credit - Visit County Durham

Bowlees Visitor Centre is the perfect place to start an adventure around the North Pennines AONB and UNESCO Global Geopark, which encompasses much of the Durham Dales. The centre is packed with information on walking routes and beauty spots in the surrounding area. There are open loos and a cafe offering takeaway too. 

From the centre, you can walk to nearby Low Force and Gibsons Cave - both absolutely stunning. 


Grassholme Observatory 

Image courtesy of Northumbrian Water

Grassholme is Britain's newest observatory - a unique and magical attraction under Durham's Dark Skies. The observatory is filled with high tech instruments and computers and there are lots of bookable events to enjoy this autumn with a variety of experts. 

Special Events for Autumn 2020 - find out more and book here

Highlights include: 
  • 28 October : Moon Night 
  • 29 October :  An Introduction to Astronomy 
  • 30 October : Discover the Northern Lights 
  • 31 October : Let's Explore the Universe 

Similar events run throughout November, December and across the year. Visit the Grassholme Observatory website for more information.  


Hawthorn Dene 

Hawthorn Dene is part of Durham Wildlife Trust and is the second largest coastal dene in the country. Visitors can enjoy walking routes amongst ancient woodland and magnesian limestone meadows alongside beautiful coastal views. Don't miss the impressive railway viaduct as the dene stretches out to sea. 

You can walk North towards Seaham or South to Beacon Hill and onto the Durham Heritage Coast. 


Durham Town Hall 

Durham Town Hall is the newest heritage attraction in the city. There are now more opportunities to explore the history of Durham as they have recently extended the days on which they are open. 


Tanfield Railway 

Tanfield Railway is one of my favourite days out. You cannot beat a ride on an old-fashioned steam train and Tanfield Railway will take you on a 3 mile journey along the Causey Valley.

This year, steam trains are operating on Sundays and each booking is designated their own train compartment for use throughout the journey. Younger guests will be provided with a Spot the Bear activity pack and guests can enjoy a complimentary hot drink or juice from the station. 


Art Hunt at The Riverwalk 

This FREE trail around The Riverwalk shopping centre includes 17 original artworks provided by Durham University, regional artists and students from Durham Sixth Form Centre. Find out more and download the trail map here. 

Wharton Park

Wharton Park includes lots of facilities including a toddler play area, junior play area, outdoor gym, amphitheatre, takeaway cafe, sculptures and more. Download the Love Exploring App to search for prehistoric creatures in the park and enjoy the FREE Halloween trail around the park as part of the app.


Credit : Lee Dobson Photography

Hardwick Park 

Hardwick Park is somewhere that is regularly recommended to us as a fantastic place for families. Facilities include a cafe (takeaway), gift shop (which also sells duck food), play areas, sculptures, walks and more. You can also download the Love Exploring App to search for prehistoric creatures in the park and this October, will include a FREE Halloween trail too. 


Derwent Waterside Park 

Derwent Waterside Park is one of our favourite spots. You can read about our trip to their adventure playground and free nature trail here or our trip to the Boat Shack on the opposite side of the reservoir here. 

Derwent Waterside Park offers walking routes around the reservoir, lots of green space, a fantastic adventure playground and more. 


The Bowes Museum 

The Bowes Museum features fantastic galleries and exhibitions, parkland and grounds alongside a comprehensive special events programme. 

Things may be a little different now, but if you fancy a trip down memory lane, I blogged about our visit to the Bowes Museum back in 2015 here. How tiny are the kids! 

Special Events for Autumn 2020 - find out more and book here

  • 13 October - 1 November : Where's Wally? Spooky Museum Search (included with admission)
  • 28 October : LEGO® Wedo 2 Robotics and Coding Workshop (included with admission but pre-booking required) 
  • 29 & 30 October : Pumpkin Printing (included with admission) 
  • 31 October : Spooky Family Day (included with admission) 
  • 31 October : Drive-in Cinema - The Addams Family and Hocus Pocus (book event tickets in advance) 

North Pennines Stargazing Week 

North Pennines Stargazing Week returns for 2020 but the programme is a little different this year. Taking place over October Half Term, you can expect virtual events and children's activities, online interviews with experts, guides to stargazing and daily tips plus an online exhibition. 


Auckland Castle Deer Park 

Auckland Castle Deer Park, part of the Auckland Project, with the historic Deer House being managed by English Heritage. The Deer Park is free to visit and a lovely place for an autumnal stroll or picnic. You can read about our visit in the Summer here. 


I asked over on my Instagram Stories for ideas for the best places to visit around Durham this Autumn. Thanks to everyone who replied. Hardwick Park and Finchale Priory were both very popular with multiple recommendations. 

Reader Suggestions: 

Let me know where you would like to enjoy an adventure in Durham this Autumn and if you have any other suggestions for our list. 

For more ideas, check out the This is Durham website here: https://www.thisisdurham.com/autumn

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25 Adventures to enjoy in Durham this Autumn


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