As we pass the halfway mark through term, and with next week being the half-term holidays for many children, the time when most families visit Durham is fast approaching. If you want to convince your parents that you don’t spend all of your time either in the library or in The Library, then here are some ideas to keep them entertained and to retain a semblance of cultural credibility.
Would it be a trip to Durham if you didn’t take your guests to see the alpacas? A walk along the River Wear past Old Durham Gardens will bring you to the field that hosts an array of friendly farmyard animals. So far on my various visits I have spotted alpacas, ducks, a horse and occasional peacocks. A well-known cure for exam stress, this trip is perfect to get your family out in the fresh air. If you are lucky, the sweet collie dog may be outside waiting for you to throw her stick, but be warned, if you start playing fetch it is difficult to leave her once she gives you those plaintive eyes.
The Saturday Outdoor Market
If their trip falls on a weekend then a visit to the outdoor market, which is held every Saturday, is a great way to see Durham at its liveliest. With a selection of stalls offering jewellery, vintage clothes, gifts for loved ones and much more, it’s the perfect place to do a bit of holiday shopping. Perhaps the best part about this market though is the food stalls. There is always a fantastic selection of fresh food, from your classic burger and chips to stone baked Italian pizza and pasta. The cafes in Durham are often packed at the weekends, so if it’s a nice day why not skip the queues and grab a takeaway bite to eat. The Greek Gyros stall is a particular favourite of mine.
Another classic of the Durham bucket list, everyone needs to visit the cathedral at least once. You can book a specific cathedral tour or just have a relaxing wander around. Parts of the cathedral, such as the Cloister, were used in the filming of the Harry Potter films, so there are great opportunities for photoshoots. There is also an option to book a climb up the central tower – although make sure you stay behind for that one, as legend has it if you go up the tower before graduating then you will never complete your degree!
Located just 15 minutes outside of Durham, (much closer than the infamous Barnard Castle) Ushaw historic house, chapel and gardens is the perfect way to provide your parents with their cultural fix. The added benefit of it being so close means you can get out of the city centre and see a little more of County Durham, without involving a massive journey. You can explore the house and gardens by yourself or opt for a guided tour, it is up to you. For anyone with younger siblings, the Super Space half term event will start on the 18th of February with loads of interactive activities to keep them occupied!
A Trip to Edinburgh
For the more adventurous, a day trip to Edinburgh is relatively easy from Durham Station. The train journey takes about 2 hours but involves beautiful scenery as you travel along the coastline for a large part of it. Once you arrive in Edinburgh, an open-top bus tour is a good way to scope out the sights that you want to prioritise seeing and to rest your feet for a little while. St Giles Cathedral, where Queen Elizabeth II lay in state, is free to visit and very impressive. Finally, the National Museum of Scotland is full of interactive exhibits which would be great for entertaining younger siblings but are also really interesting for any age group.
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