By Kingfisher Visitor Guides
Gallery-hop to your heart’s content and join the party at fabulous festivals throughout the year. County Durham bursts at the seams with attractions that culture vultures dream of.
Durham heritage museums
Described as ‘perfect’ by best-selling author Bill Bryson, the city of Durham enchants with medieval alleyways and the tree-lined River Wear. Perched atop the peninsula, Durham Castle and Cathedral are World Heritage highlights for culture vultures. Step back in time across 1,000 years of history with a tour of the castle, today’s home of University College.
Dating back to 1093, majestic Durham Cathedral is a Romanesque masterpiece, as well as the burial place of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. Pop inside for a guided tour of what’s been voted among Britain’s best buildings. That’s not all though, with head-hunting swords from Borneo, Egyptian mummies and Chinese porcelain housed in The Oriental Museum.
Dating back to 1093, majestic Durham Cathedral is a Romanesque masterpiece, as well as the burial place of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede
Durham theatre and festivals
Resting at the heart of the city’s performing arts scene, the £15 million Gala Theatre is the place to glam up and settle in for world-class shows. Check the programme for a performance that tickles your fancy, including dance, drama, comedy and music. Pre or post-show drinks and snacks are served at the contemporary Gala Lounge.
Time your trip to coincide with one of Durham’s vibrant annual festivals. Colourful union banners, live music and thousands of people pack the streets for the Durham Miners’ Gala. Celebrating community, international solidarity and working-class history, the action kicks off in Durham City Centre Market Place. Get ready for some serious toe-tapping every July at the Durham Brass Festival. You’ll enjoy concerts, lively street parties and big band sounds across four days.
Bishop Auckland galleries
Just 12 miles southwest of Durham city and framed by lush countryside, the vibrant market town of Bishop Auckland brims with culture. First established as a hunting lodge, the gothic Auckland Castle served for over 900 years as the country residence of the Prince Bishops of Durham.
Climb the tower for sweeping views across the lush Deer Park and town. Then, stroll through the elegant State Rooms, the Mining Art Gallery and the Spanish Gallery. Don’t miss out on seeing the Zurbaran paintings, classified among the most significant religious artworks in Europe. Can’t get enough of gallery-hopping? Head to Spennymoor Town Hall Gallery for Norman Cornish paintings.
Read more: History and heritage of Durham Tees Valley
Bishop Auckland festivals
Summer brings plenty of outdoor fun to Bishop Auckland, including Kynren, a theatrical extravaganza billed as an epic tale of England. Previous shows thrilled audiences with tales of war, magic, rebellions and the quests of King Arthur. The awe-inspiring stunts, pyrotechnics and equestrian skills wow crowds at 11 Arches Park each year.
If you’re a foodie, follow your nose to delicious treats at the annual Bishop Auckland Food Festival. County Durham’s largest food event features celebrity chefs cooking up a storm on a backdrop of dynamic street entertainment. Fancy yourself a budding chef? Workshops let you in on chef secrets and stalls serve up innovative recipes.