5 free things to do in… Durham

Date Posted: 09/04/2013

Durham City - Group Travel Ideas

Pictured: Durham City boasts a dramatic skyline dominated by the Cathedral and Castle World Heritage Site.

From music and book festivals to the Bowes Museum and Barnard Castle, there are plenty of free attractions in Durham to keep visiting groups entertained.

1. See the city in a new light

Lumiere is an annual light display event, which takes place in Durham from 14th to 17th November.

For four nights, Durham City will be transformed by a series of light installations and projections from leading regional, national and international artists and organisers.

Group visitors can celebrate and explore the nocturnal landscape of the city. Familiar and forgotten features and spaces will be given a new lease of life as they become the subject or background for illuminations and projections.

Group travel organisers can combine the night-time event with an exploration of Durham by day to make for a longer stay. 

2. Visit a historical steam engine museum

Locomotion was reportedly the first national museum to be built in the north east, and opened in 2004.

Located in Shildon, Locomotion is home to the steam-hauled passenger train which operated during the opening ceremony of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825.

Groups visiting the museum can see Timothy Hackworth's pioneering locomotive Sans Pareil, built in 1829 to compete in the Rainhill Trials, plus over 70 vehicles from the National Collection.

Entry is free, although groups who fancy an extended experience can pay £1.50 per person for a half-day tour and a ride on the steam train. 

3. Castles, markets and museums

The market town of Barnard Castle is situated in the Durham Dales and offers a haven for treasure seekers, as the towns many antique shops provide a great shopping experience.

For foodie groups, locally produced food can be found at the monthly farmers’ market which is held on ‘the cobbles’ in the market place.

The Bowes Museum - Durham

Pictured: The Bowes Museum in Durham holds a collection of European fine and decorative arts. (Photo credit: The Bowes Museum).

Nearby, the Bowes Museum, a French-style chateau built in the late 19th century by John Bowes, is surrounded by gardens and parkland to explore.

The museum offers an extra attraction in Durham for visiting groups and houses an extensive collection of European fine and decorative arts.

4. Panoramic views from the cathedral

Durham City boasts a dramatic skyline dominated by the Durham Cathedral and Castle World Heritage Site, plus a great window shopping experience down Durham City's historic winding lanes.

Durham Cathedral is free to enter, so why not visit on a clear day and enjoy a great photography opportunity, plus the chance to see some breath-taking views of the city.

5. Music, food and book festivals

Durham has a rich association with international culture and the arts - both past and present - and visiting groups can explore the city’s culture through museums, theatres and an innovative event and festivals programme.

Bishop Auckland Food Festival, Brass: Durham International Festival and Durham Book Festival are a few of the festivals taking place in the city this year.

Everyone from gastronomy groups to culture vultures can experience a packed programme of festivals and events celebrating music, food, international cricket, steam, books, light and Christmas.

This list of sites was compiled by Discover Durham. Group travel organisers can visit the official website for further advice on planning a group visit to any of the featured sites and attractions.

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