Those shoes were made for walking – or cycling – or white-water water rafting. One of the best ways to explore everything that County Durham has to offer is to get out into the great outdoors and make your own family memories. And, if you’ve booked a family group accommodation holiday at Fairfield House, near Stanhope, this is just what you’ll be able to do.
Overlooking the Weardale countryside, Fairfield House sits atop a hill in the small town of Stanhope and is perfect for large groups wanting a holiday house in County Durham. Which makes it a perfect base for an activity-based holiday in this beautiful part of the UK.
If you and your loved ones are up for a challenge, why not think about doing part (or all?!) of the Sea to Sea (C2C) cycle route, the UK’s most popular challenge cycle route. It spans 136 miles between the Irish and North Seas, taking you part of the way along some of the railway paths of County Durham. But be aware, it’s category Difficult so not for the faint-hearted!
Looking for just as much of an adrenalin rush but perhaps not quite so demanding? Then why not experience white water rafting at Tees Barrage International White Water Centre? White water rafting is a fun, fast and unforgettable activity for anyone – and you don’t need any prior experience. Usually, this sport is reserved for those over 14 but Tees Barrage have introduced family rafting sessions that make perfect days out for kids and adults. Their exciting family rafting sessions are ideal for adults and youngsters aged 10 years and over.
They also offer powerboat trips, stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking and bell boating (no, we hadn’t heard of it either!). A bell boat works similar to a canoe except it is designed to hold more people with maximum stability. If you’re thinking of a good group activity for the family, this is it.
Or try the Weardale Adventure Centre, which offers activities from trekking to gorge walking, climbing to caving. As a day visitor, you can choose your own activities and they will tailor a programme just for your group.
Going back to cycling, Hamsterley Forest is one of the Northeast’s best mountain bike destinations, with over 2000 hectares of forest to explore on 33 miles of marked trails and countless more miles of forest road. Again, probably not for the faint-hearted but there are trails more suited to a family group.
Horse lovers should try the Baldersdale Packhorse Trail, a circular 18km (60% off-road) horse riding trail with 370m of ascent. It starts from the south side of Hury Reservoir and follows the banks of the Hury and Blackton Reservoirs in remote Baldersdale, before striking off over the moors on the Pennine Way.
Broom House Forest is ideal for younger families looking for a bit of adventure. It offers a fun-filled area where you can climb towers, follow nature trails, whiz down slides, zoom along a zip wire, crawl under and through tunnels and explore some gorgeous woodland. There are other activities available too, including laser tag, quad biking, clay pigeon shooting and other wonderful things. There is also a coffee shop where you can replenish your energy stocks!
Hardwick Park is a great place to visit at any time of the year. With free admission (other than car parking charges), you can stroll through the historic parkland admiring the natural beauty of the lake, woodland and wildlife. Remember to experience the visitor centre to learn about the history and restoration of the park, and take a look in the gift shop before a bit of R and R into the Tower Cafe.
Last of all, take a few days to explore the Durham Heritage Coastline. With its dramatic views out across the North Sea, the area offers a rich tapestry of natural, historical and geological features. The area is best explored on foot along the coastal path to appreciate the natural beauty and rural landscape.
This stretch of the coast is as interesting as it is varied; its shallow bays hide a wealth of stories of adventure and discovery. Get active walking the Coastal Path or try your hand at one of the watersports on offer.
The Durham Heritage coast’s designated landscapes are home to a rich variety of plants and wildlife. In the spring, the nature reserves along the coast are home to a breeding colony of Little Terns, one of Britain’s rarest sea birds.
Explore Seaham, a small harbour town with spectacular views from the clifftop down to the harbour and sandy beach below. The local heritage centre and statue of the World War I “Tommy” explore the role of this part of the coast during the war.
You can also explore the industrial heritage of the many small mining communities. The inspiration of the fictional town in the Billy Elliot film and musical, these colliery towns which seem idyllic today were once industrial centres. Discover a wealth of local tales, which bring to life this important part of our heritage.
To the south is the Tees valley with its seaside towns of Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea. These popular resorts in the Victorian era are home to a water powered cliff lift and impressive pier that extends 200 metres from the shoreline.
County Durham really does have something for everyone and if it’s an active family holiday you’re after, this is the place!