10 Things To Do In Durham Over Summer

10 Things To Do In Durham Over Summer

Sticking around in Durham for a while after exams? Great idea. Thinking of coming back a few weeks early to settle in with the housemates? Fab. Want to come up for a few days during the summer break? Ideal.

Durham is a wonderful city made even better during the sunnier days and longer nights. Read on for our top 10 things to do over the summer months:

Profile Pictures Aplenty

If you haven’t seen a picture on Facebook of someone “candidly” rowing along, complete with Elvet bridge backdrop, then you probably haven’t been on your news feed enough recently. Hire a classic wooden rowing boat and swan around on the river with your mates. Better yet, show off your physical prowess, balance and coordination to that girl you met in Klute the other night as you attempt to navigate Durham’s many (unnecessarily narrow) bridges.

Just £6 per adult with a £10 refundable deposit makes a bargain price for what is certain to be profile picture (or Instagram at the very least) material.

Open from 10am – 6pm, call 0191 3863779 or click here.

Oar You Having a Good Time?

If your casual wooden row boat escapade piqued your interest in all things oar and spandex-related, why not try the real thing with Durham Amateur Rowing Club (DARC)? Nobody wants to take up rowing in winter, but summer is an ideal time to find out if you could be the next Sir (or Dame) Steve Redgrave.

Learn to Row Course
Run by qualified coaches this course will teach you all the basics of rowing, sculling, coxing and indoor rowing. DARC is the fastest growing rowing club in the UK and you can progress straight into its recreational rowing group or development squad at the end of the course.

There is a one-off cost of £95 which gives you 10 x 2 hour sessions. At less than a fiver per hour of being out on the water, it’s a great way to see if rowing is the thing for you. Sessions run most Fridays and Sundays from April until August.

Allcomers Regatta
If you’d prefer something a little less serious, whilst still experiencing a proper rowing boat (and race), then get together with some mates and put an entry in for the Allcomers Regatta.

The cost is a mere £80 per boat, just £20 each. Included in this price is 4 practice sessions prior to the race day, at least two races over a 300m course and a cox (someone who shouts what to do!) All you need is 4 friends (including yourself), one of which can be an experienced rower but the rest must be beginners. The regatta itself is on Sunday 10th July.

Spectate rather than participate?

Durham City Regatta – 7th & 8th May
Durham Regatta – 11th & 12th June
Allcomers Regatta – 10th July

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Maintaining the aquatic theme thus far presents another opportunity to spend time on the river Wear. Another very popular option in the summer months, and one that doesn’t involve getting your heart rate up, is a scenic river cruise aboard the Prince Bishops boat.

A luxury cruiser (seats 150) complete with observation deck, lower deck saloon, bar, cafe and commentary could be the ideal way to spend a lazy summer afternoon. Normal adult fare is just £8 – no ticket required, pay on board. During May and June, pay just £5 with an NUS card. Graduates can also go free with any two paying adults – a perfect way to show your parents the delights of Durham. Sails in all weather, call 0191 386 9525 for further details.

What do you feed a race horse? Fast food.

Sorry, the horse jokes shouldn’t go on furlong. Horse racing is a summer classic that neigh-body should miss out on. Luckily, not far afield from Durham is Sedgefield racecourse in the nearby countryside. The races can be a fantastic and very exciting day out for everyone involved – a great opportunity to get dressed up, try your luck and spend an afternoon in the sun. Sedgefield, dubbed “The Friendly Racecourse”, is always home to a warm and relaxing atmosphere that will ensure fun all round.

There are races all throughout April, May, August, September and October. See full calendar of race days here. Be sure not to miss The Durham National on 27th October, a few weeks after the return to university, but a delightful event to squeeze out the last of the good weather.

Tea-licious Afternoons Teas


  • Afternoon tea – £16.95 per person available Wednesday to Sunday. Includes choice of 17 blends of loose leaf tea. Must book 48 hours in advance.
  • High tea – £22 for two people available Tuesday to Sunday. Very similar but does not require any advanced booking.

Call 0191 340 1393 for bookings

  • Sparkling afternoon tea – £22 per person available everyday. Includes sparkling wine or elderflower fizz. Price also includes entry to the gardens and manor house (usually £7).
  • Tipsy tea – £30 per person available everyday. Includes same as the sparkling afternoon tea but comes with teapots of cocktails to drink instead.
  • Gentleman’s tea – £22 per person available everyday. Includes pork pies, hunks of bread, cheese, chutney, ham, pickled onion, gingerbread, flapjack, exclusive “man scone”, Yorkie chocolate bar and it’s all washed down with a lager, ale or tot of whisky.

Call 0191 3848028 for bookings

Lumley Castle

  • Afternoon tea – £14.95 per person available everyday. Includes assortment of sandwiches, cakes, scones and choice of 5 different teas.
  • Pimms afternoon tea – £18.40 per person
  • Prosecco afternoon tea – £20.95 per person
  • Champagne afternoon tea – £25.20 per person

Click here for bookings

Haunted Castle

On the topic of Lumley Castle, why not make a day (or night) of it, whether visiting for afternoon tea or not. Constructed in the 14th century, the gigantic manor house has played host to many Kings and Princes over the years.

The three course sunday lunch for £19.95 in the award winning Black Knight Restaurant is a great way to spend an afternoon in idyllic surroundings. Or make the most of the long evenings with their murder mystery nights. Just £35 including three course meal, reception drink and entertainment – for dates click here.

The 73 bedroomed hotel can also be a great place to spend the night, although not for the faint hearted! Legend has it that the castle is haunted, with several high-profile guests – including Australian cricketer Shane Watson – claiming to have witnessed paranormal activity.

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I don’t like cricket!

Less than a stone throw away from Lumley Castle is the home of Durham County (and occasionally England) Cricket  – the Emirates Riverside International Cricket Ground.

The ground is home to high quality county cricket and international tests, ODIs and Twenty20 matches. The England cricket team has won here in both the World Cup and the Ashes making it a prestigious and worthwhile visit. Alastair Cook and the rest of the nation’s best players will be returning to County Durham from 27th – 20th May in the Investec Test Series match against Sri Lanka. Tickets and more information can be found here.

All Bar None

The ultimate dream of every Durham student is to do all 16 college bars. Realising that 2 of them are 24 miles away from all the others complicates things slightly. Nonetheless, all 16 are possible so long as you ensure Germanic efficiency and Swiss precision timing every stop of the way. You must start in Stockton no later than 5pm. Quickly tick Stephenson and John Snow off the list then get on the X12 for the hour-long journey back to ‘real’ Durham. The order of the remaining 14 is very much down to personal preference – just don’t forget to do Hild Bede and Ustinov (another two outliers) early on, or you may lose the will to live!

For a full plan of attack, click here

Even after all this time?

Always. Durham’s most iconic buildings must be viewed (again) at some point in the summer months. It really is quite remarkable what a bit of sunlight can do to further elevate the aura of this UNESCO World Heritage site even. Relive many moments from the first two Harry Potter films or take a guided tour (Monday to Saturday, £5 per person). Lounge on Palace Green or have a coffee/afternoon tea in the cafes looking onto it. Inside the cathedral itself the Undercroft Restaurant also does afternoon tea (£9.95 per person).

Flower Power
Disclaimer: Those with hayfever may wish to look away now

Tired of daisies and daffodils? Expand your flora and fauna repertoire with nature from as far afield as China, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand and Chile – without even leaving Durham City!

Durham University Botanic Garden
The University’s very own floral arena boasts a huge 10 hectare space just behind Collingwood college. Take a stroll through the gardens, marvel at the many hidden artworks and brave the tropical glasshouses – home to everything from desert cacti to scorpions and tarantulas. Coffee shop and picnic facilities available. Entry is just £4 for adults or £1.50 with an NUS card. Open everyday from 10am to 5pm.

Crook Hall Gardens
Another great green escape no more than 5 minutes from Market Square. Crook Hall features a 13th century Grade I listed medieval manor house and expansive gardens with 10 different areas. Get lost in “the Maze & Meadow”, discover your inner novelist at “the Shakespeare Garden”, relax by “the Moat Pool & Ponds” and do your best to find “the Secret Walled Garden” – there’s still 6 more areas after that! Open Sunday to Wednesday 11am to 5pm. £7 per adult, all students get 10% discount on cost of entrance and food.

Did we miss anything out? Let us know in the comments below!:

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