Travel: Discovering the great outdoors in Durham – Day One

love durham great outdoors travel foodie explorers

Exploring the Dales of Durham

Within easy reach of Glasgow and Edinburgh and further afield with links to Manchester, London and more, getting to Durham is an easy journey.   I chilled out on the direct train from Glasgow taking in the scenery of the coast down to County Durham.

I safely arrived at Durham Railway Station, but was a bit too early for a beer in The Waiting Room pub, next time maybe! There is also a Costa coffee shop for refreshments.

Durham outdoors countryside visit DurhamI met up with the others on this trip but there was no time for a coffee! First stop was Crook Hall, a 13th century Grade I listed medieval hall within Durham City so it’s a short journey from both the railway station and Durham City Centre.

Durham outdoors countryside visit Durham

Crook Hall and Gardens.

Durham outdoors countryside visit Durham

Durham outdoors countryside visit Durham

Crook Hall is pretty, it’s a dainty, historical collection of buildings with lots of charm.  We found out about the previous residents, what has been found in the gardens and had a wander around the gardens.  After which you can have afternoon tea with a view!

Durham outdoors countryside visit Durham

Or visit the Garden Gate Cafe for food.  Their Parsnip, Vanilla, and Lemon soup was just what was needed.  Finished off with a slice of homemade cake.😍

Find out more about Crook Hall here.

Durham outdoors countryside visit Durham
Just look at those cakes! But it was all about to get more active. following a drive to Hamsterley Forest

Hamsterley Forest

Click here for more information from The Forestry Commission website on Hamsterley Forest.

Hamsterley Forest is a pleasant drive outside of Durham (about 17 miles) and is 2000 acres of foresty fun.  There’s a mix of activities for children and adults alike.  There are walks, bike trails, and play parks as well as areas to sit around and enjoy the countryside.

hamsterley forest durham great outdoorsFor kids, there’s a Viking-inspired play park, for which I can verify – the long boat swing is fun!  A Highway Rat Activity Trail, to encourage kids to discover the outdoors. Packs with additional activities can be bought from the cafe or information point for £3.

hamsterley forest durham great outdoors

There is also a Gruffalo Trail.  If you are a Gruffalo lover who wants to venture off the beaten track and learn map skills. Gruffalo Orienteering maps are available from the cafe and information point and cost £1.50.

hamsterley forest durham great outdoors

For those seeking more adventure, there are bike trails of various levels plus mountain biking and downhill biking.

hamsterley forest durham great outdoors

This was all too energetic for me so a gentle walk around was carried out instead.  One of the famous pieces of art in the park is The Green Man. This sculpture consists of six columns of wood carved to represent the faces of a man, Greenfather, Greenson, Greenman.  The work has been part of the forest since 1996 and is stunning.

hamsterley forest durham great outdoors

After all that activity and fresh air, you might need a cake or some soup.  At the weekends the cafe is open from 11 am to 4 pm.

hamsterley forest durham great outdoors

The park was fun and is a hit in the warmer weather with families having BBQs, picnics and rambles around the area.  It’s an ideal mixture for all activity types.

It was time to head homeward towards Romaldkirk and  The Rose & Crown at Romaldkirk.

My room for the night was tranquil.  You wouldn’t have thought it was on the main street and above a restaurant/bar.  Just the right balance of modern touches alongside traditional countryside hotel-ness.

durham romaldskirk rose and crown

After a rest, cuppa and a freshen up it was soon time to check out the bar and have dinner.  I’ll have a full review up of The Rose and Crown soon.  But here is a photo of the rhubarb pannacotta to tease.

durham romaldskirk rose and crown

Some Durham Gin and a large dinner meant that all too soon it was time for bed.  Not that I was complaining having that comfy bed all to myself!  So that was Day 1 of the Great Outdoors in County Durham.  Thank you to This is Durham for the opportunity to see that there’s more to Durham than a day trip to visit the Cathedral. Read about Day 2 here.

For more information on Durham and the surrounding area, please visit This is Durham website for inspiration.




I am Emma and with my husband Mark write Foodie Explorers, which is a food and travel website.

I am a member of the Guild of Food Writers and British Guild of Travel Writers.

We have a wide range of judging experience covering products, hotels and have judged, for example, for Great Taste Awards and Scottish Baker of the Year.

Along the way Mark gained WSET Level 2 in Wine and I have WSET Level 2 in Spirits as well as picking up an award with The Scotsman Food and Drink Awards.    

Usually I can be found sleeping beside a cat.

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  1. Cole at SheMonster Media

    What a lovely vacation! I love nature walks and exploring the woods. And the food looks delicious!

  2. Francesca Wellman
    Francesca Wellman

    Durham looks like a gorgeous little place! I’ve never managed to get over there to explore, despite applying to go to Uni there! It’s definitely on my UK to do list though.

    Francesca x

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