Coast’s Choice: Durham

This week, our journey along the east side of England gets underway in earnest with a spotlight on County Durham. Here are some of the Coast staff’s favourite places to visit in the area:

Beamish – the Living Museum of the North

Discover what daily like was really like in the North East during the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras with a tour of this magnificent working museum.

Visitors are transported back to a bygone era once they enter the 300 acre Beamish site. Home Farm and Pockerley Old Hall bring the shift from agricultural production to industrial revolution to life, actors in period dress explain the areas mining heritage at the Pit Village, you can walk the cobbled streets between quaint independently-run shops or take a trip to the traditional colliery village.

For transport fans, authentic steam train rides operate from Rowley Station at the edge of the open air museum, while trams and open top buses also operate at the site.

Beamish holds regular events including a Georgian Fair and several Christmas activities. Visit the website for full information. Entry to the museum costs £17.50 for adults and £10.00 for children. All tickets are valid for an unlimited number of visits over a 12 month period.

Nearest caravan site: 1.2 miles

The Bowes Museum

Widely regarded as one of the most significant museums outside London, the Bowes Museum contains a stunning array of art, silverware and textiles.

It’s worth visiting the Barnard Castle-based gallery for the building alone; the French-style château built by businessman John Bowes and his actress wife Josephine in the 1890s is breathtaking.

The Bowes family founded the museum with an idea of bringing the finest art seen in the likes of London and Paris to North England. As a couple, John and Josephine, who hailed from France, collected more than 15,000 objects and artworks. Many of these are still on show, including a 230-year-old lifesize Silver Swan automaton.

Among the famous artists featured in the Bowes Museum are Goya and Turner, while there is an entire collection dedicated to the study and celebration of archaeology. Fashionistas can follow clothing through the centuries in the design section, and there are also areas dedicated to furniture, ceramics and glass.

The museum and gardens are open all year round and admission is priced at £9 for adults. Entry is free for children under 16 years of age. Click here to find out more.

Nearest caravan site: 3.1 miles

Durham Castle

Durham is a medieval city famous for its University and of course the hilltop castle, which was awarded World Heritage Site status in 1986.

The castle was built by the Normans in the 11th century as a display of their power in the North East of England and is an early example of a motte and bailey construction. The Bishop of Durham used the castle as his seat of power until the 1840s, when it was turned into a college for students attending the university. During the period before its handover, Bishop Antony Bek commissioned a great hall to be built in the castle, measuring 30 metres in length.

Today the castle is still owned by the university and 100 students are lucky enough to call it home each year. As it is a permanent residence, visits must be pre-arranged. Guided tours are offered free of charge during the afternoon in term time and mornings during holiday periods. Visitors can check availability by calling the Palace Green Library on 0191 334 2932.

Nearest caravan site: 6.4 miles

Oriental Museum

It’s not just local history you can enjoy in County Durham; you can admire treasures from more exotic climes at the only museum dedicated to the Orient’s art and archeology in the North of England.

Whether you’re interested in Asia, the Middle East or North Africa, the Oriental Museum contains unique artifacts alongside information on Eastern history and culture. It also explores the Orient in modern times, looking at architecture and artworks from modern times.

The museum regularly hosts exhibitions taking an in-depth look at Asian history, in addition to welcoming monthly guest lectures from leading historians, sociologists and anthropologists.

Tickets cost £1.50 for adults and £0.75 for children. The museum is part of the University of Durham and a gift pass can be purchased for £11 that grants you entry to several other attractions within the city including the Old Fulling Mill, Botanic Garden, Castle and Museum of Archaeology. Click here for further information.

Nearest caravan site: 6 miles

Weardale Railway

Relax and enjoy Teesside’s countryside with a heritage locomotive trip along the Weardale Railway. Once the industrial heart of the county as part of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, today’s railway service celebrates the heyday of steam-powered transport.

The railway stretches from Bishop Auckland to Wolsingham, with stops at Stanhope and Frosterley in between magnificent views of the unspoilt landscape. The family-friendly service welcomes dogs, bicycles and prams free of charge on its journeys, plus you can relax on-board with a drink and snack from the buffet car.

Visit the official website for a full timetable, price guide and list of special events.

Nearest caravan site: 7 miles

For a comprehensive quotation on your touring caravan insurance or motorhome insurance, call Coast before you set off on your travels this summer. Our UK based sales team can answer your queries on Freephone 0800 614 849, alternatively you can visit our online Quotation Page.