Starting next week, County Durham will offer over 40 venues and attractions for families to visit at no cost.

Durham County Council is sharing details of the 46 places taking part in this year’s Heritage Open Days, a national event that celebrates the architectural and cultural sites across England. 

From Friday 8 to Sunday 17 September, people can enjoy a wide range of tours, events, and activities across all four corners of the county, with free entry to venues and attractions that would usually charge.

Cllr Mark Wilkes, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “We are delighted that so many venues, attractions and historic buildings are taking part in this year’s Heritage Open Days as we have much to celebrate in our county. 

“From historic churches, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, iconic landmarks to beautiful scenery, County Durham is known for its rich heritage and dynamic landscape. This event is the perfect opportunity to explore these places for free and discover more about the county’s fascinating history.”

In Durham City, activities include free guided tours of Durham Castle; a walk through the city to learn about crime and punishment through the centuries; a Scents of Shakespeare tour of the Courtyard Herb Garden; and a talk on how books were made at Palace Green Library. 

Just outside of the city, people can enjoy a tour of Brancepeth Castle; discover the Shildon Circular Historic Railway Walk; and see the Grade I Listed, 12th and 13th century St Laurence’s Church in Pittington.

In the north of the county, Derwentcote Steel Furnace in Hamsterley will be hosting tours and demonstrations. In the east, the Apollo Pavilion will be celebrating 75 years of Peterlee with talks and guided walks. 

Towards the coast, people can visit the East Durham Heritage and Lifeboat Centre at Seaham Harbour to see the restored historic RNLI lifeboat, the George Elmy.

In the west of the county, Killhope Lead Mining Museum will be hosting a range of activities, including a tour of an underground mine, and people can hear the North East’s only Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ at the New Victoria Centre in Howden-le-Wear. 

Explore County Durham's Rich Heritage for Free: Heritage Open Days 2023
Killhope Lead Mining Museum

And in Weardale, the volunteer-run Weardale Museum will have a range of displays and activities showing the history and heritage of life in the Dales and the people who lived there. 

For a full list of all the venues taking part in Heritage Open Days, and the dates and times for each activity, visit 

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