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Exploring the Ruins of Finchale Priory in Durham

Less than five miles north of Durham, on the banks of the River Wear, lie the ruins of Finchale Priory. One good thing to come out of the repeated Covid-19 lockdowns was the opportunity to re-focus and explore much closer to home. Finchale Priory being the perfect example of what you can find when you really look for it.

Finchale Priory

Finchale Priory is an English Heritage site that’s free to enter and you’re even free to clamber over the very extensive ruins. The priory was founded back in 1196 on the site of the spiritual retreat of St Godric. It was later used as a holiday retreat for the monks of Durham Cathedral and I struggle to think of anywhere (at the time at least) more peaceful and relaxing with the river passing by and surrounded by woodland.

Nowadays, it’s a great place to visit for a few hours exploring the ruins and wandering through the woods on the opposite side of the river. There’s a shop on site selling ice cream, drinks and scones etc for a quick lunch or alternatively you could bring a picnic and find a comfy spot on the grass. It wasn’t that busy when we went with little Chester but I can imagine it being a bit rowdy (ha, not sure that’s the right word) as it’s very popular with families and children playing hide and seek. To be fair, if I was a kid, I’d love to play hide and seek in the ruins!

If you’re coming from further afield and visiting the general area, you could do much worse than spend a few nights at the caravan park (Finchale Abbey Touring Park) literally next to the ruins.

Directions & Parking

Using any Sat Nav or Google Maps, just use the postcode DH1 5SH. The proper way to get there is drive past HMP Frankland to the ruins itself and park onsite for £3 all day. It’s not a huge car park so you may struggle. If you can’t get in to the main car park or don’t fancy paying £3, park up on Cocken Road to the north (you won’t be able to miss the laybys) and wander down through the woods.

I’d highly recommend Finchale Priory to both locals and those visiting the area, it’s a lovely place for history buffs and just those who like a good day out in beautiful settings.

Don’t stop there though, there’s plenty to see in Durham and I’ve put together a helpful guide to spending a perfect weekend in Durham.


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