As part of my new commitment to focus on the North East of England and challenge the age old cliché that it’s grim up north, it would be rude of me not to start as local as possible by answering the question not many people are asking; what should I do in Spennymoor, County Durham?
Spennymoor is my adopted home town. Being an RAF kid, I’m not really ‘from’ anywhere but if I was asked the question I’d always say Lincoln. I lived there for 8 years of my life, the longest I’ve lived anywhere although it’s closely followed by York and Stamford at 7 years a piece. Fast forward to February 2017, I moved to Spennymoor prior to travelling Australia and South East Asia. I’ve now bought a house with my wife and puppy and, for the time being at least, this is where I call home.
I can’t imagine that many people have heard of Spennymoor. Well, it’s a small town just a few miles south of the beautiful city of Durham that, as so many places in the north of England, was essentially built on the back of the mining industry. Like many old mining towns, there isn’t, on the face of it at least, much to draw your attention to when visiting Spennymoor. The high street has seen big name shops closing down and pubs knocked down for new supermarkets but, maybe now more than ever, it’s time to support local businesses, local cafes and bars and perhaps in the future towns like this will be thriving again.
What might surprise you about Spennymoor is how within minutes you can be transported into beautiful countryside with views towards the Durham dales and are only a short drive away from Durham as well as the heritage coastline. I’m not going to pretend you’ll be purposely visiting Spennymoor if you’re not from the area but, with everyone’s focus shifting back towards their local area, it’s amazing what you see when you look for it.
So, let’s get straight to the point and see what the best things to do are in Spennymoor, County Durham.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN SPENNYMOOR, COUNTY DURHAM
Eat & Drink at the Grind Cafe
This has got to be the coolest place in Spennymoor; exactly what the area has needed for a good few years now. The Grind does exceptional food for brunch and for those long summer days such as strawberry bruschetta, nutella pancakes and sharing boards full of meats and cheeses. The cocktails are great too and you can even grab pints of beer from the local Caps Off brewery. Oh and don’t miss the stuffed cookies, they are unreal!
Check out the Grind on Instagram here.
Grab an Ice Cream from Sweet Rose Ice Cream Parlour
I’m currently on a little mission to find the best places to eat ice cream in the North-East and where better to start than literally a few minutes from my front door. There’s a great selection of flavours here and I love the Minion Mayhem (some sort of fruity vanilla) absolutely perfect for a summer’s day. While you’re here, why not try a milkshake too (treat yourself)?
See the Deer at Whitworth Hall Hotel
Unfortunately, Whitworth Hall Hotel is currently closed due to the impact Covid-19 has had on the business. However, should the business hopefully re-open, you’ve got to go and see the deer that surround the hotel. For just £2 you could get some food and go and feed the deer yourself whilst admiring the beautiful grounds of the hotel.
*Update July 2022 – I believe that Whitworth Hall Hotel has been bought by the company behind Newton Hall and Le Petit Chateau. All I can say is this is going to be taken to another level!
Town Hall Art Gallery & Durham Mining Museum
Not the largest but when in Spennymoor it’s definitely worth a trip to the free art gallery and the mining museum to really give you an insight on the history of the local area.
Norman Cornish Trail
Set up to celebrate the centenary of Norman Cornish’s birth, a trail takes you through Spennymoor to follow in the footsteps of this famous artist and see the locations of some of his most iconic works. Back in 2019, I took the time to wander the trail with my camera and you can check out more information and see more photos here.
The Axe House
Forget bowling, throwing axes is where it’s at right now. Everyone loves a bit of healthy competition and when you combine that with axes, what’s not to love? This place is really cool, full of graffiti and even has lanes under UV light for that extra bit of quirkiness. Check the Axe House out here.
Watch Spennymoor Town FC at The Brewery Field
I’ll be honest, I’m a Preston North End fan and, prior to Covid, I would make sure that I made the journey across the A66 and down the M6 a few times per season to see my team play; there’s no greater joy than a few pints and a football match. Middlesbrough are the only team in the North-East currently in the Championship so I love an away game there too.
When fans are allowed back in the grounds, and the National League North’s new season commences in August, I’ll definitely be heading down to support my local team, Spennymoor Town FC.
Jubilee Park was opened in 1889 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and is a lovely place to chill out and relax unless you’re into skateboarding then you can take advantage of the skate park. There’s a bandstand with concerts in the Summer, bowling greens, crazy golf, tennis courts and lots of grass for picnics.
Explore the countryside on public footpaths
One of my favourite things to do at the moment is to grab an ordnance survey map and plot a random route by joining public footpaths together. It’s a great way to slow life down and get out in the countryside. In Spennymoor itself, I love the walks around Tudhoe, up to Ferryhill across the nature reserve and through the Cow Plantation.
Within 15 minutes
Within 15 minutes of Spennymoor, you’ll find absolutely loads to do; there really is something for everyone around here. However, I will keep it short and just pick out a few of my favourite. Remember too, if you travel just that little bit further you can be at the Durham Heritage Coast or in the North Pennines in absolutely no time at all.
What a find this was! Just a few miles from my front door lies the beautiful quaint village of Brancepeth and, get this, a huge medieval castle. The castle was previously owned by the Neville family who also owned Raby Castle not too far away. My view is that if this village was in the Cotswolds or somewhere well-known, it would be considered one of the nicest villages in the country. Brancepeth Castle is now a private family home but tours will hopefully be re-started this summer. Given how good this castle looks from the outside, I am sure it will be just as impressive once you are inside.
Binchester Roman Fort
Not far from Spennymoor lies Hadrian’s Wall, the northernmost limit of the Roman Empire, which is an incredible sight to see. It is thought that the Roman fort at Binchester (Vinovia) was built to guard the famous Dere Street’s crossing of the River Wear. For the history lovers, checking out the ruins and imagining what life might have been like is a must-do especially considering that this was the largest Roman fort in the whole of County Durham.
Quite possibly the best thing about Spennymoor is that it is only a short drive from the city of Durham. Bill Bryson (one of my favourite travel writers) described Durham as a ‘perfect little city’. Whilst there’s no doubt that Durham’s high street, along with many other cities including York, has been pretty much decimated (especially now thanks to Covid), Durham should still be high on everyone’s must-see list when in the area. Obviously, Durham Cathedral is the big hitter towering over the city but there’s plenty of places to eat and drink too. Durham is definitely a city on the up with the ongoing construction of Milburngate area and the new Riverwalk with Cosy Club and the Food Pit some of the places on offer.
Hardwick Park is a lovely country park just outside of Sedgefield on the A177 that’s definitely worth a visit for a wander round the lake especially if you have a dog or have children. The park dates back to the 18th century and was designed to look completely natural; something a little different to the formal gardens of the time. Unfortunately, the estate didn’t do so well and everything required renovation much more recently. The buildings sadly disappeared with some of the gothic ruins being completely reconstructed.
Having taken the time to start writing down a few things that can be done in Spennymoor and very close by, I’m actually really impressed with what’s on offer. Not bad for the first post challenging the cliché that it’s grim up north. Just wait until you see what else I have in store. Spoiler alert; it’s really not grim up north. It’s bloody lovely.
READ MORE OF MY ARTICLES DEBUNKING THE MYTH THAT IT’S GRIM UP NORTH!
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