Drives near me: The five best drives near Durham – from historic sites to the coast

Whether you’re hoping to embark on a mini-break or simply get out of the house on a day trip, hopping behind the wheel could serve the perfect opportunity to get to know your local region. Durham, in the North East, is a city steeped in history and culture, but one that is blessed with vast stretches of natural beauty surrounding it. Here are five routes promising eye-catching scenery along the way.

The Durham Heritage Coast

Driving time from Durham City Centre: 23 minutes

Exploring the stunning Heritage Coast is one of Durham’s most popular activities for tourists and locals alike.

Though it is often done on foot, the coastal views can also be indulged in from the comfort of your car.

Starting in Horden, drivers can journey along a series of roads to the seaside town of Seaham, with plenty of car parks en route to stop off in and breathe in the fresh sea air.

Alternatively, park up your car and pull on your hiking boots to take in the experience by foot.

The drive itself is, of course, shorter than the walk taking roughly 23 minutes to get from Horden to Seaham.

Meanwhile, walkers can venture along 12 miles of footpaths.

If you decide to park up once at Seaham, there are plenty of activities to enjoy, from a stroll along the former-mining town’s stunning beaches to enjoying a delicious ice cream sundae from the iconic Lickety Split Creamery.

Darlington Brick Train to Great Ayton

Driving time from Durham City Centre: 29 minutes

This scenic drive will lead you past a number of local landmarks including Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook’s monument.

Journeying 30 miles, stunning greenery and sweet market towns provide a scenic backdrop to the ride.

It should take around 26 minutes to complete the journey one way.

The great thing about this drive is that there are plenty of opportunities to park up and stretch your legs along the way.

Travellers will begin at Darlington Brick Train, a brick sculpture located on the outskirts of Darlington.

They will then venture on via Roseberry Topping, one of North Yorkshire’s most distinctive hills situated near Great Ayton.

Clamber to the top and take in the views from the hill’s jutting cliff edge.

Alternatively, soak up some history at former Whitby merchant sailor Captain Cook’s monument also located in Great Ayton.

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The Durham Dales

Driving time from Durham City Centre: 46 minutes (to Middleton-in-Teesdale)

Popular with hikers and cyclists, the Durham Dales also offer plenty of roads to drive along boasting impressive views.

Part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the vast stretch of landscape is located in the West of Country Durham and promises deep valleys, rolling hills and plenty of wildlife.

The area itself covers around one-third of the county, so as you might imagine there is plenty to do along the way.

Durham Dales is also home to two official ‘Walkers are Welcome’ Towns – Middleton-in-Teesdale and Wolsingham which offer a number of cosy pubs and quaint tea rooms to stop and refuel.

Given that there are so many roads travelling through the area, it is hard to put a time frame on the length of the journey.

However, it also allows for plenty of opportunities – whether that’s a quick 20-minute drive of a full day’s worth of exploration.

Penrith to Haydon Bridge

Driving time from Durham City Centre: One hour and 24 minutes

Venture into Cumbria and Northumberland for some truly awe-inspiring views.

Travelling 294 miles along the A686, explorers can take in the sights of what has been described as “one of the best drives in Britain”.

The vast sweeping roads give way to breathtaking nature, meanwhile, the country lanes offer a fun driving experience.

Penrith is a town in the Eden Valley, rich in history and home to a 14th-century castle of which the town shares its name.

To the north is Beacon Hill, a perfect opportunity to stretch your legs and take in some views from the top.

Haydon Bridge, in Northumberland, is a quaint village set within the countryside.

It offers plenty of surrounding land ideal for walking and is home to a number of local retailers and eateries.

Thwaite to Hawes

Driving time from Durham City Centre: One hour and 25 minutes

Though travellers will journey into North Yorkshire for this one, it is said to be one of the most spectacular routes in the North of England.

In fact, the drive from Thwaite to Hawes is so esteemed it has been hailed by former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson as “England’s only truly spectacular road” despite only lasting around 15 minutes.

The drive lasts just over five miles, yet offers an array of rapid climbs, vast descends and sudden corners which makes for a unique driving experience – and not one for the faint-hearted.

However, it is the stunning scenery that is the main draw.

Buttertubs pass is the main bulk of the drive, the road winding past the famous 20-metre deep limestone potholes dubbed the Buttertubs.

Once you’ve arrived at Hawes, why not park up and take in the local surroundings?

The region is particularly famous for its cheese as it sits on the border of Wensleydale.

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