Urban walking is slowly coming to the fore by offering a range of mental and physical health benefits that can fit into our everyday routines; the school runs, the work commute and the weekly food shop. The North East is full of stellar spots for a city stroll so, to celebrate National Walking Month in May, we’ve picked out six of our favourite urban walks across the region.
Durham mixes an impressive medieval heritage with a vibrant student population; both are at the forefront of this walk past the city’s most famous landmarks. Pick your way through the cobbled streets of town, past the university cricket ground onto a path along the banks of the River Wear – where you’ll take in an unrivalled view of the 900-year-old Durham Cathedral. A short climb leads to the top of the hill and what is believed to be the iron-age fort of Maiden Castle.
Treat Yourself: the Half Moon Inn is housed in a Grade I listed Tudor building near the end of the route: providing the perfect pit stop for a pint
Distance: 3.3 miles/5.3 km
Typical duration: 1 hour, 5 mins
Start and finish: Old Shire Hall, Old Elvet, Durham
Start postcode: DH1 3HP
Step-by-step details and maps: ramblers.org.uk/durham
Mowbray Park, Sunderland
Mowbray Park is one of the oldest parks in the North East, with origins dating back to the 1830s, but is just a stone’s throw away from the busy thoroughfares of Holmeside and Fawcett Street that lead straight into the city centre. Take a leisurely stroll through the park, once voted the best in Britain, and pass an array of statues of celebrated figures from local history. Be sure to spot the famous Walrus sculpture that was erected in honour of Lewis Carroll and his rumoured ties to the city.
Treat Yourself: take in some local and British culture by finishing up at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. The museum contains the only known British example of a gliding reptile.
Distance: 1.2 miles/1.93 km
Typical duration: 23 mins
Start and finish: Burdon Road, Sunderland
Start postcode: SR2 7DX
Bishop Auckland Short Trail
Bishop Auckland takes its name from its historical ties to the Prince Bishops of Durham, so what better way to get a real feel for the town than to take a walk that encircles Auckland Castle – the official residence of the Bishop of Durham since 1832. Starting from the Market Place, just minutes from Newgate Shopping Centre, head down to the riverside and cross over the confluence of the rivers Gaunless and Wear at Jock’s Bridge. Follow the tracks of the old railway line past the vast greenery of the Bishop Auckland Golf Course, before reaching the pinnacle of the route: Auckland Castle.
Treat Yourself: stop off at the Town Hall, where the trail starts and ends. Whether it’s a cuppa in their coffee shop, something slightly stronger from their bar, a light bite in their café or even a show, they have it all.
Distance: 2.75 miles/4.5 km
Typical duration: 55 mins
Start and finish: Market Place, Bishop Auckland
Start postcode: DL14 7NP
Step-by-step details and maps: www.thisisdurham.com
Preston Park, Stockton-On-Tees
The park grounds of Preston Hall were formerly an agricultural estate that comprised of four farms, a quarry and brickworks. While the overall layout remains largely unchanged, certain elements have now been reclaimed by nature: leaving a beautiful trail through woodland and along the Tees riverbanks that combines Victorian ancestry with a wealth of undisturbed wildlife. You may hear the drumming of a great spotted woodpecker or, if you decide to venture out nearer dusk, the hoots of a tawny owl as you explore; rabbits, foxes and even roe deer have also been seen in this urban pocket of nature.
Treat Yourself: museum admission is only £2.50 for adults (£1.50 for concessions), and among the attractions is a full-scale Victorian street: complete with sweet shop, blacksmiths, tearooms and violin-makers.
Distance: 1.3 miles / 2.1 km
Typical duration: 25 mins
Start and finish: Yarm Road, Stockton-on-Tees
Start postcode: TS18 3RH
Step-by-step details and maps: www.prestonparkmuseum.co.uk
Jesmond Dene, Newcastle
This valley just outside of Newcastle city centre was landscaped with waterfalls, grottos and arched bridges by Victorian engineer Lord Armstrong. While the incline of some of its paths make the dene unsuitable for those requiring easy access, it isn’t a route that only experienced walkers can take on. A smooth but steady climb, past crumbling Victorian architecture and through native and exotic trees, will reward you with stunning views of the valley and the city beyond – as you suddenly find yourself 40 metres above the Ouseburn glittering below.
Treat Yourself: stop for coffee or afternoon tea at the indomitable Jesmond Dene House. Previous guests include authors Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Distance: 2 miles / 3.5 km
Typical duration: 40 mins
Start and finish: Start at Castles Farm Road, finish at Pet’s Corner
Start postcode: NE2 3RE
Step-by-step details and maps: www.newcastle.gov.uk
The Battle of Neville's Cross Walk, Durham
As the name suggests, the progression of the route has been designed to recreate the battle fought between Scottish and English forces on the site in 1346 and starts just 15 minutes from the city centre. Beginning on Toll House Road establishes your position directly between the lines of the two historic armies: with the English to the south and the Scottish to the north. As you walk, you pass the valley that troubled the Scots and head behind the English line before reaching the climax of the route: a hilltop that overlooks the playing fields of Durham Johnston School, where the final scene of the battle took place. A real treat for those wanting to immerse themselves in local history, but the natural beauty of Flass Vale alone make it well worth a wander.
Treat Yourself: the quirky alcoves and characterful nooks and crannies of the King’s Lodge Inn will further your journey back in time, while providing the freshest local sustenance
Distance: 5 miles / 8 km
Typical duration: 1 hour, 40 mins
Start and finish: Toll House Road, Durham
Start postcode: DH1 4HU
Step-by-step details and maps: www.thisisdurham.com