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Best Places to Watch the Sunrise and Sunset in Durham

Looking for the perfect spots to catch the sunrise and sunset in Durham? You’ve come to the right place! In this guide, we’ll quickly dive into the best locations where you can experience breathtaking views, discover local amenities, and enjoy a variety of activities. Whether you’re an early riser or a sunset chaser, we’ve got you covered with the top places in Durham to witness these magical moments.


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Places to Watch the Sunset and Sunrise in Durham

Where can I watch the sunrise and sunset in Durham?

1. Cardiac Hill

Cardiac Hill

Cardiac Hill in Durham is a steep, short hill near Durham University, making it a popular spot for students and locals. The hill is known for its challenging incline, with an elevation gain of 16 meters over a distance of 0.18 kilometres. This steepness makes it a favourite among fitness enthusiasts for walking, running, and cycling workouts. The top of the hill offers great views of the surrounding area, including the university’s Science Site and other parts of the city, providing a rewarding visual payoff for the physical effort.

In addition to its fitness appeal, Cardiac Hill’s location near the university makes it easily accessible for those looking to incorporate a scenic workout into their daily routine. The hill is not just for the fitness-minded; it’s also frequented by those who enjoy a peaceful walk with a view. The serene environment and panoramic views at the top make it an excellent spot for relaxation and contemplation. Despite its challenging nature, the hill’s popularity is a testament to the beautiful vistas and the sense of accomplishment it offers those who make it to the top. Little wonder it is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Durham!

Activities and Features

Scenic Views: Panoramic views of Durham and its surroundings.

Fitness Spot: Popular for walking, running, and cycling.

Elevation: 16 meters gain over 0.18 km.

Popularity: Frequented by locals and students.

Convenient Location: Near Durham University.

Practical Information

  • Opening Times: Open year-round.
  • Cost of Entry: Free.
  • Location: Near Durham University, accessible from the Science Site.
  • Parking Options: Limited street parking; university parking available nearby.
  • Duration: Approximately 10-15 minutes to walk up.
  • Contact Information: For more info and bookings please visit: Cardiac Hill on Strava

2. Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral is a must-visit for its stunning Norman architecture and rich history. Situated in the heart of Durham, this iconic structure dominates the city skyline with its impressive towers and intricate stonework. It has provided the dramatic focal point for many a picture of the sunset in Durham. The cathedral dates back to the 11th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its historical and architectural significance. During opening hours, visitors can explore its grand interiors, which include the beautiful rib vaulted ceilings, the ancient cloisters, and the famous rose window. The cathedral also houses the shrine of St. Cuthbert and the tomb of the Venerable Bede, making it a significant pilgrimage site.

Located on a strategic hilltop, Durham Cathedral offers breathtaking views of the surrounding city and the River Wear. The cathedral is free to enter, with a suggested donation of £5, making it accessible to all visitors if you want to see inside. Besides its religious and historical importance, the cathedral is a cultural hub, hosting regular events, concerts, and exhibitions. The on-site café and shop provide a pleasant place to relax and purchase souvenirs before capturing a spectacular sunset in Durham. Whether you are interested in history or architecture or simply looking for a peaceful place to reflect, Durham Cathedral is a captivating destination that offers something for everyone. Of course, entry to the cathedral is not required for sunrise or sunset viewers, but its locale offers a stunning foreground and is one of the most convenient and best places to watch the sunrise in Durham.

Activities and Features

Architectural Marvel: Norman architecture with intricate designs.

Harry Potter Spot: Filming location for the series.

Historic Artifacts: Various artifacts and collections.

Guided Tours: Learn about its history and architecture.

Events: Hosts concerts, exhibitions, and services.

Practical Information

  • Opening Times: Mon-Sat 10:00am-4:00pm, Sun 12:00pm-4:00pm.
  • Cost: Free entry, suggested donation £5.
  • Location: The College, Durham DH1 3EH.
  • Parking: Limited; park and ride services available.
  • Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible.
  • Contact Information: For more info and bookings please visit: Durham Cathedral

3. Prebends Bridge

Prebends Bridge

If you are wondering where to watch the sunset in Durham, Prebends Bridge is a great choice. The historic stone-arched bridge, constructed in 1778, offers picturesque views of Durham Cathedral and the River Wear. This architectural gem, part of the Durham World Heritage Site, serves as a serene spot for leisurely walks and is a favourite among photographers, especially at sunrise and sunset in Durham. The bridge’s strategic location provides a unique vantage point to capture the cathedral’s majestic silhouette framed by the lush riverbanks. Its historical significance and timeless beauty make it a popular destination for tourists and locals seeking a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city.

The bridge offers stunning vistas and serves as a gateway to exploring the surrounding area. The nearby paths and trails invite visitors to embark on scenic walks along the River Wear, with opportunities to observe local wildlife and enjoy the tranquillity of the natural environment. Prebends Bridge is also integral to the Durham walking tours, providing historical context and enhancing the cultural experience of exploring Durham’s rich heritage. Whether you’re an avid photographer, a history enthusiast, or someone looking for a quiet place to reflect, Prebends Bridge provides an idyllic setting that captures the essence of Durham’s charm and history.

Activities and Features

Scenic Views: Panoramic views of the cathedral and river.

Historical Significance: Built in 1778.

Photography Spot: Ideal for capturing beautiful images.

Walking Trails: Integrated into local walking paths.

Relaxing Atmosphere: Perfect for leisurely strolls.

Practical Information

  • Opening Times: Open year-round.
  • Cost of Entry: Free.
  • Location: South Bailey, Durham DH1 3RJ.
  • Parking: Limited street parking nearby.
  • Accessibility: Pedestrian-friendly.
  • Contact Information: For more info and bookings please visit: Prebends Bridge

4. Observatory Hill

Observatory Hill

Observatory Hill is a prime location for capturing breathtaking city views, especially during sunrise and sunset in Durham. Situated near Durham University, this vantage point offers a panoramic sweep of Durham’s historic skyline, including the majestic Durham Cathedral and the surrounding countryside. The hill is a favourite among students, locals, and visitors alike, who enjoy its serene environment and the spectacular light displays at dawn and dusk. The unobstructed views make it an ideal spot for photographers looking to capture the essence of Durham’s beauty.

Beyond its visual appeal, Observatory Hill is also a hub for various seasonal activities. During winter, the hill becomes a popular spot for snowball fights and tobogganing, while in warmer months, it serves as a peaceful retreat for picnics and casual strolls. The proximity to Durham University adds to its charm, making it a convenient escape for students seeking a quiet place to relax and reflect. Whether you’re there for the stunning views, the community vibe, or simply a peaceful walk, Observatory Hill provides a unique and memorable experience in the heart of Durham.

Activities and Features

Panoramic Views: Stunning views of Durham Cathedral, Castle, and the city.

Sunrises and Sunsets: Ideal for capturing beautiful moments at dawn and dusk.

Seasonal Fun: Great for snowball fights and tobogganing in winter.

Picnic Spot: A favorite location for picnics among university students.

Accessibility: Easily reachable from nearby colleges.

Practical Information

  • Opening Times: Open year-round.
  • Cost of Entry: Free.
  • Location: Near Durham University, accessible via Quarryheads Lane.
  • Parking Options: Limited street parking available nearby; walking or public transport is recommended.
  • Accessibility: Pedestrian-friendly and suitable for all visitors.
  • Contact Information: For more info and bookings please visit: Observatory Hill

5. Wharton Park

Wharton Park

Wharton Park in Durham is a vibrant green space near the train station, perfect for families and outdoor enthusiasts. This park, which spans over 10 acres, offers a variety of activities and stunning views of Durham City, making it a great spot for a day out. The park’s elevated position provides panoramic vistas of the city’s historic landmarks, including Durham Cathedral and the Castle. The beautifully landscaped gardens, with colourful flower beds and well-maintained lawns, create a picturesque setting for visitors to enjoy. It’s a popular choice for those who enjoy the sunset in Durham!

In addition to its scenic beauty, Wharton Park has a range of facilities catering to visitors of all ages. The park features multiple play areas for children, an outdoor gym for fitness enthusiasts, and a miniature car track for family fun. The recently opened heritage centre and café offer a place to relax and learn about the park’s history while enjoying refreshments. The park also boasts an amphitheatre that hosts various events and performances throughout the year, adding to its appeal as a cultural hub. With ample seating, picnic areas, and convenient access, Wharton Park provides a perfect blend of leisure, recreation, and cultural enrichment in the heart of Durham.

Activities and Features

Panoramic Views: Enjoy breathtaking views of Durham Cathedral and the viaduct.

Heritage Centre and Café: Visit the heritage centre and grab a bite at the café.

Play Areas: Multiple play areas for children of all ages.

Amphitheatre: Outdoor amphitheatre for events and performances.

Miniature Car Track and Outdoor Gym: Fun for families and fitness fans.

Practical Information

  • Opening Times: Open daily from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
  • Cost of Entry: Free; parking costs 50p per half hour, with a maximum stay of three hours.
  • Location: Framwellgate Peth, Durham City, County Durham, DH1 4FJ.
  • Parking: Paid parking available on-site; gates close at 7:00 PM.
  • Facilities: Toilets open from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM; café open on Fridays from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and on weekends from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
  • Contact Information: For more info and bookings please visit: Wharton Park

6. Hild Bede Riverbanks

Hild Bede Riverbanks

Hild Bede Riverbanks in Durham offers a peaceful retreat along the River Wear, adjacent to the historic College of St. Hild and St. Bede. This scenic area is known for its lush greenery, tranquil walking paths, and picturesque river views. The riverbanks provide a serene setting for leisurely strolls, making it a popular spot for locals and visitors seeking a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The proximity to the college adds a touch of historical charm, as the area is steeped in the rich heritage of Durham.

The riverbanks are not just for quiet contemplation; during the day, they are also a vibrant spot for various outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy picnicking on the grassy areas, wildlife watching, and exploring the nearby walking trails that meander through the picturesque landscape. The college’s boathouse adds a dynamic element to the riverbanks, where rowing activities are often seen. At dawn and dusk, Hild Bede Riverbanks returns to its natural, calm state, which is an ideal spot for somewhere to watch the sunrise in Durham. The area is well-maintained and offers an ideal location for photography, especially during the changing seasons when the natural beauty of the surroundings is highlighted.

Activities and Features

Riverside Walks: Stroll along the scenic riverbanks.

Historic Vibes: Located near the historic college, adding charm.

Boathouse: College-maintained boathouse for rowing activities.

Green Spaces: Ideal for picnics and relaxation during the day, dazzling sunsets and sunrises at dawn and dusk.

Wildlife Watching: Spot birds and other wildlife.

Practical Information

  • Opening Times: Open year-round.
  • Cost of Entry: Free.
  • Location: Near the College of St. Hild and St. Bede, along the River Wear.
  • Parking: Limited nearby; public transport recommended.
  • Accessibility: Pedestrian-friendly paths.
  • Contact Information: For more info and bookings please visit: Hild Bede Riverbanks

7. High Force

High Force

High Force in Durham is one of England’s most spectacular waterfalls, boasting a dramatic 21-meter drop into a plunge pool. Situated within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it offers a breathtaking natural spectacle that attracts nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts from far and wide. The waterfall is easily accessible via a well-maintained path, making it a perfect destination for a day trip. Visitors can enjoy the sight and sound of the water crashing over the rocks, providing a powerful and mesmerising experience – A spectacular backdrop for a glorious sunset in Durham.

The surrounding area of High Force is equally impressive, featuring diverse flora and fauna that add to the appeal of this natural wonder. The nearby walking trails offer scenic routes through the moorland, providing ample photography and wildlife-watching opportunities. The trails lead to the base of the falls and beyond, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the region’s natural beauty. Additionally, the surrounding area is designated as a Dark Sky site, making it an excellent spot for stargazing on clear nights or to watch the sunset or sunrise in Durham. Whether you’re visiting for a peaceful hike, an adventurous day out, or to marvel at the waterfall, High Force offers a rich and rewarding experience in the heart of Durham.

Activities and Features

Waterfall Viewing: Admire the 21-meter high waterfall.

Walking Trails: Explore various trails, including a circular walk.

Photography: Capture stunning nature and landscape photos, especially at sunset and sunrise.

Visitor Centre: Includes a shop and café.

Wildlife Watching: Spot local flora and fauna.

Practical Information

  • Opening Times: Daily from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
  • Cost of Entry: £3 per person, plus £3 parking fee.
  • Location: Forest-in-Teesdale, County Durham, DL12 0XH.
  • Parking: Paid parking available on-site.
  • Accessibility: Accessible paths with some steps near the falls.
  • Contact Information: For more info and bookings please visit: High Force

8. Cow Green Reservoir 

Cow Green Reservoir

Cow Green Reservoir in Durham is serene in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Built between 1967 and 1971 to supply water to Teesside’s industries, this reservoir offers a peaceful retreat for nature lovers. The reservoir spans two miles and is nestled between the historic counties of Westmorland and County Durham, making it a significant landmark in the region. Surrounded by picturesque moorland, it provides stunning views and a tranquil setting, perfect for those seeking a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This quiet oasis is one of the best places to watch the sunrise in Durham.

The reservoir is renowned for its rich wildlife and is a haven for birdwatchers, with species such as Teal, Mallard, and Goosander frequently spotted. One of the key attractions near Cow Green Reservoir is Cauldron Snout, one of England’s longest waterfalls, located just downstream of the dam. The area also offers excellent opportunities for fishing, particularly for wild brown trout. Additionally, Cow Green is designated as a Dark Sky site, making it an ideal location for stargazing. Whether you are interested in hiking, wildlife watching, or simply enjoying the natural beauty, Cow Green Reservoir provides a diverse and enriching outdoor experience.

Activities and Features

Scenic Walks: Enjoy tranquil moorland walks around the 2-mile long reservoir.

Cauldron Snout Waterfall: Visit the nearby impressive waterfall.

Wildlife Watching: Spot birds like Teal, Mallard, and Goosander.

Fishing: Known for wild brown trout fishing.

Stargazing: Designated as a dark sky site, ideal for viewing stars and meteor showers. Perfect choice for watching the sunset and the sunrise.

Practical Information

  • Opening Times: Open from 22 March to 30 September.
  • Cost of Entry: Free; parking is available.
  • Location: North of Middleton-in-Teesdale, County Durham, DL12 0HX.
  • Parking: Available on-site.
  • Facilities: Information panels and basic amenities at the car park.
  • Contact Information: For more info and bookings please visit: Cow Green Reservoir


What are the best spots to watch the sunrise in Durham?

Observatory Hill, Hild Bede Riverbanks, and Prebends Bridge are popular spots for sunrise in Durham. Each offers stunning views and peaceful surroundings, perfect for early morning photography.

Where can I see the most stunning sunsets in Durham?

For breathtaking sunsets, head to Cardiac Hill, Durham Cathedral, or Cow Green Reservoir. These locations provide picturesque backdrops and serene atmospheres to enjoy the end of the day.

Are there any guided tours for sunrise or sunset viewing in Durham?

While there are no specific guided tours for sunrise or sunset, many walking tours in Durham include these times. Check with local tour providers for timings that might align with sunrise or sunset.

What time of year offers the best sunrises and sunsets in Durham?

The best time for sunrises and sunsets in Durham is during the spring and autumn months. The changing seasons provide vibrant colors and clear skies, making for stunning views.

Can you recommend any nearby cafes or restaurants to enjoy after watching the sunrise or sunset?

Yes, Flat White Kitchen and Riverview Kitchen are great spots near Durham Cathedral and the River Wear. These cafes offer a cosy atmosphere and delicious food, perfect for a post-sunrise or pre-sunset treat.

Are there any local events or activities centered around sunrises and sunsets in Durham?

Durham often hosts outdoor events and festivals that coincide with sunrise and sunset. Check local event listings for seasonal activities such as guided walks, photography workshops, and outdoor concerts.