Over the last few weeks we’ve been touring the region with our family of reviewers to find attractions that are truly family friendly.
Most of these have been high energy, action-packed adventures favoured by the children, so we decided to take it a bit easier and cruise our way through this week’s review seeing Durham like never before.
The Prince Bishop River Cruiser gives a one-hour tour of Durham, taking in views of Durham Castle, Durham Cathedral, travelling under five bridges and along a riverside steeped in incredible history.
We joined the Cruiser from Browns Boathouse, which can be accessed by stairs from Elvet Bridge and also directly outside the lower floor of Prince Bishop Shopping Centre car park.
We pre-booked our trip, although it is possible to just walk up on the day. With a capacity of 150, there is plenty of space and payment is taken on board – adults £8 per trip, senior citizens £7 and children £5. Dogs are also welcome.
The cruiser itself was built in 1989 in Hartlepool and has two decks. The top deck has an undercover area and a large sun deck both with seating available. The lower deck includes toilets, seating and a small bar area selling cold drinks and snacks.
Our trip set off at 2pm and it was the last one of the day – earlier tours do take place, however, it is best to contact the organisers to check timings as they change depending on weather and high waters.
On departure, our skipper gave a quick safety talk and then we were off, firstly heading in the direction of the bandstand and Durham Prison before turning around and travelling all of the way to the Cathedral and back again.
The live commentary delivered by the skipper was informative and engaging, giving anecdotal stories and historical facts about Durham City and some of its residents and characters from the past and present.
The trip itself was relaxing, tranquil and provided spectacular views of the riverside, its rich colourful treeline and the stunning bridges that wouldn’t be accessible from anywhere else.
Although peaceful, the river was busy with rowing boats filled with students practicing their skills and families who had hired their own pleasure boats and it was nice to see the river getting used so lovingly.
The regular river cruises only run according to weather restrictions and usually close between November and February. However, the cruiser is available to hire for private parties all year round and by all accounts is extremely popular.
When we returned to the boat house, we stopped for an ice-cream on the riverside then took the stairs to the top of Elvet Bridge for a walk around Durham City.
The difference between the tranquillity of the boat trip and the hustle and bustle of the city centre just above it was extraordinary.
Taking the famous cobbled streets up to the Market Square, we were surrounded by shoppers, people sitting outside cafes, dog walkers and music from buskers including a traditional one-man band which the kids loved.
We browsed around a few of the local shops, enjoyed the marketplace architecture then stopped for chips in the popular Bells fish and chip shop in the marketplace before heading home.
This is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Really easy to get to, directly out of the Prince Bishops Car park and ideal for those who don’t like to or can’t walk too far.
The weather was mild on the day we went so we sat on the sun deck. The scenery is really beautiful and there’s loads of great photo opportunities. The kids really enjoyed exploring the boat and I found the commentary really interesting. We received a voucher for two-for-one on the trip so it worked out very reasonable price-wise.
Would definitely recommend it for a unique family experience.
This provided a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the working week. It felt so calming and peaceful, and it was lovely to see the rowing boats in the water all around us.
I was worried the kids might be bored, but the fact they could move about the boat freely, going from the front to the back and between decks kept it interesting for them. The toilets and bar came in handy too.
Durham market place is a beautiful place to visit anyway and it was the perfect way to end the nice family afternoon.
Georgia (11): I was worried I might feel sick on the boat but I didn’t, it was really smooth. I liked standing on the back of the boat and going under the bridges. The shops in the centre were great and the chips were yummy.
Scarlett (9): I liked going up and down between the decks, watching all of the rowing boats going past and waving to everyone. The one man band was funny, just like the man off Mary Poppins!