Unique wake venues in Durham

Celebrate the life of your loved one in Durham.

Take a picnic basket to Old Durham Gardens or Ushaw historic house and gardens, or enjoy the wildlife and beautiful scenery of Blast Beach as you celebrate the life of your loved one in Durham.

Hosting a wake in Durham

A wake is an informal event that traditionally takes place after a funeral service and cremation or burial. It’s usually an informal event that involves family and friends gathering to share memories and celebrate the life of their loved one.

Traditionally, wakes would take place at someone’s home, or a community centre or pub, but they can take place anywhere. The people organizing the wake may want to honour their loved one by holding the wake at a place that was special to them, such as at the grounds of their favourite football team, for example. 

Also, although wakes usually take place directly after the funeral service, they can be held at any time. They can also be as structured or as informal as the organizer would like. Wake organizers have the freedom to host the event that’s right for them, their family and friends, and their loved one.

If you’re organizing a wake in Durham, there are plenty of unique venues where you can host the event in your own way, from a picnic at Old Durham Gardens and Ushaw, to a stroll on Blast Beach.

Find your funeral director in Durham who will help you arrange a cremation or burial, and give you ideas for a wake, memorial or reception that's right for you.

Explore your options

If you’re choosing a celebration of life instead of a traditional funeral, you could consider direct cremation. This is where the cremation doesn’t have any attendees, and the crematorium will return the ashes directly to you or your loved ones.

Old Durham Gardens

Old Durham Gardens was established more than 350 years ago and is a charming and beautiful public space that is open to everyone to enjoy. The gardens are less than a mile from Durham City Centre and are accessible via a few woodland or riverside walks. 

The gardens belong to Durham County Council, but the management of the gardens has been shared with the Friends of Old Durham Gardens since 2010, whose work to rejuvenate the gardens is ongoing. 

The lower gardens and the orchards are open at all times to the public, and entry is always free. However, donations to the voluntary group Friends of Old Durham Gardens are always welcome and appreciated. 

You can reach the garden by walking down the footpath along the River Wear or via the University Sports Fields. It is more difficult to get there by car, and so is parking at the gardens. Bent House Lane is a one way, no-through road with passing places and you can only access it from the A181 Sherburn Road.

Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels & Garden

The blissful surroundings of Ushaw is the perfect place for friends and family to gather to remember your lost loved one. Ushaw prides itself on being open and affordable to the public. You can purchase an Annual Pass and Family Pass to have unlimited access to the historic house, chapels, and gardens. 

Ushaw also has a fascinating history. When Henry VII and his daughter Elizabeth I required English citizens to join their new Church of England, Catholics were executed or exiled, and the forefathers of Ushaw lived in Northern France, in a town called Douai, for 300 years.

However, they were cast out too by the time the French Revolution rolled around, and they returned to England looking for a new home. But again, they did not fit in with 19th century Protestant England. 

But eventually, four miles west of Durham on a high hill, they bought land from a nobleman sympathetic to their plight. Not only did they build a new Catholic seminary, but the historic house chapels, gardens, and the historic house we know today, with its thirty acres of beautiful woodland.

No matter what brings you to Ushaw, it is a gorgeous and tranquil place to remember and reflect on the life of your loved one. Ushaw also has woodland walks, a 3-mile circular walking route, Bounds café with an outdoor café and terrace and a quadrangle of historic Georgian houses. 

Blast Beach

If your loved one enjoyed the seaside, Blast Beach is a great place to remember them and celebrate their lives. There is plenty of free parking to the south of Seaham at Nose’s Point. Once you’ve parked up, you’ll find a fully accessible path that can be quite steep and uneven in places.

The Durham Coast is famous for its stunning wildflowers, and there is no shortage of them in the fields of Blast Beach. You’ll find plants like bloody cranesbill, devil’s-bit scabious, and dyer’s greenweed that carpet the fields in vibrant colour in summer. The grassland scrub provides a home for birds like the grasshopper warbler that have a song reminiscent of the noises made by their namesake insect.

But while the flowers create a stunning display in spring and summer, the cliff-top views are beautiful all year round and have certainly changed through the centuries.

The stretch of the Durham Coast, where Blast Beach is located, was home to the biggest coal mine in Europe, which led to staggering amounts of pollutants. The beach was uninhabitable to animals and birds thanks to the sheet of two and a half million tonnes of colliery waste, and humans could not visit it. 

But thanks to an enormous clean-up project that involved the National Trust and 13 other organisations, a lot of the waste has been removed, wildlife has been restored to the area, and people can enjoy this beautiful piece of Durham once more.

Arrange a direct cremation with Farewill

We can help you organise a cremation service that's right for you. We'll help transport your loved one, handle all the paperwork and hand-deliver your loved one’s ashes to you.

Article reviewed