Don't do what we nearly did and stop at the driveway to the castle. We thought we might have been trespassing, and were half expecting some eccentric aristocrat to take potshots at us with an antique rifle...but this is actually a right of way as the castle drive leads to the historic village church of St Brandon.
Apparently, this church was gutted in a fire in 1998, only a basic shell left, so that makes it just a bit more remarkable. Reconstruction has been done well and you wouldn't know that it isn't all original stonework, only in places you can tell it has been reconstructed, as the stone is too new looking. A note on the door welcomes visitors, and if the door is locked, you can ask nearby for a key.
The graveyard dates back centuries...I have a thing about old graveyards, I love reading headstones and learning about complete strangers who died hundreds of years ago. Don't know why, I just do.
I was surprised by this well hidden stone castle. From the road, the only signpost is for a golf course, so you wouldn't know that a Norman castle lurks beyond the anonymous gate. From outside, it looks like private property, but there's nothing to stop you wandering down the driveway and past the trees, where the impressive castle reveals itself.
You can't actually go inside, as that bit is private property...but look out for a handful of annual events inside (Christmas fair, Shakespeare plays, etc.) that may be advertised around Durham.
Brancepeth is an old village of twee cottages and affluent mansions spread out on either side of the main road. While hurtling through on a bus, blink and you'll miss it...but if you're walking along the path in the above tip, take my advice and make a small diversion. Not to see the houses...they may be pretty on a sunny day, but no, you're here to see the two big attractions mentioned below...so cross the main road and enter the gates of what might look like a private property. Trust me...it is worth it.
Oh...and look out for the tiny Shetland ponies grazing in a field close to the railway path...
Brandon and Meadowfield are about 3 or 4 miles from Durham....quite a walk, up and down hills, and not the most pleasant as the roads are busy. You could take a walk over Prebends Bridge in Durham, climb the hill and pass through a couple of fields to Obserbatory Hill near Nevilles Cross, from where there is a great view over Durham. Half a mile further on, you could stop for a drink at the Duke of Wellington pub, or at the bottom of the hill at the Stonebridge Inn...then it is main road all the way, under a railway bridge to Langley Moor (where the railway path begins) and eventually Meadowfield/Brandon. I walk it every day to and from work, and it takes me about 40 minutes. It would be a good route to cycle, as there are cycle paths for most of the way.
Otherwise, take a bus or a taxi. Plenty buses head to Brandon, although not all of them pass through Meadowfield. Buses to Crook also follow this route. Take on that goes via Meadowfield, and leave the bus on the main road close to a petrol station and a Chinese takeaway (ask the bus driver for Browney). Take any road to the right and after a minute or two, the railway path will appear. A taxi out this far will set you back £6 or £7 from the city centre.
Brancepeth is further down the main road, and you need to take a Crook-bound bus.