A County Durham beach with free parking has been branded a 'hidden gem' by visitors after remaining in its roots of natural beauty, instead of becoming commercialised. 

Visitors to Blackhall Beach have flocked to the destination - but say they have been pleasantly surprised by how it has remained just a beach with a walking route, instead of adding arcades and too many coffee shops and restaurants like other beaches.

Taking to TripAdvisor, people have ranked the beach the best in County Durham for walking, while also having the benefit of free parking, compared to some locations that charge for visitors. 

Reviewing it as four out of five stars, people have praised Blackhall for moving away from its industrial past, which saw silt and a 'mucky' backdrop for visitors going back 40 years. 

Instead, people who have visited Blackhall are greeted by a beach that has yellow sands and picturesque walking routes near the cliffs that run alongside the North East coastline.

One person who visited Blackhall took to TripAdvisor to rate it 'excellent' and left the review: "Lovely walk on cliff tops at Blackhall rocks followed by coffee outside a nice hotel on the way back driving towards Castle Eden. Plenty of car parking and most dogs seemed to be on leads.

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"The path is quite smooth could walk a long distance or in a loop and back to the car if short of time. Steps down to the beach as well although quite a few but beach is quiet so loads of room."

Meanwhile, another visitor also had a great experience - highlighted on TripAdvisor: "I had a wonderful walk on Blackhall Beach this afternoon. A huge, clean beach. Hardly anyone about.
Easy free parking, and nice paths down onto the beach. No litter. Signs of the coal heritage of the beach."

It's fair to say that the free parking helps visitors to go to the area - but the natural beauty is clear to see on the North East coastline from these reviews.