Durham is the highlight of the north-east of England, and the heart of Durham County.
Durham has a magnificent cathedral — the finest piece of Norman architecture in the British Isles — and its university is the third oldest in England. On a peninsula in the River Wear, the old city is full of cobbled streets and has a Victorian covered market. From the railway station, the visitor gets an unforgettable first impression of the cathedral and the castle. (Another breathtaking view is from the exercise yard of HM Prison Durham, although no photography is allowed there.)
By train on the East Coast Mainline, between York and Newcastle; by road on the A1M. A shuttle bus to the centre of the city departs from the station every 20 minutes.
Durham Cathedral, with its shrines of St Cuthbert, whose bones were translated here from Lindisfarne, and the Venerable Bede, has attracted pilgrims since the Middle Ages. Wander in the cloisters or between the massive Norman pillars, and be transported back to the time of the Prince Bishops. Or admire Fenwick Lawson’s haunting statues made of local wood. And don’t forget “The College” (the name given to the cathedral close) behind the cathedral. Durham Cathedral and Castle form one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK.
Other things to see
A walk on the riverbank and across the city’s three stone-arch bridges gives a vivid impression of the Prince Bishops’ city. Durham Heritage Centre and Museum, on North Bailey, tells the story of the city from medieval times to the present day.
The Durham Light Infantry and Art Museum offers exhibitions on the history of the local regiment, and on other aspects of local and military history.
The annual Miners’ Gala (pronounced “gayla”), with its splendid display of banners and brass bands, on the second Saturday in July, is a reminder of the city’s proud history of mining and trade-unionism.
The Bowes Museum, in Barnard Castle, houses an outstanding collection of European fine and decorative arts, and has an acclaimed exhibition programme. Bede’s World, in Jarrow, complements a visit to Durham with fascinating exhibitions about the life and times of the Venerable Bede, England’s first church historian.
Food and drink
For an atmospheric drink in an old-style pub, try the Shakespeare on Saddler Street. A local favourite is Bimbi’s Fish and Chips on the Market Place (“The secret is in the batter”).