Durham Cathedral is the first thing you will see when you arrive in this beautiful city. This masterpiece in Romanesque sits atop a steep hill and can be seen for miles around. American writer Bill Bryson called it the ‘best Cathedral on planet earth’ and it’s also where the remains of St Cuthbert lie and have done since 995, rendering the city a place of pilgrimage for both Normans and Saxons.
In order to find out what the fuss is about, make your own pilgrimage to Durham – a city of golden stone and slender bridges that cross the River Wear, which winds its way through the north of the city. Elvet Bridge is allegedly the narrowest row through bridge in Europe which adds a bit of a challenge to the many rowing teams who practice here, including the top class Durham University Rowing Team. If you hire a boat yourself, you might catch Durham County Cricket Club playing a game, since they have their grounds on the banks of the river.
The streets are filled with Durham University’s students, many of whom use Durham Castle as a hall of residence (so an Englishman’s home really can be his castle).
DURHAM’S TOP 10
10. Beamish Wild Adventure park is where to be if you love activity – archery and a high ropes course.
5. Durham’s Oriental Museum has a good collection of Egyptian artefacts as well as a huge Chinese bed.
9. 12th Century Bowes Castle has gone to rack and ruin, but the remains of King Henry II’s tower keep remain.
4. Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Museum The history of Durham’s County Regiment (1758 to 1968) with poignant mementoes and anecdotes.
8. Hire a rowing boat from Browns Boathouse, below Elvet Bridge or take a river cruise on the Prince Bishop river cruiser.
3. Durham Heritage Centre and Museum tells the story of the city from medieval times to the modern day. Try your hand at brass rubbing too.
7. Crook Hall is a medieval manor with 1.6 acres of charming gardens, great place for a wind-down.
2. Durham Heritage Coast has miles of beaches, rugged cliffs and spectacular views.
6. Durham Indoor Market Worth a browse, just as much for the Victorian building, as the wares.
1. Beamish Museum invites you to wander around its perfectly preserved buildings and chat to costumed guides, like being on a historical film set.
Durham Streets of Summer Festival transforms the city during August with world music and street performers on every corner.
BRASS is Durham’s two week live music festival which unites brass, folk, opera, dance and outdoor theatre every July.
Fill up on food, drink and fun at the Durham Food Festival in October – a veritable smorgasbord of delicious delights.
The Shildon Classic Motor show motors into town in July with a host of classic vehicles to amuse all petrol heads. Make it a date during a stay in Durham.
The County Durham Game and Country Fair in July offers fun for all with top country sports, a craft village and fabulous food.
Make a song and dance out of the Durham Folk Party in July. Time to get those vocal chords warmed up and join in.
Durham’s Medieval Weekend in August is hosted by a living history group who’ll show you a thing or two about merrymaking medieval style.
Durham Punk Festival is held in September is. Now, where did you put those safety pins?
Luminere in November is when Durham gets transformed into a magical nocturnal landscape with a spectacular multi-sensory light show.
The Durham Christmas Fair takes place on Palace Green in December with a giant marquee of festive fun.
WHEN TO GO
· Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Durham has a moderate climate and receives more than its fair share of sunshine during the summer months, with relatively mild winters.
· Temperatures during the months of July and August are likely to rise to an average 23°C, and during winter fall to around 5°C. Frosts are common at night and it does snow occasionally.
· Durham receives less rain than many other places in the country, with rain falling on around 121 days a year (the national average is roughly 154 days of rain per year), but expect showers at any time.
· Durham is served by an excellent road network with the A1 providing easy access from the South and there are a number of scenic routes through Northumberland and Border Country too. National Express runs a service several times a day from London to Durham as well as from many other intercity destinations.
· Railway connections are good too, with 16 high speed services a day into London, a journey which takes around 3 hours. Trains run to most other parts of the UK too.
· Durham is easily accessible from Newcastle and Durham Tees Valley Airports – both of which have regular international and domestic flights.
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