This photo essay is aimed primarily- though not exclusively- at our American friends. Because I know that, while many of you enjoy the sights of London, York and Edinburgh, you are often actually missing out on the most beautiful city in the entire country. Allow me to introduce you to Durham, the jewel in the crown of North East England.
You can see here that the city enjoys a stunning, quite sensational stance. It curves neatly around a bend in the River Wear. The river banks on both sides are a beautiful, languid stroll on a warm summer day, or even as an appetite sharpener before your evening meal.
What you are looking at here is the amazing Norman cathedral and castle. Construction began back in 1086. Both are so perfectly preserved that they have World Heritage Site status from UNESCO. Viewed from the compact, largely car free city centre, these two magnificent buildings loom over the winding, cobbled streets like a pair of incredible exclamation marks.
Here’s one of the famous statues in the central Market Square, a popular venue for street theatre in summer months. In the photo below is the Shakespeare, a real old, rustic confection of a Durham pub that dates back to the 1100’s, as do many of the customers at first glance. Inevitably, it’s supposed to be haunted. Truth be told, it would be a pretty inviting spot to while away those endless, after life days…
The picture below shows the partly Romanesque facade of the Cathedral. As well as being blessed with such stunning architecture, Durham is also the third oldest university city in the entire United Kingdom.Here below is the keep of the great Norman castle. Durham was run as virtually an autonomous province- albeit with royal assent- by its own Prince Bishops for many a century. Centuries of Viking raids from across the North Sea left these Bishops with a deep sense of paranoia. The city itself lies not so very far from the sea at all.
Here we are back on the river. This is the main artery of this amazing, compact gem. The city bustles and hums with activity all year, but it’s an open secret among locals that it is at it’s absolute best in the long summer nights. A whole warren of quirky, sometimes crazy winding lanes gives Durham a character and a curiosity value worth a few days of anyone’s life. And, with no shortage of outdoor eating and drinking venues, you can slake your thirst just as satisfyingly as you can your sense of adventure.
This is one of the main cobbled streets that winds through the centre of Durham. This bit is perfect for a spot of platinum chip people watching over an espresso, or a glass of wine, The next picture is the vaulting, elegant railway bridge that carries the main East Coast rail line from London right through to Edinburgh and beyond.
Easiest way to reach here if you’re an international traveller? Newcastle airport is not far away, and is served by direct British Airways flights from London Heathrow, several times a day. Flight time is less than an hour. East Coast trains also run several services a day to Durham from London King’s Cross. The typical journey time is around three hours.
Hotel wise, the new Radisson has an excellent, river front location, but I personally prefer the more old world style Marriott. On a budget? There’s a quite spiffy looking Premier Inn near the Radisson. You’ll also find that there is no shortage of guest houses and B and B’s.