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Durham is a city in County Durham in North East England, with a population of 23,175 in 2021. The name probably derives from "Dun-holme", or hill-island, because it's set on a ridge above a tight loop of the River Wear. On this peninsula lies the well-preserved old core of the city, with an imposing Norman Cathedral and Castle. The castle is part of University College Durham, while the modern University has expanded south of the river.

Bill Bryson was quite taken by Durham, writing in Notes from a Small Island (1995), "Why, it's a perfect little city. If you have never been to Durham, go there at once. Take my car. It's wonderful." The compliment was returned in 2004 when Durham University made Bryson its Chancellor.

Understand[edit]

Half church of God, half castle 'gainst the Scot - verse of 1817 by Sir Walter Scott

The area has been settled since 2000 BC or earlier, but the present city is documented from 995 AD when monks settled here, fleeing Viking raids on the coast. They brought along the relics of St Cuthbert and of the Venerable Bede, so the church became a pilgrimage centre. Under the Normans the local bishop ranked as a prince, and ruled a secular Palatinate; the area was occasionally attacked by Scotland, but the Scots were always disastrously trounced. From the outset the city was a centre for religious learning, but politics prevented the recognition of its university until 1832. In that era the county became wealthy - or to be specific, its wealthy landowners became wealthier still - when advances in mining technology such as pumping allowed the local coal seams to be exploited. Mining and related industry slumped in the 20th century. Throughout these developments, the old centre between cathedral, castle and market place was little altered, and remains the city's chief draw.

Get in[edit]

Map
Map of Durham (England)

By plane[edit]

Newcastle Airport (NCL IATA) is 25 miles (40 km) north of Durham and 6 miles (10 km) north of Newcastle. Year-round international flights include Amsterdam, Brussels, Dubai, Dublin, Dusseldorf and Paris CDG. Domestic flights are from London Heathrow, Aberdeen, Belfast, Cardiff, Exeter and Southampton. Metro trains run frequently from the airport to Newcastle main railway station, and the overall journey time to Durham is an hour.

Manchester Airport (MAN IATA) is some 150 miles (250 km) south, but it has a greater choice of destinations, more competitive fares, and an hourly direct train to Durham (2 hr 30 min). Other trains, almost as quick, have a change at York or Manchester Piccadilly.

London airports all involve getting into central London, before travelling north from Kings Cross.

1 Teesside Airport (MME IATA) is closest, but it only has flights from Aberdeen and Amsterdam plus seasonally to the Med. An hourly bus runs to Darlington.

By train[edit]

Durham is on the East Coast Main Line and has excellent train services. Direct trains run hourly from London Kings Cross, taking just under 3 hours; other services with a change at York are almost as quick. These trains continue north to Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh. Other cities with a direct train at least hourly include Bristol, Birmingham (3 hr 30 min), Leeds (75 min) and Manchester Piccadilly and Airport (2 hr 40 min).

2 Durham station is on the ridge half a mile west of the city centre. It's small: there's a ticket office and machines, cafe, toilets and ATM but no left-luggage facilities. There is step-free access to all platforms. Cathedral Bus runs to town every twenty minutes, see below. On foot you negotiate staircases from the river valley or circuitous and still-steep roads

By road[edit]

Follow A1(M), exit at jcn 62 and follow A690 into town. For the University campus south of town, a short-cut from the south is to exit at jcn 61 and follow A177 through Shincliffe.

If you're just here on a day-trip, use the edge-of-town Park & Ride service; the old city centre was designed neither for driving nor for parking. The most convenient P&R is the Belmont Park and Ride (Route PR1), located just off A1(M) jcn 62 and is clearly signed. Parking is free provided you intend on using the bus service. A ticket is £2 per person, and will be valid for the entire day. Buses run every 15 minutes from 7AM to 7PM.

The other P&R sites, with the same terms, are Howlands Farm on South Road, DH1 3TQ (Route PR2) and Sniperley DH1 5RA (Route PR3), north of town on A691 near the hospital.

Note that the PR2 is also frequently used by members of the nearby Stephenson College and Josephine Butler College located on the Howlands Farm site, which leads to crowded buses on the weekends.

The main cluster of city-centre car parks are on or just north of A690 called Leazes Road as it crosses the centre onto the river bridge. It is not advised to attempt parking in the old centre or "Peninsula", as the streets are extremely narrow and offer close to no roadside parking spaces. Attempts at parking will likely lead to your vehicle being sideswiped or towed for blocking traffic.

Durham was the first city in Britain to apply a congestion charge, just ahead of London. It's an exit charge of £2 - you can enter the zone any time for free, but a £2 charge will apply if you exit the zone from 10AM to 4PM.

By bus[edit]

Durham Cathedral

National Express takes 7 hours from London Victoria, once daytime via Leeds and once overnight via Milton Keynes, both continuing to Newcastle.

Megabus runs from London Victoria 4 times a day, continuing to Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Angel Bus 21 runs from Newcastle every 10 min, taking an hour via Gateshead, Birtley (for "Angel of the North") and Chester-le-Street. They run between 5AM and 11PM, plus on Friday and Saturday an hourly night bus.

Go Northeast Bus X22 runs hourly from Metrocentre shopping mall via Birtley and Chester-le-Street.

Arriva North East Bus 7 runs from Darlington every 20 min, taking 70 min. Bus X1 runs from Middlesbrough, M-Sa every 30 min and hourly on Sunday, taking 80 min. Bus 22 runs hourly from Sunderland, taking 90 min via Easington, Peterlee and Wheatley Hill. Bus 24 runs every 30 min from Hartlepool, taking 80 min via Peterlee. Bus 6 runs every 20 min from Bishop Auckland, taking 40 min via Spennymoor, and Bus 56 hourly takes 70 min via Ferryhill and Coxhoe.

Durham bus station is on North Road 200 yards west of the river, just south of the railway station. A new station building opened in Jan 2024.

By sea[edit]

DFDS ferries sail overnight between North Shields (near Newcastle) and IJmuiden near Amsterdam, taking 16 hours.

Get around[edit]

Walk. The centre of Durham is compact and congested, driving is tedious and parking (other than using the P&R) is virtually nonexistent.

Cathedral Bus runs M-Sa every 20 min from the railway station via the bus station and marketplace to the cathedral.

Taxi operators include Durham City Taxis (+44 1207 772088) and Durham Taxis (+44 191 394 2468).

See[edit]

Old Elvet Bridge

Peninsula[edit]

The Peninsula is the neck of land in the loop of river, the oldest part of the city, dominated by the Castle and Cathedral.
  • 1 Market Place is the pleasant square at the base of the Peninsula. The fine fellow mounted on a horse is Charles Vane (1778-1854), 3rd Marquess of Londonderry. He's not here for his dashing contribution to the Peninsular War under Wellington, but because he owned land around Durham. He was furious when the government banned child labour down his coal mines, as only a boy of eight was small enough to get into the thinnest seams. He went on to spend lavishly on his Londonderry property during the Irish Famine but gave only a measly donation to the relief fund.
  • 2 Elvet Bridge Elvet Bridge on Wikipedia was built from 1160 with all due care and deliberation, as it took 80-some years to complete. It served the district of Elvet growing up across the river and replaced an even more ancient structure, so it was called "New Elvet Bridge" but that name now means the modern traffic bridge 100 yards downstream.
  • 3 Durham Castle, DH1 3RW, +44 191 334 3800. Built by the Normans from 1072, it was much altered in the 19th century, and is part of a World Heritage Site. It's now part of University College Durham, and can only be visited on a one-hour tour (hours vary) conducted by current students. Some of them reside within the original Keep, the oldest student accommodation in the world. Adult £5, conc £4.50, child free. Durham Castle (Q752266) on Wikidata Durham Castle on Wikipedia
  • 4 Framwellgate Bridge Framwellgate Bridge on Wikipedia spans the river in two arches at the foot of Silver St just west of the castle. It was built shortly after 1400 when its predecessor was swept away in a flood. Silver St and the bridge are pedestrian-only.
  • Archaeology Museum, Palace Green Library DH1 3RN (just north of Cathedral), +44 191 334 2932. Daily 10AM-5PM. Part of Durham University, this is a small but interesting display from prehistoric to early Medieval times. Free. Durham University Museum of Archaeology (Q5316585) on Wikidata Durham University Museum of Archaeology on Wikipedia
  • Durham Museum and Heritage Centre, 40 North Bailey DH1 3ET (next to Cathedral), +44 191 384 5589. W-Su 11AM-4:30PM. This is in the 17th century church of St-Mary-le-Bow, next to the cathedral and often missed by visitors heading there. It displays town history from medieval times to the 20th century. Adult £5, child free. Durham Heritage Centre and Museum (Q5316517) on Wikidata Durham Museum, Durham on Wikipedia
  • 5 Durham Cathedral, DH1 3EH, +44 191 338 7178. M-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su noon-4PM. Durham bishopric was founded in 995 AD by monks from Lindisfarne, fleeing Viking raids, and bringing their holy relics with them. Early Norman bishops were of royal status - hence their title "Prince Bishop" - and they built the present cathedral from 1093. It's a magnificent structure, part of a World Heritage Site, with a soaring nave and 66 metre tower. The relics of Saint Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede, and hundreds of ancient artefacts, are on display in the museum (M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su from 12:30PM, adults £7.50). The northwest (or "Galilee") tower is visited on booked guided tours, adults £7.50, 137 steps and a fair bit of pigeon poo. The cathedral is a working church, please respect services and private prayer, and there may be part-closures at short notice eg for funerals. Donation £5. Durham Cathedral (Q746207) on Wikidata Durham Cathedral on Wikipedia
  • 6 Kingsgate Bridge Kingsgate Bridge on Wikipedia was the last structure designed by Ove Arup, at the height of the fashion for brutalism, and completed in 1966. So it's a striking design, won awards, and as a footbridge serves a practical purpose, but you won't call it handsome.
  • 7 The Count's House is a Georgian folly, a cod-Grecian temple at the tip of the Peninsula. Józef Boruwłaski (1739-1837) was a dwarf who became a court favourite among Polish nobility, toured Europe, and was a talented musician. He retired to live in Durham where he knew the cathedral organist, and the folly may have stood in his garden. He's believed to be a pituitary dwarf as his proportions were normal; he kept growing to age 30 (reaching 99 cm tall) and lived to be 97.
  • 8 Prebends Bridge Prebends Bridge on Wikipedia near the tip of the Peninsula was completed in 1778 as part of a private driveway for the Dean of the cathedral to get to and from the office. It has a good view of the cathedral and was intentionally placed there for that vista.

Elsewhere[edit]

Durham Castle
  • 9 Crook Hall Gardens, Frankland Lane, Sidegate DH1 5SZ, +44 191 383 1832. Feb-Oct daily 10AM-4PM. Crook Hall is a manor built early 14th century and expanded in the 17th and 18th. In modern times it was used as a wedding venue but went bust in 2020. It was acquired by the National Trust, who re-opened its gardens. Adult £8.50, child £4.25, NT free. Crook Hall, Durham on Wikipedia
  • 10 St Giles Church St Giles Church, Durham on Wikipedia was completed in 1112 as the chapel of the Hospital of St Giles - some distance outside the city walls, as St Giles was the patron saint of "lepers" (their catch-all term for any disfiguring skin disease). It was re-modelled in the Middle Ages and the 19th century, and remains an active Anglican church.
  • Elvet the district east of the river loop has many attractive Georgian and Victorian buildings, though it's mixed with modern structures and doesn't have the same charm as the Peninsula.
University main campus is south of the Peninsula, easiest reached on foot via Prebends Bridge. It's modern.
  • Palatine Centre on Stockton Road has displays about print-making, open M-F 9AM-5PM.
  • 11 Oriental Museum, Elvet Hill Rd DH1 3TH, +44 191 334 5694. Tu-F 10AM-5PM, Sa Su noon-5PM. Part of Durham University, this museum displays artefacts from across Asia and North Africa. Search their online data base for material not on display. Free.
  • 12 Botanic Garden, South Rd DH1 3TN, +44 191 334 2887. Daily 10:30AM-4PM. 10-hectare woodland gardens run by Durham University, with many exotics. Adult £5, conc £4.50, child free. Durham University Botanic Garden (Q5316580) on Wikidata Durham University Botanic Garden on Wikipedia
  • 13 Maiden Castle is somewhere under the thickets of a mound by the river, which may once have encircled it. It's dated to the Iron Age, which reached this far north by the 5th century BC, and may have been reinforced in the Middle Ages. The name "Maiden" usually denotes a castle that has never been conquered, but how would anyone know of its prehistoric campaigns?

Further out[edit]

  • 14 Ushaw, Woodland Rd, Ushaw Moor DH7 9RH, +44 191 373 8500. Daily 11AM-4PM. This was built as a Roman Catholic seminary from 1804, after the French Revolution drove the priesthood from Douai. Anti-Catholic persecution in England had eased, but there was still a risk of local agitation, so they pretended it was a secular country mansion and screened it behind high beech hedges. You'd think someone would notice that Pugin was the architect, and that many earnest young men in birettas were traipsing in and out, but the landowner was a sympathiser. It became the principal RC seminary in the north of England but closed in 2011. You can visit house, chapel and gardens, and it's sometimes an event venue. Adult £8, child £5. Ushaw College on Wikipedia
  • 15 Brancepeth Castle, Brancepeth DH7 8DF, +44 191 378 9670. The earliest parts are Norman, but this is mostly an 1820-40s rebuild, a Victorian mansion with mock castellations. You visit by guided tours, dates and times vary but usually on Thursday. Adult £13, child £6. Brancepeth Castle on Wikipedia
  • 16 Finchdale Priory, Finchale Ave, Framwellgate Moor DH1 5SH, +44 370 333 1181. Daily 10AM-5PM. A chapel was founded in the 12th century as an outpost of Durham Priory, on the site of the Hermitage of St Godric. Over the following centuries it grew into a large monastery but was dissolved in 1536. The ruin is now managed by English Heritage. Site free, charge for parking. Finchdale Priory on Wikipedia

Do[edit]

Durham at night
  • Walk the scenic meander on the River Wear, for great views of the cathedral. There are footpaths both sides.
  • Gala Theatre & Cinema is on Millennium Square behind Walkergate Shopping Centre, Box Office +44 3000 266 600.
  • Odeon Luxe is a larger cinema on Millburngate just west across the river.
  • Prince Bishop River Cruises start from New Elvet Bridge and putter along the Wear for an hour, £12 in 2023. Dogs are allowed and there's a bar, toilets and wheelchair access. There's only a limited view of sights such as the cathedral, but it's a relaxing hour with droll commentary by the skipper.
  • Brown's Boats are also at New Elvet Bridge. They hire rowing boats Apr-Sep, for £10 adult £5 child in 2023.
  • Freeman's Quay is a sports and leisure centre next to Premier Inn, with gym, fitness classes and pool.
  • Golf: nearby courses are Durham City, Brancepeth Castle, Ramside Hall and Cocken Lodge. The Shack is an indoor virtual course by the A1(M) junction.
  • Durham University: If you or a family member might want to study at Durham, best way to find out more are the Open Days, with a chance to interview staff and current or recent students. Next best are the Discover Durham campus walking tours in October and November. And for a taster, take the virtual campus tour.
  • 1 Diggerland, Langley Park DH7 9TT (in Riverside Industrial Estate.), +44 1634 711711. Feb-Jun Sep Oct: Sa Su, Jul Aug daily, 10AM-5PM. JCB-themed amusement park where you can take the controls of Dumper Trucks, Mini Diggers, Giant Diggers, and similar muddy monsters. Adult or child £26. Diggerland on Wikipedia
  • Cricket at Riverside Stadium in Chester-le-Street, 8 miles north: this is home to Durham CCC, who were promoted in 2023 and now play in Division One of the County Championship. County matches normally last 3-4 days. The stadium also hosts international or "Test Matches", lasting up to five days. The stadium is 200 yards from the railway station, frequent trains take less than ten minutes from Durham or Newcastle.
  • Football: Durham doesn't have a professional men's soccer team, but Durham WFC plays in the Women's Championship, their second tier. Their home ground is Maiden Castle (capacity 3000) on the University campus.
  • Great North Big Band Jazz Festival is in Chester-le-Street, with the next on 1-3 March 2024.
  • Durham Miners' Gala is on the second Saturday in July, with parades and similar demonstrations of solidarity.
  • Durham Fringe Festival is next held on 24-28 July 2024.
  • Durham Pride is in September.

Buy[edit]

  • Indoor Market off Market Square is a trad Victorian hall with lots of stalls, open M-Sa 9AM-4:30PM. On Saturdays it extends outdoors across the square.
  • Near the market are convenience stores such as Tesco Express. Big stores such as Aldi are on the retail park east edge of town by A1(M).
  • Gateshead Metro Centre is where locals do their "big shop". It's on A1 west of Newcastle, or change trains at Newcastle for Metrocentre, or take the hourly direct bus X22.

Eat[edit]

Prebends Bridge and the Cathedral
  • Bishop's Mill, Walkergate DH1 1WA, +44 191 370 8510. Su-Th 8AM-midnight, F Sa 8AM-2AM. Central JD Wetherspoon with good food and ale.
  • Vennels, 71 Saddler St DH1 3NP (by Market Square), +44 191 375 9635. Daily 9AM-5PM. Pleasant cafe for light bites in a vennel or alleyway.
  • Café Cenno is upstairs in the Market Hall, with a vista of the railway viaduct and river on one side, and the market stalls on the other. It's open M-Sa 9AM-4:30PM.
  • Pancake Cafe is at 11 Crossgate, at the junction with Neville Street.
  • Undercroft Cafe is within the cathedral, open daily 10AM-4PM for light bites and lunch.
  • Bell's serve fish & chips in the market place, eat in or takeaway, open M-Sa 11:15AM-8:30PM, Su noon-3:30PM.
  • Stantons is a long-established fish and chips takeaway at 29 Neville St near the bus station, open M-Sa 10:30AM-3AM, Su 11:30AM-midnight.
  • La Spaghettata is part of Fabio's, see Drink.
  • 1 Claypath Delicatessen, 57 Claypath DH1 1QS, +44 191 340 7209. Tu W 11AM-4PM, Th-Sa 11AM-9PM. Quality bakery and coffee shop with inside and outside seating. Everything homemade, a bit pricey.
  • 2 Zen, Court Lane DH1 3JS (off New Elvet), +44 191 384 9588. Daily 11AM-10PM. A popular Thai restaurant.

Drink[edit]

Durham CCC play at Chester-le-Street
Durham has lots of pubs, inexpensive as they compete for student custom. Cheapest are the College bars but you need student ID to access those.
  • Fabio's, 66 Saddler St DH1 3NP (50 yards south of Market Square), +44 191 383 9290. Daily 6PM-2AM. Lively place near the castle, with food, music and dancing.
  • Swan and Three Cygnets, Elvet Bridge DH1 3AF, +44 191 384 0242. M-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su noon-10:30PM. Pleasant riverside pub by Old Elvet Bridge. They only sell Sam Smith's range of ales, and prohibit using phones. Some outside tables though the river view here is just of Prince Bishops Shopping Centre.
  • 1 Colpitts Hotel, 61 Hawthorn Terrace DH1 4EQ, +44 191 386 9913. M-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su noon-10:30PM. Another trad Samuel Smith's pub, likewise only serving that range and banning phones. Colpitts Hotel (Q26452894) on Wikidata
  • 2 The Woodman, 23 Gilesgate DH1 1QW, +44 191 697 5369. Su-Th noon-11PM, F Sa noon-midnight. Friendly (and dog- and family-friendly) pub with beer garden and selection of independent local ales.
  • 3 Victoria Inn, 86 Hallgarth St DH1 3AS, +44 191 386 5269. Splendid traditional pub with Victorian interior, highly rated by CAMRA. Also has rooms. Double (room only) £100.
  • Loft is a late-night music venue at 15 North Rd near the bus station, open M W F 10PM-2:30AM,
  • Ebony Champagne Bar is by Gala Theatre, open Tu-Su.

Sleep[edit]

Town Hall
  • Durham University has college accommodation during the summer holidays, including the castle.
  • 1 Premier Inn City Centre, Freeman's Place, Walkergate DH1 1SW, +44 333 777 4669. Smart comfy central budget hotel. B&B double £100.
  • Premier Inn Durham North is two miles north of town centre on A167, convenient for motorists.
  • 2 Farnley Tower Hotel, The Avenue DH1 4DX, +44 191 375 0011. Welcoming 13-bedroom hotel in converted Victorian mansion. Tall guests should avoid the attic room. Dog-friendly. B&B double £120.
  • 3 Travelodge, Station Lane, Gilesgate DH1 1LJ, +44 8719 846136 (premium rate). Durham used to have four railway stations: this one was Durham Gilesgate, whence the last passenger train departed in 1857. The former station house is now the Travelodge, a reliable budget chain. B&B double £110.
  • 4 Bridge Hotel, 40 North Road DH1 4SE, +44 191 386 8090. Friendly pub and restaurant with rooms beneath the railway viaduct. B&B double £110.
  • Forty Winks, 40 South St DH1 4QP, +44 191 380 3000. Beautiful Edwardian guesthouse facing cathedral across the river. Amazing decor, gets rave reviews. No children under 16 or dogs. B&B double £140.
  • Radisson Blu, Framwellgate Waterside DH1 5TA (West bank of river, north of bridge), +44 191 372 7200, . Smart reliable 4-star chain with 207 rooms just blow the railway station. The hotel has an Italian restaurant, two bars and a health club. B&B double £120.
  • 5 Durham Royal County, Old Elvet DH1 3JN, +44 191 386 6821. 4-star hotel in Marriott chain, part dates back to the 17th century, modern amenities plus historic charm in a great location. Comfy and spacious. B&B double £100.
  • 6 Ramside Hall Hotel, Carrville DH1 1TD (off A690), +44 191 386 5282. Spa and golf hotel near the A1(M) junction. B&B double £100.
  • 7 Burnhopeside Hall, Durham Rd, Lanchester DH7 0TL (7 miles west of city on A691), +44 1207 520222. Relaxing comfy place in Georgian mansion. Basically B&B but can do dinner by arrangement. Dog-friendly. B&B double £140.

Connect[edit]

As of Jan 2024, Durham and its approach roads have 4G from Vodafone, and 5G from EE, O2 and Three.

Go next[edit]

  • Beamish is the North of England Open Air Museum, five miles west of Chester-le-Street. It has reconstructed buildings from around the northeast, and is big enough to run its own tram network.
  • Angel of the North towers over the road and railway north to Gateshead.
  • Newcastle upon Tyne is the throbbing heart of the North East, with excellent shopping, clubbing and art, and some surprisingly fine architecture.
  • Locomotion is a branch of the National Railway Museum in Shildon, near Bishop Auckland, 20 miles south of Durham. The collection is mostly Victorian steam era.
  • Barnard Castle is a pretty market town with a ruined castle overlooking the river Tees. It's on A688 25 miles southwest of Durham. The stand-out attraction is the Bowes Museum, in a vast French-style mansion.


Routes through Durham
Newcastle upon Tyne ← Chester-le-Street ←  N  S  DarlingtonLeeds




This city travel guide to Durham is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.