EXPLORE THE CATHEDRAL CITY OF DURHAM
Bursting with historical attractions and modern delights, Durham welcomes visitors with open arms! Enjoy views of spectacular Durham Cathedral and the quaint Old Town from the luxury Radisson Blu Hotel. Just minutes from the hotel you’ll find great shopping and top attractions such as Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral, while the award-winning Bowes Museum is just outside the city.
If anyone in Durham mentions cows there is a splendid reason for it. According to legend Durham owes its very location to a cow. Apparently a milkmaid who had lost her cow bumped into the pall bearers of Saint Cuthbert, who were searching for Dun Holm (Durham) after Saint Cuthbert’s spirit asked to be taken there. The milkmaid, still in search of her cow, led them to the spot where Durham Cathedral sits today - and so the city was founded in 995AD. On the south side of the cathedral you’ll find a stone carving depicting this moment.
Durham’s religious importance means it has been a stronghold for the north of England for centuries and it was often a great point of defence against Scottish invasions. In more recent times Durham was a successful mining town and it worked its coal mines until the 1970s when the pits were eventually closed. Today the city is famed for its beauty and historic buildings – there are more than 600 listed buildings and the view up the hill of the UNESCO World Heritage cathedral and 11th century Norman castle from the River Wear is wonderful. This is also where the University of Durham is housed - an extraordinary location and one which makes the city even more popular with young people.
Visitors enjoy walks along the river which winds and curves creating a peninsula of land where the old town lies. From the Radisson Blu Hotel, Durham it’s easy to stroll into town. Some of the bridges between the peninsula and the rest of the city are worth a look from Elvet Bridge with its medieval craftsmanship, to Prebends Bridge with its pretty stone arches and great photo opportunities of the woodlands and the cathedral. Even the 1960s Kingsgate Bridge is striking against the city’s historic backdrop. It’s a hilly city but you’ll soon forget tired legs as you become immersed in Durham’s pretty cobbled streets, soaking up the lively atmosphere, enjoying the street music, popping into boutique shops, cafes and market places. If you need a break from the activity, a good place to relax and take it all in is Palace Green, in front of the cathedral and castle, or for pure English serenity head to Crook Hall, a 13th century house well known for its cream teas served in the delightful gardens.
5 things to do in Durham
Durham is a city bursting with opportunity and action and it can be hard to decide what to do first. We’ve chosen five things for you to experience while you’re here.
- Search for the cows! Cows are an important part of Durham’s history and legend has it that one cow actually took part in the founding of the city – look for images and engravings of cows – a good place to start is at the cathedral. See how many Durham cows you can find!
- Have a look around the World Heritage site of Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral where the university proudly sits. These fantastic structures overlook the medieval part of the city and the River Wear as it winds around the land hugging the city closely to its banks.
- After exploring the castle and the cathedral relax in the grass and wooded area of Palace Green below. Have a picnic and admire the views.
- For something a little bit different you could explore the collections in Durham’s Oriental Museum. This building is crammed full of awesome artefacts from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as exhibitions from other worldwide archaeological sites.
- In the evening you could relax with a couple of drinks in one of the many friendly drinking holes but beware on your way back to the hotel you could bump into one of Durham’s ghosts. There’s the Grey Lady of Durham Castle (the wife of the Bishop of Durham) who fell to her death down the ‘black staircase’ in the castle, or the ghost of the Gypsy Piper who plays the pipe on Elvet Bridge at midnight… To get the most out of a spooky visit take a ghost tour.
When you’re staying in Durham you will immediately know where the heart of the city lies. On a hill overlooking a pretty bend of the River Wear is Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral – a World Heritage Site since 1986. These buildings are part of the university and they are surrounded by both the urban, with the students and tourists, and the natural world with the woods, river and lush oasis of Palace Green.
Durham Castle was built in 1072 under orders from William the Conqueror and over the years the castle has seen lots of modifications. It’s is a great place to see how history has unfolded in the city – from the Norman chapel to the 15th Century Great Hall and the Keep, which was built in 1840. Take a guided tour and let yourself be transported back to the times of knights, invasions, bloody wars and heavy armour.
Once you’ve explored the dramatic past of the city’s castle head to Durham Cathedral for a look around. It attracts around 600,000 people a year to admire its Romanesque architecture and learn of its own place in history. Its beginnings were a bit later than the castle (1093) and it is known for its fine examples of monastic buildings. Its life as a monastery came to a grim end when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 16th Century (you can read about life before this turbulent time in The Rites of Durham at the cathedral). Today you can still see relics from the Anglo Saxons, and evidence of architectural additions, such as the stained glass windows shining down on the congregation. A joy to explore and a vital part of Durham’s foundation.