"Durham" Top 5 Page for this destination Durham by maykal
Durham Travel Guide: 244 reviews and 614 photos
This page is crying out for an update! I started writing a few tips when I was here almost five years ago as an undergraduate student, so some of it is way out of date! I've been here for the last 18 months, doing an MA and teaching at the university, and as I have a bit too much free time at the moment, I think it's time I write something about this little city. The tips are old...but I'll get round to updating them soon ;@P
Durham...well, it's a pretty place and it is quite amazing that so many people in Britain haven't got a clue where it is. We're quite a long way north, just south of Newcastle in the north-east of England.
An hour south is York, a place on every tourist's itinerary, well known in Britain as well as abroad. Well, Durham should be like that, but strangely it seems to be off the coach party map.
Arriving by train from the south, you get the best view of the city. Just as the train begins to slow, it crosses a high viaduct, and the whole city stretches out below you...old houses and church spires leading up to the castle and a stunning cathedral up high on a hill. If anyone is a fan of the travel writer Bill Bryson, I think he describes it much better than I can...I'll hunt down a quotation or two later ;)
So why get off the train?
Durham has a beautiful cathedral, voted Britain's most beautiful building by a national poll, a definite must-see in England, even if you're not remotely religious. You might recognise the cloisters...they formed part of Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter films. On the opposite side of a quaint square called Palace Green lies the Castle, now a university hall of residence...together they form quite an impressive centrepiece to the city.
Durham is also famous for its university, one of the oldest in Britain. Much of the old town is given over to university departments and colleges, all housed in old buildings down cobbled streets. There are quite a few museums too, a lot for a city of this size...the Oriental museum, the Museum of Archaology in an old mill by the river, the Durham Heritage centre, the Durham Light Infantry Museum....
What makes Durham even more special is its geography. The old town was built on a mound almost entirely surrounded by the River Wear, and today the steep sided riverbanks act as a city park. The university has a long tradition of rowing, so at all times of the year you can see teams out practicing...in the summer months it can be quite entertaining to watch them try to avoid colliding with day-trippers out on the water in small hired boats.
As it is a university town, there are loads of pubs, cafes and restaurants around. Durham has improved a lot sine I was here as an undergraduate (especially in the cafe department), and now has a few more places to go out at night, as well as a theatre and cinema, although it isn't really the right place for a wild night out...Newcastle is only 20 minutes away though.
For a tourist, Durham is a great place to spend a couple of days visiting the main sights and using it as a base to tour the region...living here is a bit different! I like it (of course I do...why else would I still be here?), but at times it can feel a bit chlaustrophobic. As cities go, it is one of the smaller ones (the city centre is basically just one long narrow street!), and it seems that wherever you go, you run into someone you know. During term-time, the city is taken over by students and that's not necessarily a good thing. Shops are somewhat limited (although again, things have improved in the last couple of years), the swimming pool is a joke, and while there may well be a new cinema here, you can get a better cinematic experience hiring a DVD and watching it on a wide-screen telly in someone's front room! Everything is in Newcastle, which everyone will tell you is only 20 minutes away...which it is, if you have your own car. If you're relying on public transport, it can take considerably longer.
But anyway, this is a tourist website so I won't go on about the downsides of life in Durham...as a tourist, I doubt those things will bother you much!
Newcastle Airport now has budget flights from an ever-increasing number of European cities, so you have no excuse really...easy to get to, lots to see and do, and you can combine historic Durham with the vibrant big-city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
I wanted to add a travelogue with some of my pictures of the 123rd Durham Miners' Gala held on July 14th 2007...but after losing all my words and pictures on two attempts today, I'll just stick a couple up here and try again another day. If you like what you see and are interested to find out more, check back in a few days to see if I have succeeded...
- Pros:Cathedral, Castle, old town, riverbanks, museums, very compact city.
- Cons:If you don't like Italian or Indian food, you're a bit stuck...
- In a nutshell:An impressive historic city, like a York without the crowds.
The nearest airport is Durham Tees Valley, although whether it can be classed as a truly international airport is... more travel advice
Durham is on the main London-Edinburgh line, so there are frequent trains running north to Newcastle (20 mins) and... more travel advice
maykal's Related Pages
Durham Travel Guide
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