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Travel back to the eleventh century with a visit to England’s very first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Witness the beauty of the North East English countryside, complete with roaming hills, quaint market towns and plunging waterfalls. See the city illuminated at night with a spectacular light show, or just take in sights and sounds of a city known for its friendliness.
Positioned at the very heart of the city, Durham Cathedral proves to be one of the county’s major draws, with a host of hotels located nearby. Dating back to the eleventh century, this striking structure looms high above the city streets, looking most impressive when illuminated at night. Inside you’ll find a special library packed with antiquities, including the renowned Magna Carta. Adjacent to the cathedral stands Durham Castle, a motte and bailey-style castle built during the Norman Conquest, in that famed year of 1066 none the less. Today the castle is owned by University College, Durham, but is open to the public. Take a guided tour to see the building in all its glory. Together, the two historic landmarks make up England’s first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site.
No trip to Durham is complete without a visit to one of the region’s many museums. Whilst the likes of the Oriental Museum and Museum of Archaeology, both located Durham University, are undeniably impressive, it’s the more unique offerings that prove most popular. Located in nearby Shildon, Locomotion – the National Railway Museum is popular with rail and steam enthusiasts, not least because of its collection of antique steam engines. Beamish – the Living Museum of the North offers great insight into what life was like in days gone by. With relocated buildings, costumed performers, and a programme of exciting events, the living museum has an authentic feel to it. Meanwhile, if you’re in to paintings, textiles, and other creative arts, Bowes Museum in the County Durham town of Barnard Castle has plenty to cast your eye over. It’s also housed within a beautiful country mansion with a stunning garden. Just a short journey from most local hotels, the museum is well worthy of your time.
As interesting and impressive as the city of Durham is, a short trek outside of the city puts you smack bang in the middle of some of County Durham’s most beautiful scenery. Leave your hotel behind and explore the Durham Dales, a wide expanse of countryside that offers fresh air and picturesque vistas. There’s plenty of walking trails and cycling routes to take advantage of. There’s also a host of market towns where you’re sure to find a trinket or two, not to mention much needed and well deserved refreshments. Take a stroll near Middleton-in-Teeside and you’ll come across High Force, a beautiful waterfall that some would claim is the highest in England. At 22 metres it’s not actually the highest but it’s still awe-inspiring to look at.
A popular year-round destination, Durham also hosts a variety of specialist festivals throughout the calendar. Popular events include the Durham Book Festival (October) and Durham International Festival (summer). The latter sees a celebration of brass music, meaning you’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch a brass band, snap your fingers to some jazz, or dance along to ska music. Of course, come Christmas time festivities are turned up a notch, with Christmas markets, carol concerts, and other organised events on offer. A more recent addition to the calendar, the Kynren festival sees night time open air performances throughout the summer, with thousands of performers getting involved and some magnificent fireworks on display. Meanwhile, as the nights draw in in November, the Lumiere festival serves as the U.K.’s largest light festival, with much of the city illuminated in spectacular fashion.
Whatever you plan on doing during your trip to Durham, you’ll find no shortage of food and drink options close to your hotel, in the city and further afield. The city centre is home to an array of tea shops, coffee shops, and cafés, not to mention a good selection of pubs, bars, and restaurants. If you’re out and about exploring County Durham at large, treat yourself to a pub lunch at one of the many local establishments. It’s rumoured that a friendly member of staff resides behind every bar, so expect to be welcomed like one of the family. And if you really want to feel like a local, slab a dollop of mustard on your ham or beef sandwich – after all, this is the birthplace of English mustard.