Of Interest in Durham
be short of things to do during your stay in the historic
city of Durham as the city is packed to bursting with
fascinating places of interest.
From one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world
to a living, working museum, this city has just what you
need for a fun and educational day out.
Durham has many magnificent historic buildings but the
best is undoubtedly Durham Cathedral [map],
which is dubbed the finest example of Norman architecture
in the world. Designed by Bishop William St Carileph
in 1093, the building was completed in 1135, although
there have been many additions since. Among the exhibits
on display here are the shrines of St Cuthbert and the
Next door to the cathedral you’ll find another astounding
piece of architecture, Durham Castle [map],
which dates back to 1072. The castle, which contains a
Norman Chapel, the Great Hall and a 57ft high Black Staircase,
was the seat of the Prince Bishops until 1832 when it
became the foundation college of the University
of Durham. Amazingly, the castle’s 15th century
kitchen is still in use, and although the place is
now halls of residence for university students, you can
enjoy a guided tour around the building.
Other important buildings worth checking out during
your visit to the city include the Guildhall,
on Market Place, which was first built in 1356 and then
rebuilt in 1535 and 1665.
Just down the road from here is the Town Hall,
which was built in 1850 and modelled on London’s
Westminster Hall. It features an impressive hammer-beam
roof as well as superb stained glass windows, heraldic
symbols, paintings and a magnificent fireplace of local
There’s also Crook Hall on Sidegate, a
14th century manor house with minstrels’ gallery
and four acres of fine gardens, including the
Secret Walled Garden, Shakespeare Garden, Cathedral
Garden and the Silver and White Garden.
If you’re a garden lover then you should also cast
your eye over the Durham University Botanic Gardens
[map] on Hollingside Lane, an 18-acre site set in mature
woodland features exotic trees, the Prince Bishops Garden,
and a tropical house with butterflies and insects.
Situated in 25 acres on the site of East Durham and Houghall
College, the Houghall Gardens [map] has a range of gardening styles with an arboretum containing
some rare trees as well as the National Collection
For breathtaking views of Durham head to Wharton Park
a city centre park with impressive floral displays, a
Victorian style conservatory, tennis courts, putting green,
and children’s play area.
Those wanting to head out of the city centre for the
day, will find that there are plenty more attractions
within a short drive, such as the Bowes Museum [map] close to Barnard Castle. The museum has a
collection of European fine and decorative arts from
between 1400 and 1875, which is unrivalled in the North
Also close to the Barnard Castle area you’ll come
across the medieval Raby Castle [map],
home of Lord Barnard, which boasts the Barons' Hall, where 700 knights gathered to plot the Rising of the
North. Raby also houses a fabulous art collection and treasures including an important collection of Meissen
porcelain, tapestries, furnishings and paintings by
leading artists such as Munnings, De Hooch, Teniers, Van Dyck and Reynolds.
Last but certainly not least is the Beamish Open Air
where the past is brought to life in more than 300 acres
of beautiful countryside. Parts of north-eastern life
are reconstructed here as they would have looked in the
19th and early 20th centuries. You can go underground
and explore the mines, or see what life was like on a
working farm, take a lesson in an old schoolroom, and
even sit in the dentist’s chair. Beamish is located
about eight miles north west of Durham and is signposted
from the A1 (M). You should allow at least two hours to
do the place justice.
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