Newest Review: ... is to take advantage of the park and ride initiative which has been a success over the past few years. You can park all day for approx £2... more
Durham - an underrated gem
Durham in General
Member Name: Dee0104
Durham in General
Advantages: very picturesque, lovely places to visit, easy to get to, lots of history
Disadvantages: river not as clean as could be, lots of hills & cobbles may make getting around difficult for some
When you hear about the city of Durham it is often combined with the word 'historic', and historic it is.
In its history, it describes how a resting place was sought by a religious group for the body of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. The place chosen was on a hill almost completely surrounded by the River Wear. The body was kept in a wooden, then stone church before King William decided that it was an ideal location to defend from the Scots.
The Cathedral was built as a monumental shrine for St. Cuthbert and the castle was built for the previously mentioned defence and also to protect the cathedral. The result is one of the most stunning pieces of architecture this country has ever seen. The city developed from there.
***THE LOCATION AND AREA***
Durham is located in the North East of England, bordering with the picturesque countryside of Northumberland where there are other places of attraction such as Alnwick Castle. It's centre is situated on the river wear (looks nice from a distance but close up it does have its fair share of shopping trolleys), but wandering around on foot gives a more relaxed atmosphere on your visit.
The City of Durham itself is defined by its appearance - the cobbled streets and fascinating buildings which have kept their character all these years are something that people associate with Durham. There are the main streets wth the well known shops, cafes and welcoming traditional pubs. The area is now almost totally closed to traffic, making the experience much more enjoyable and relaxed. There are a few large car parks but by far the best way is to take advantage of the park and ride initiative which has been a success over the past few years. You can park all day for approx £2 in one of 3 areas on the outskirts of the city - get the free shuttle into Durham, stay as long as you like and return free, when you want.
Situated in Durham are some of the more famous names you will find in larger cities, like monsoon, topshop, new look, hmv and river island, but you also find a larger proportion of smaller names in Durham aswell. A lot of the property in the centre of Durham are listed buildings, so the main features have to be maintained - this means that the internal plans of buildings sometimes cannot be changed. Therefore the larger brand stores can find it difficult to find a suitable property in which to retail their goods. You will find that some of the stairs in shops and pubs are nowhere near straight and level - and this is the reason why! Access to the shops can be difficult for those who are less mobile - it is a very 'hilly' city with lots of steep hills and steps, so it may not suit the needs of everyone. The cobbles run throughout the city, and they are not always even - bear this in mind before arranging to visit. However there are plenty of little cafes and coffee shops if you want to have a breather and just sit and watch the world go by!
***FOOD AND DRINK***
As mentioned before there are lots of little cafes and coffee shops here you can grab a drink and a nibble. The bars and pubs are often open throughout the day that serve food - many with special offers on lunches. You have the larger chains like Yates an Wetherspoons, but also the more traditional pubs like the fighting cocks can offer two meals for under £10.
On a night the city becomes more diverse, and you can take your pick when it comes to dining. For Indian food there is a lovely restaurant called 'The Capital' up Claypath where two can dine comfortably with food and drink for £40 - £50. For Chinese food, the Fat Buddha is relatively new, lovely food but quite expensive. There are plenty of Italians throughout the city which often offer 'happy hours' before a certain time, but are reasonably priced anyway. Most places do fill up so if you are planning a visit - it may be worth ringing beforehand to ensure a table.
The biggest attraction in the city is the Cathedral itself, but a stroll along the riverbanks, or even a row in the boats that you can hire make the day more enjoyable. The cathedral can be visited or looking from one of the citys bridges along the river and up at the cathedral is magnificent. I see this almost every week and still feel lucky to be able to have this on my doorstep. Sometimes you can't get moved for people arranging their cameras in order to get the perfect shot!
There is also the 500 seat Gala Theatre if you fancy seeing a show or flick!Other attractions in the surrounding areas include Beamish - the larges open air museum in England - see how we live at the beginning of last century!
Raining - why not drive 30 minutes North up the A1 to the Metrocentre at Gateshead passing the Angel of the North on the way (don't worry - you can't miss it!).
Now this is the area which may let Durham down. Up until recently there was no large hotels, but lots of smaller B&B's on the outskirts of the city - which are very typical of the type of place that it is. The Radisson hotel has recently been built along the river offering accommodation on a larger scale or for larger groups. However to get a real feel for Durham, I would recommend at least considering a smaller, more cosy B&B. Cost ranges fro bout £30pppn - £100pppn, so make sure you shop around for best deal!
Durham does not have as much nightlife as other nearby cities like Newcastle, but it is still very busy with lots of bars like Walkabout, Jimmy Allens (lovely inside), Chase, Yates, Varsity and eve Ebony, the champagne bar. There is a wide range of pubs so you can go for lively if you want or soak up the atmosphere in a more traditional pub after a bite to eat. Do not be deceived by the tranquility during the day - the night time can be the same as anywhere and you can still see trouble sometimes and long taxi cues - which re now marshalled I believe. I ALWAYS pick a time to go home and book the taxi beforehand - saves time, money and hassle!
The advantages of this historic city far outweigh the disadvantages. The beautiful views can compensate for the river not being as pleasant as it could and should be and the lovey bars and restaurants outweigh the fact that there can be some disturbances on a night out (but isnt there everywhere?). Its most definitely a place I would recommend to visit - even if its just for the day!
If anyone wants any more info I will do my best to help! Hope this is useful to you!
Summary: Great city - well worth a visit
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