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A perfect little city
Durham in General
Member Name: collingwood21
Durham in General
Date: 09/05/03, updated on 09/05/03 (143 review reads)
Advantages: Very attractive, World Heritage Site, Compact, most things within walking distance
Disadvantages: All those hills to walk up, Car toll for entry to city centre
Durham is very small as cities go, and it is classed as such by the presence of the cathedral rather than by population (which would make it about the size of a small town). This is definitely one of its strong points though, as it is compact with most places of interest within walking distance of each other, and feels friendly in a way that most cities don't normally do. It is located just a few miles from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and is sometimes referred to as the "posh North East", as it is perceived as something of an oasis of prosperity in a largely poor area. I personally have not found this image to be true, especially now I am resident up the road in Newcastle.
The city of Durham is very popular with tourists as it is often visited as a historic city, along the lines of places such as Chester, Bath, Oxford and York. The old part of the city has its origins in the Middle Ages, as can be seen by the narrow streets and of course the cathedral and castle in the city centre. The cobbled streets, river walks and multitude of old buildings certainly enhance this picturesque image, and the scattering of colleges also seem to appeal to most people as it gives the place something of an Oxbridge air during term time.
- Places to visit
There are many places to visit within Durham, the most obvious of these as I have already mentioned is the castle and cathedral that are right in the city centre and literally next door to o
ne another. You can go on a virtual tour of them both at: www.dur.ac.uk/Law/c_tour/tour.html should you wish. This part of the city (known as Palace Green) has recently been designated a World Heritage Site and is one of the most important historic sites in this part of the country. Durham cathedral is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture and well worth a visit (I don't think any trip to the city is complete without it!) as the interior of it is absolutely stunning. While in this part of Durham, then the castle should also be seen as excellent (and inexpensive - £3 for adult and £2 for under 14s) guided tours are led around it on a regular basis out of term time. Palace Green is also home to the oldest parts of the university, with the old library (now housing just music, law and local studies), a couple of departments (theology and music if I remember correctly) and the oldest college (University College) that is actually housed in the castle (which is why is known to students as simply "castle"). This is where the graduation ceremonies are held and if my experience is anything to go by, the precessions provide popular photo opportunities for tourists!
For information about castle tours, visit: www.durhamcastle.com
For information on visiting Durham Cathedral: www.durhamcathedral.co.uk
Elsewhere in Durham, there are three other tourist attractions, all run by the university - the Oriental Museum (near St Aidan's College), the Botanic Gardens (across the road by Collingwood College), and the Archaeological Museum (in the Old Fulling Mill, down by the river banks). All are worthy of a visit if you have some spare time after going to Palace Green, especially the Oriental Museum, as it is the only museum in the UK to be entirely devoted to the art and archaeology of the orient. You can get your visiting information from:
The university also hostsan annual regatta on the river each summer - it's a pretty big event ("the Henley of the North") if you are into sport, and this year will be on the 14th and 15th of June. Athletics events are also held in the city from time to time, but you would need to check with the tourist people for details about them.
Durham is not short of places to stay in, either. Being popular with tourists there are several good hotels, and if you planning a visit out of term time, then most college rent out their rooms on a B&B basis, which can work out to be pretty good value and it also puts you in a central location. Shopping isn't too good in the city, however, as it is only small, so you are better off going to the Metrocentre in Gateshead - this is just 2 stops away on the train (change at Newcastle) and only costs about £3 for a return fare. There are some excellent restaurants though - I especially recommend Emilios on Elvet Bridge if you like Italian, or the Court Inn for pub food.
- Close to Durham...
Outside of the city, there are several other major attractions not far away. Probably the best known of these is Hadrian's Wall, which takes about an hour to drive to. As an archaeology student this was a real bonus as there are some amazingly well preserved sites along the Northumbrian part of the wall, such as Chesters and Vindolanda Roman Forts, and a couple of small museums, sections of wall and Roman shrines dotted throughout the countryside. Do make sure that you take warm clothing though, as the wall is very open and exposed, and it can get very cold up there even in summer! See: www.hadrians-wall.org
Beamish Open Air Museum is a bit closer to the city, but it can get very crowded in peak season. The museum is built on an incredible scale, and houses a massive reconstruction of 18th and 19th century buildings and structures - it also often plays host
to TV cam
era crews who use it for a backdrop to period dramas and Catherine Cookson ada
ptations! You can actually wander around period houses, shops schoolrooms, and travel between areas of the museum by their very own steam train or horse drawn tram (yes, it is that big!) I have written an entire review on this place if you want more information on it (hint, hint). ;-)
And if it is nightlife you are after, then you will almost certainly want to come into Newcastle, as Durham is rather limited on that front. It is only 20 minutes by train, and the return journeys run until after midnight so you can make it back again.
If you do ever get chance to visit Durham, then I would definitely recommend members to do so. Bill Bryson was absolutely spot on; it is a perfect little city!
(Oh, and one more word of advice to potential visitors - driving in Durham is awful. It was the first city in the UK to have a toll charge to drive into city centre and many areas have to issue parking permits as roads are so narrow; parking is still quite limited, despite there being a new multi storey eyesore development. My advice is to use the buses wherever you can...)
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