Durham has a few new hotels since the other review was written.
In the centre there are:
The Radisson - a new hotel, which opened late last year, on the banks of the river, ample parking (chargeable at £6.50 for 24 hours or £4.50 for the day). I've only been in the foyer area and breakfast room but it was all very clean and modern, nice looking bar area, expensive drinks but to be expected in a hotel bar. Walking distance of the train station (be warned the train station is at the top of a steep hill!) and a 5 minutes walk in to town along the river. They also offer free internet access and have a swimming pool, gym, steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi.
A Premier Inn - another new hotel built in to the Walker Gate Complex (a new area of bars - Slug and Lettuce, a champagne bar, Lloyds/Wetherspoons and restaurants - Ask Pizza, Nandos, Chiquitos, Fat Buddha, also home to the Gala Theatre/Cinema). The hotel has no parking of it's own but is attached to a public car park which you get a discount for using (I believe this to be £6 per 24 hours). Friends have stayed here and said it was very clean and comfortable and one of the best Premier Inn's they'd stayed in. It's about a 10/15 walk from the train station and a stone's throw from the shops and sites of Durham. Durham Leisure Centre is right across the road too as is the bowling alley.
The Marriot - this is based on the east side of Durham city, again within easy walking distance of the town, cathedral and castle. In an old building which has had numerous extensions on it. It has its own car park but at busy periods this can be full. It has its own leisure facilities. For a long time the Marriot was one of the only 4* hotels in Durham but now with the competition from the Radisson and also the cheaper Premier Inn I think it will have to up it's game slightly, although it's a good hotel I feel the nightly rate doesn't match what you get for your money.
Travelodge - Only slightly further out of town is the Travelodge. It has on-site free parking and is about a 10 minute walk in to the centre and about 20 minute walk from the train station. It's on a main road and you get the usual road noise. The rooms are a little dated but typical Travelodge style.
Grafton House Hotel - is described on it's website as a boutique hotel. They offer a meet and greet service from the train station and have limited on street parking but off site parking is available. I'd never heard of this hotel until I came to write these reviews. It seems to get mixed reviews on trip advisor, some guests complaining about the size of the rooms, most complaining about the dining room - reviews can be found here on www.tripadvisor.co.uk (full link too long to post here). I can say that the location is lovely and quiet and a very short walk to the cathedral and castle.
Durham Castle - Durham Castle has rooms available during university holidays, in term time these rooms are used as student accommodation so as such are very basic and only have shared facilities (although I believe there are some suites available). However, the location is lovely, not only are you staying in Durham Castle but the Cathedral is a stone throw away (and some rooms have cathedral views).
Swallow Three Tuns Hotel - situated on a busy road opposite a couple of bars (request a room at the back for minimum noise), this hotel is what I would describe as shabby, the outside looks like it needs painting and inside the décor is tired. It does have its own parking and it is only a couple of minutes in to the city centre walking.
Hotels within 10/15 min driving distance
Bannatyne Hotel - Travelodge style hotel situated about a 10 minute car journey away from the centre of Durham. Attached is Bannatyne's gym which guests can use for free (including swimming pool). Ample parking and a bus service runs not too far from the hotel in to Durham.
Premier Inn North and East - typical of the Premier Inn chain, good clean hotels, both situated next to decent pubs offering good food. The Premier Inn East is newer. Both have ample car parking and PI East is about 5 minutes in the car in to town and North about 10. Within walking distance of the PI North is an out of town retail park with Asda home, Sainsbury's, Next, M&S Food, Boots, Lakeland, Halfords and a few other stores.
Church Mouse (Inn Keepers Lodge) North - Hotel is attached to the Church Mouse pub which is a very nice pub that serves good food. There is plenty of parking and the hotel is about a 15 minute drive from the centre. Located between Durham and Chester-le-Street. It's on a main road but set back slightly and this seems to help with the noise levels. My parents have stayed here and would stay here again.
There are other hotels further afield available - Lumley Castle, Whitworth Hall, Honest Lawyer (Best Western) to name a few but the ones listed above are the nearest to Durham centre. There are also a couple B&B's that are worth mentioning - 60 Albert Street and The Victorian Town house.
What do kids who don't get into Oxbridge do? They go to University of Durham. So each year, thousands of middle class parents pack their kids of to Durham, some of them not even knowing where it is, only being certain that it is not on the Tube network, and not inside the M25. Durham is definitely a Town and Gown city. The end product is a good graduate of a good university, and the family wants to come to the graduation. Graduation dates are fixed well in advance, and this gives the hotels lots of notice to put their prices up. There is a paucity of hotels in Durham, and there is only one 4* and probably only the one 3* in the city centre, within walking distance of the cathedral where graduation occurs. I tried booking through my agent, who usually gets me terrific deal/rack rates, but met with a brick wall. No discounting during graduation week. We stayed at the Three Tuns, a Swallow Hotel, as we could not justify the expense of the Marriott Royal County, which was running about £200/night for b and b. The Three Tuns was a good choice. You could park a car, with difficulty, but we never failed. The hotel was hospitable, but made it quite clear, that during the Graduation Week, they were doing us a favour letting us stay there. Reception staff were friendly, but appeared to have little idea of what was going on. Service was acceptable in the restaurant, but the bar was manned (or more precisely womanned) by one person, who spent long periods away from her station trying to find obscure bottles of wine. Rooms were comfortable, and adequately equipped. There was a minibar and trouser press. Mobile phones worked in the rooms. There is no air conditioning, and rooms over the main street are noisy until quite late. Bathrooms are a bit spartan, and there are no supplies, the hotel trying to con guest that the wall mounted bottle of soap is environmentally friendly. However the big advantage is the location, which in Durham counts
for a lot. It is nowhere near the railway station (but nowhere is in Durham), but is easily reached off the A1. From the hotel it is a five minute walk into the shopping streets and historic centre, and ten minutes away from the Cathedral. Car parking in Durham is virtually impossible in the centre unless you have a permit or some kind of concession, so everything is best done on foot. As a base for visiting the University and its graduation, it is perfect, and it is good bolt hole during the graduation day. We had the early graduation, and breakfasts were served early so that you could go and queue from 0800. They recognised the timetabling, and allowed people to leave their cars there during the day, or to store luggage.