is situated in the North East of England on
the River Wear.
The river forms a loop around a rocky peninsula containing the historic city centre and the magnificent Cathedral and Castle.
The Cathedral and Castle combine to give the City of Durham one of the most distinctive skylines in the world.
The site was first chosen by monks in 995, looking
for a permanent resting place for the body of St.
Cuthbert, the 7th Century Bishop who lived on Holy
Island, off the coast of Northumberland. Following
the Norman conquest in the 11th Century, Durham
proved an ideal location from which to rule the
North of England. The high peninsula was chosen by
the Normans for the site of Durham Castle. Shortly
afterwards, the little church nearby, containing
the relics of St. Cuthbert, made way for Durham
The architectural and historical importance of the Cathedral and Castle is recognised by their inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Work on the Cathedral was begun in 1093 and completed within forty years, a remarkable achievement, considering the size and advanced construction.
It is not only the
finest example of Norman architecture in the
world but also displays features of the later
Gothic period, such as rib-vaulting, which
were not introduced to the rest of Europe
until some thirty years later and
revolutionised the architecture of Europe.
Durham Cathedral continues to attract pilgrims to the shrines of St. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede.
Church services are held every day and there are regular concerts, exhibitions and other events. Visitors can also see the Monks' Dormitory, Tower, Treasury Museum and Audio-visual presentations.
Following the Norman conquest the Bishops of
Durham were given the power to rule the North of
England, using their own armies. They occupied
Durham Castle and were known as Prince Bishops.
The evidence of their power and influence can be
seen in additions to the Castle and alterations
which over the centuries transformed a
fortification into a lavish palace. By the 19th
Century, the power of the Bishops was no longer
appropriate. In 1837 Bishop Van Mildert moved to
nearby Auckland Castle and transferred Durham
Castle to the University of Durham which had been
founded five years earlier.
Durham Castle continues as the heart of University College, and home to 80 students and staff. It is now one of twelve colleges within the University. Durham, the third oldest university in England, after Oxford and Cambridge, is a leading centre for education and research. The Castle is used for University ceremonies, public events and, during the vacations, as a venue for conferences, banquets and holiday accommodation. Guided tours for visitors are conducted by the students throughout the year.
Durham's medieval layout is still evident in the winding streets and vennels beneath the cathedral and castle site. The city has a modern shopping centre, but also offers a haven of peace with pleasant walks along the wooded river banks and the opportunity to take boat trips on the River Wear. The University Botanic Garden has trees and plants from all over the world and is well worth a visit. The city is well served with museums illustrating the county's fascinating blend of Christian, social and industrial heritage.
From Durham it is easy to explore the Durham Dales, part of the North Pennine Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These dales offer some of the country's finest scenery - a blend of rugged upland, impressive waterfalls, gentle river valleys, wildflower meadows and drystone walls. The heather moorland to the west are pierced by the headstreams of the Derwent, Tees and Wear. At High Force, the Tees falls dramatically over massive boulders for 70 feet to form the largest waterfall in England. The remote and beautiful high Pennines offer panoramic views from quiet moorland roads. The 19th Century lead mining in Upper Weardale is brought to life at Killhope Lead Mining centre.