Weekly City Spotlight: Durham


Durham Cathedral by the River Wear

Durham is a fantastic choice for a city break, situated in the North East of England on the River Wear, this beautiful city welcomes thousands of visitors each year to explore its rich heritage, with Durham Castle and Cathedral both recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Durham has it all with a range of historic attractions to visit such as the Durham Museum and Heritage Centre, and Palace Green Library, amazing architecture, and tranquil settings including Crook Hall and Gardens.  Durham offers a great range of restaurants and cafés, with shops from high street names to independents all presented on its cobbled streets. Located within County Durham, easy access is provided to the heritage coast and the breath-taking views of the Durham Dales.

Historic Durham
Although there is evidence of earlier settlements, in 995 AD the site of the Durham peninsula was the chosen place of settlement by the Monks of Lindisfarne.  Following the Viking raids which took place at their Monastery, the Monks had left their Holy Island and had spent many years travelling through the north of the country protecting the coffin of St Cuthbert, together with other holy relics that they had managed to save.

The Legend of the Dun Cow states, that having previously settled in Norham-On-Tweed and Chester-Le-Street, the Monks commenced travelling once again and on arrival at the site of Warden Law, to the East of Durham, the Monks were unable to move the bier any further, it was at a complete standstill for no apparent reason.  The Monks sought answers through prayer and meditation, and St Cuthbert is said to have appeared to a Monk named Eadmer, and instructed the Monks should travel to Dun Holm.  Following the vision, the Monks were able to move the bier again, although they did not know where Dun Holm was located.  It is said that the Monks later met a milkmaid who was travelling to Dun Holm in search of her Dun Cow which was last seen there.  On arrival at Dun Holm, the Monks chose the peninsula to build their place of worship, and it became the final resting place of St Cuthbert.  Dun Holm which translated to hill island, would later be known as Durham, and became a place of huge religious significance and importance.  Today, St Cuthbert’s shrine is located in the cathedral, and a carving on the side of the cathedral depicts the milkmaid and her dun cow.

Popular Culture
Durham is an historic and cultural city, and entertains its visitors with events such as Lumiere, where the city and its buildings are transformed with magical light effects and installations, Durham has also been a focus in popular culture.

Films & TV
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), Durham Cathedral features in this film and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), where the Cathedral Cloisters appear in various scenes whilst Harry is at Hogwarts.

Get Carter (1971), Michael Caine starred in this thriller, and it was shot in a number of locations in the north east including Durham, the Heritage Coast, and Dryderdale Hall.

Alien 3 (1992), Starring Sigourney Weaver, part of the Heritage Coast was used to film scenes which appear to take place on an alien planet.

George Gently (2012), the TV series starring Martin Shaw as the Detective Inspector is filmed on location throughout Durham.

The Durham Trilogy by Janet Macleod Trotter, The Hungry Hills, The Darkening Skies and Never Stand Alone are all set in Durham and focus on the lives of those involved in the mining communities of the North East.  With The Hungry Hills reflecting on the General Strike of 1926, The Darkening Skies is set during the Second World War and reflects on the treatment of an Italian family based within the community. Never Stand Alone explores the turbulent times of the 1984 miner’s strike.

Social Media
Additional information on Durham can be found on its official website Explore Durham, as well as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest accounts.

Famous Faces
Trevor Horn – Born in Durham on 15 July 1949, is recognised as a successful singer and musician in such bands as Yes and Art of Noise, as well as a record producer within the British music industry.  Horn’s award winning work includes Seal’s Kiss from a Rose, which he received a Grammy award for.

Thomas Morton – born in 1762 in Durham, Morton was a playwright, who enjoyed much success from the late 1700’s with his plays appearing at a number of theatres in London, including Covent Garden and Haymarket.  His works consisted of comedies, as well as dramas and musicals, with titles including The Way to Get Married, and Columbus, A World Discovered.

Arnold Wolfendale – is a British Astronomer who was born in Durham on 25 June 1927, having held posts in Universities such as Durham and Hong Kong, his work would led him to become Astronomer Royal, holding this important role from 1991 to 1995.

Durham Cathedral
Dominating the skyline from its site on the city’s peninsula, the beautiful Durham Cathedral is an essential place to visit whilst in the city.  Voted the UK’s Number One Landmark recently, the Cathedral welcomes over 600,000 visitors each year, with the Cathedral Church, Tower, Cloisters and Monk’s Dormitory (which is the only one in England still intact), all providing an opportunity to explore what is regarded as one of the finest Norman buildings in Europe. With work beginning in 1093, it would take over 40 years to complete the Romanesque architecture of the Cathedral, which houses the Shrine of St Cuthbert.


Durham Castle

Durham Castle
Situated on Palace Green in the City, Durham Castle was commissioned by William the Conqueror and dates back to 1072.  As a working building with restricted access, guided tours provide an ideal way to learn more about this historic attraction, including the Great Hall, and the Norman and Tunstall’s chapels.  Today the castle remains the home of Durham University with students accommodation provided within the Keep.

Durham University
Durham University has a number of visitor attractions with something for everyone to enjoy, the Oriental Museum offers a unique insight into the Orient, with collections dedicated to China, Ancient Egypt, India, Japan and Korea.  The University also provides a tranquil setting with the Botanic Gardens, with beautiful plant collections from around the world, as well as native woodland and wildflower meadows in this 10 hectare site.  The University is currently working to complete the move of the Museum of Archaeology from the Old Fulling Mill to the recently refurbished Palace Green Library, the new gallery will be accessible in early 2014.

Image Credits: