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Touring Durham


Durham was an entity unto itself when under the power of the Prince Bishops of Durham. These medieval churchmen ruled with absolute power, making Durham their own kingdom. After the middle ages, they lost influence and were eventually superseded by the crown.

Durham Cathedral courtesy Visit Britain Durham Cathedral is the bishops' legacy. Sited high on a hill above the river, it dominates the view of the city of Durham. Founded by Lindisfarne monks in 995 to house the relics of St Cuthbert, the cathedral lasted until 1093 when it was replaced by today's building. The rather austere interior is architecturally interesting for its massive drum columns, pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses. In the cathedral are the relics found in Cuthbert's coffin.

Auckland castle at Bishop Auckland is now the official residence of the Bishop of Durham. The staterooms and the chapel are open to visit as is the next door bishop's deer park and 18th century deer house.

On the same site as the cathedral is Durham castle, begun in 1073 as a home for the prince bishops. Designed as a motte and bailey castle, it has changed over time and now houses Durham university students. In the castle is a Norman chapel built in the Romanesque style. Be sure to take one of the interesting guided tours of the building. The great hall dating from the 13th and 14th centuries is of special note as is the Black Staircase (named for its dark oak wood).

Beamish Museum trolley car by Barbara Ballard Near Durham is Beamish Open Air museum. Spread over a large acreage, this is a good family day out. You can take an old-fashioned tram ride, go underground in a mine, and stroll streets of old buildings that include a pub, cottages, shops, and a school. There's even a farm.

Another place to visit near the city of Durham is Crook hall. First constructed at the end of the 13th century, what remains today of the original building is the screen passage and great hall. The rest was built in succeeding years. The staircase is reputedly haunted. There is a small acreage of gardens surrounding the hall.

Barnard Castle by Barbara Ballard The attractive market town of Barnard Castle is worth a couple of days in a trip. It's situated beside the river Tees in attractive countryside and has its own castle. The ruins, in the care of English Heritage, are extensive and look down on the river. There are two priories to visit as well. Finchale was constructed on the site of St Godric's 12th century hermitage, and the very atmospheric ruin at Egglestone was home to Premonstratensian monks from 1196. Parts of the nave and chancel remain. Another nearby religious building is Escomb Saxon church still in good condition.

South of the town is Rokeby Park, a 1720 country home built as an Italianate villa in the Palladian style. It was the setting for Sir Walter Scott's ballad "Rokeby'. It contains a collection of 18th century needlepainting pictures, period furniture and a print room.

Raby Castle Deer by Barbara Ballard Much grander is Raby Castle, begun as a 14th century fortified house and converted into a country home in the 18th-19th centuries. The original building was a curtain wall with eight towers around a central keep, and today the entrance is still through a fortified gateway. The Neville family were the original owners of Raby until the Crown confiscated it in 1569. In 1626 it was bought by Sir Henry Vane the Elder and his descendants are still the owners. The castle underwent much restoration in the 1700s after purposeful destruction by one of the enraged family members. Visits show off the 18th and 19th century interiors with a medieval hall and minstrels' gallery and 14th century kitchens.

The stone ruins of 12th century Bowes Castle (English Heritage) overlook the river Greta valley, guarding the approach to Stainmore Pass. The Bowes museum is a French chateau housing a museum founded by John Bowes and his French wife Josephine. It contains fine collections of paintings, ceramics, furniture, and textiles. Time your visit right to see the articulated silver swan in action.

High Force Waterfall Middleton in Teesdale Durham by Barbara Ballard In the southern part of the county is Weardale, named for its river, the Wear, once a hunting ground for the prince bishops. Stanhope is 'the capital of Weardale'. Lead mining took place in the area since the Roman times. The great lead-crushing mill known as the Killhope wheel, on Killhope Burn in upper Weardale was part of the lead-crushing mill. There's a museum at this most complete lead mining site in the UK. High Force waterfall in Teesdale is a popular countryside attraction.

Durham Coastal walk courtesy N York Moorscam The Durham Heritage Coast is eight miles of limestone grassland, cliffs, denes, and stacks. The Durham coastal footpath is 11 miles long and covers clifftops and the Durham wooded ravines from Seaham to Crimdon, both with sand beaches.

Durham Attractions

For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.

Auckland Castle
Tel. 0 1388 601 627
Web: Auckland Castle

Barnard Castle
Barnard Castle town
Tel. 0 1833 638 212

Beamish Open Air Museum
Signed from A1 Chester-le-Street exit
Tel. 0 191 370 4000; Fax 0 191 370 4001
E-mail: Beamish Museum
Web: Beamish Open Air Museum

Binchester Roman Fort
1.5 miles north of Bishop Auckland
Tel. 0 191 383 4212

Bowes Museum
Barnard Castle
Tel. 0 1833 690 606; Fax. 0 1833 637 163
Email: Information at Bowes Museum
Web: Bowes Museum

Castle Eden Dene National Nature Reserve
South of Peterlee, between the A19 (signposted) and A1086 roads;
also signposted from Peterlee town centre

Crook Hall
Sidegate, Durham
Tel. 0 191 384 8028

Durham Castle
Palace Green, Durham
Tel. 0 191 374 3800 for tour times
Web: Durham Castle

Durham Cathedral
Durham city, on hilltop
Tel. 0 191 386 4266
Web:Durham Cathedral

Durham University Botanic Garden
Hollingside Lane, South Road
Durham University, Durham City
Tel. 0 1322 863 467
Web: Durham Botanic Garden

Egglestone Abbey
1.5 miles south-east of Barnard Castle
Off the B6277
Tel. 0 191 269 1200

Finchale Priory
Three miles north-east of Durham
On minor road off A167
Tel. 0 191 269 1200 (regional office)

Hall Hill Farm
On B6296, Near Lanchester
Tel. 0 1388 731 333
Web. Hall Hill Farm

Killhope Lead Mining Museum
Alongside the A689, 2.5 miles (4km) north-west of Cowshill
Tel. 0 1388 537 505
Web: Killhope Lead Mining Museum

Oriental Museum
Elvet Hill, University of Durham
Durham City
Tel. 0 0191 334 5694
Web: Oriental Museum

Raby Castle
Staindrop, Darlington
Tel. 0 1833 660 202
E-mail: Administration at Raby Castle
For photos and more information see our article Raby Castle
Web: Raby Castle

Rokeby Park
North side of A66 near Barnard castle
Tel. 0 1833 637 334
Web: Rokeby Park

Durham Tourist Information Centres

Barnard Castle
Woodleigh, Flatts Road
Barnard Castle
Tel. 0 1833 630 272; Fax. 0 1833 695 320
Email: Teesdale tourism

Beamish
The North of England
Open Air Museum
Beamish, County Durham
Tel. 0 191 370 2533

Bishop Auckland
Town Hall, Market Place
Bishop Auckland, County Durham
Tel. 0 1388 604 922; Fax. 0 1388 604 960

Darlington
13 Horsemarket
Darlington, County Durham
Tel. 0 1325 388 666; Fax. 0 1325 388 667
Email: Darlington Tourist Information Centre

Durham City
Gala Theatre, Millennium Place
Durham City, County Durham
Tel. 0 191 384 3720; Fax. 0 191 386 3015
Email: Durham City Tourist Information

Durham Dales Centre
Stanhope
Tel. 0 1388 527 650 or 0 1388 526 393
Email: Durham Dales Centre
Open: daily; April-Oct, 10am-5pm; Nov-March, 10am-4pm
Tourist Information centre; tea-room; craft shop; garden; parking
Web: Durham Dales Centre

Guisborough
Priory Grounds, Church Street
Guisborough, TS14 6HG
Email: Guisborough Tourist Information
Tel. 0 1287 633 801

Hartlepool
Hartlepool Art Gallery
Church Square, Hartlepool
TS24 7EQ
Email: Hartlepool Tourist Information
Tel. 0 1429 869 706

Middleton in Teesdale
10 Market Place
Middleton-in-Teesdale, County Durham
Tel. 0 1833 641 001; Fax. 0 1833 641 001
Email: Middleton Tourism

Peterlee
20 The Upper Chare
Peterlee, County Durham
Tel. 0 191 586 4450; Fax. 0 191 518 1786
Email: Peterlee Tourist Information

Photos by Barbara Ballard
Photo Durham coastal walk courtesy North York Moors cam
Photo Durham Cathedral courtesy Visit Britain

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