Durham Attractions

The city of Durham includes a choice of local attractions and places of interest, visitors can choose from a range of interesting and charming places to discover. The city is home to a number of historic buildings, museums, parks, gardens, theatre, concerts and events. Durham’s location in north east England allows visitors to experience the scenic English countryside, scenic coastline and the great outdoors all of which are located close to local towns and villages with a range of things to see and do in the county.

We have outlined a number of interesting attractions and places to visit for visitors to Durham and surroundings areas, these include:

One of Durham’s best known attractions is the historic Durham Cathedral, synonymous with the age of the Prince Bishops. The cathedral was founded in 995 by monks fleeing from the Danish Vikings, the monks built a church however this was later taken down and the current building began in 1093. The nave has been described as amazing and inspiring; the relatively slender composite piers alternate with massive drum columns. There are innovations present in the building indicating a revolutionary Gothic style; these are ribbed vaults, flying buttresses and pointed arches. Part of the Durham World Heritage Site, the building has been given much critical acclaim and is regarded as displaying among the finest cathedral architecture in the UK. A trip there is a must for visitors to Durham.

Durham's other well known attraction is Durham Castle, began in 1073 to house the Prince Bishops in suitable style. It is mainly a motte and bailey design, the castle has been subject to change over the years. The Norman Chapel within the castle known for its sandstone arches and carved capitals is a wonderful example of Romanesque architecture. In 1837 the castle was granted to Durham University and it now used as a residence for students. The castle is also part of the Durham World Heritage Site; visitors can stay at the castle during the summer university holidays.

The Durham Heritage Centre and Museum is located in the city of Durham. The heritage centre tells visitors the storey of the city dating back to medieval times up to the present day. Inside the centre visitors can explore the different sections relating to important areas in Durham’s storey, areas include medieval Durham, the Prince Bishops, important people and events, Durham industries, the market place and more. The museum is home to a number of temporary and changing exhibitions throughout the year.

Beamish - The North of England Open Air Museum is one of the leading tourist attractions in the region. Located approx 10 miles north of Durham, it recreates life in the North of England as it was in the 1800s and 1900s. Visitors can see the way people lived, the environment they faced and visitors will be greeted by costumed staff welcoming them to the turn of the century town with shops, houses, working pub, newspaper office, garage, sweetshop and sweet factory. There are guided tours available where visitors can learn more; these are given underground at a real "drift" mine in the Colliery Village and pit cottages shows how the pitmen used to live. Home Farm displays the traditional breeds of livestock and poultry and a farmhouse kitchen. The Railway Station has locomotives and rolling stock. Pockerley Manor and Horse Yard are based on a fortified manor house and shows how a yeoman farming family would have lived. This is a fascinating place to visit bringing the past back to life.

Visitors can discover impressive gardens at the Durham University Botanic Gardens are located at Durham University to the south of the city centre, on a 10 hectare site set in mature woodlands. Established back in 1970, there are plants to see here from around the world including from Japan, China, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile and more. There is a woodland garden, alpine garden and bamboo grove. The glasshouses contain a collection of tropical rainforests and desert plants. There are also various artwork pieces around the gardens to enjoy. The coffee shop offers a wide selection of drinks both hot and cold and snacks, and there are a range of gifts and souvenirs available. The garden centre is a venue for talks and seminars on a variety of horticultural subjects and acts as a showcase for the work of local artists and photographers.

Theatrical entertainment is available at the Durham Musical Theatre Company. Based in Durham the company perform at the Gala Theatre located in the city usually twice a year in February and June. The company has a long history and was founded back in 1908, they are among the longest established theatre companies in the area, in that time there have been over 100 productions in total. There are a wide range of musical theatre productions and the shows have been ever popular.

The DLI Museum & Art Gallery are located to the north of the city centre. The DLI (Durham Light Infantry) recalls the storey of the Durham Light Infantry, the regiment from County Durham. The museum tells the storey of the people that served in the regiment including recorded accounts from soldiers. There are a number of interactive displays and craft workshops. The museum includes a number of military uniforms, headgear, weapons and decorative silver during the history of the regiment. Floor one includes the World War I display whilst Floor 2 includes the World War II display.

The Art Gallery is located on the third floor; it is the largest modern and contemporary art gallery in County Durham. There are a wide range of exhibitions on show here with watercolours, prints and photography covering a number of eras.

There is a shop on site where visitors can find a range of books, gifts and souvenirs. The café provides some fine views over the pond and surrounding grounds, there are a choice of hot and cold drinks, snacks and light lunches available. With a number of things to see and do here, a visit to the museum and art gallery offers an interesting family attraction.

Crook Hall & Gardens is located close to Durham city centre. The hall dates back to the 13th century, it is a Grade I listed building. The hall combines elements of three eras of English architecture, medieval, Jacobean and Georgian. Over the years the hall has been a family home to a number of families and currently is still a family home. The surroundings gardens include a number of features with a range of gardens to see including the walled garden, Shakespeare garden, the orchard, the silver and white garden, the vegetable garden and more. The gardens include a range of flowers, plants and trees providing a different spectacle each season providing the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing stroll in delightful surroundings. The café serves a choice of refreshments and light lunches.

Durham University Oriental Museum is located at Durham University, it is currently the only museum in the north of England that is devoted to the archaeology and art of the orient. Over the years the impressive collection of the museum has grown to include the Near and Middle East along with South East Asia. There are a number of themed collections for visitors to discover including Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Himalayan, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Korean and South East Asian. The collections include a wide range of artefacts, textiles, furniture, manuscripts and objects. The museum hosts a number of exhibitions throughout the year. The museum includes a shop where visitors can find souvenirs and gifts that are oriental inspired. The Café provides hot and cold drinks, biscuits, chocolates and sandwiches.

It is recommended that prior to visiting Durham; visitors do their research and ensure any sights and attractions they plan on visiting are actually open on the days you intend on coming. The transport is also worth checking as maintenance and engineering works can mean a restricted service on public transport and the road network.

Durham is a city that has plenty to offer visitors with its range of historic city attractions and places of interest along with a number of charming market towns and villages located in the surroundings areas. The city is renowned for Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral part of the world heritage site in the city along with attractions from Durham University including the oriental museum and botanic garden. Durham’s attractions ensure visitors can enjoy a short break, weekend away or a longer stay here.

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