Overview

Durham's legend
Durham's legend © Rebecca Kennison

With a thousand years of history under its belt, and a skyline dominated by its magnificent cathedral, the hilly city of Durham in northeast England is picturesque and prominent on the list of the UK's must-see tourist destinations.

Back in 995, legend has it a group of monks from Lindisfarne (the Holy Island off the coast of northeast England) were wandering around looking for a place to settle down and entomb the body of their revered mentor, Saint Cuthbert.

They stopped to help a distressed milkmaid who had lost her cow, and the animal was found resting on a pretty peninsula formed by the River Wear. The spot seemed perfect for their purpose and they stayed, later starting work on the building of a cathedral (1093), which still houses Saint Cuthbert's remains.

As well as becoming one of England's most influential ecclesiastical centres, the residents of Durham also set about making their mark politically, mainly because of the town's strategic position close to the Scottish border. The castle built by William the Conqueror in 1071 saw plenty of military action over the centuries, and stands proudly opposite the cathedral, now home to a college of Durham University.

Many of the sons and daughters of Durham have made their mark in a variety of fields, from poets and artists to novelists and musicians. One of the most notable modern celebrities spawned by the city is Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister.

Durham is also a relatively compact city, and it is not necessary to drive. Parking can be hard to find, and heavy traffic can overwhelm the narrow streets. Walking is the easiest way to navigate the city centre, and taxis are available, as well as an efficient public bus network.


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