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The Charm of Durham - Castles, Churches, and Countryside Beside the River Wear

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Silhouetted above the city, medieval castle and cathedral catch your eye as soon as you arrive in historic Durham. College buildings cluster around the castle. Not far away, you'll find rolling countryside in the Durham Dales and broad seascapes on Durham Heritage Coast. Nearby Hartlepool has its own rich maritime traditions, and Bishop Auckland is the site of a stunning 12th-century palace and an even older Roman fort.

Durham City


Few cities in England make such an impression at first sight as Durham does. Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral are among England's iconic medieval locations. Perched on their rocky spur above a deep-sided loop of the River Wear, castle and cathedral dominate a historic town centre that is best explored on foot.


  • Durham Cathedral, The College, Durham DH1 3EH; Tel: +44 191 386 4266; Website: Durham Cathedral

  • Durham Castle, Palace Green, Durham DH1 3RW; Tel: +44 191 334 2932; Website: Durham Castle

Bishop Auckland


Bishop Auckland became the residence of the Bishops of Durham in the 12th century. Their former residence, Auckland Castle, looks more like a palace than you'd guess from its name. It has been compared to papal palaces like the Vatican, and its grandeur gives you some idea of the power and wealth of medieval bishops. A 20-minute walk from the castle, you'll find the remains of a mighty outpost of the Roman Empire at Binchester Roman Town.


  • Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland, Durham DL14 7NR ; Tel: +44 1388 743 750; Website: Auckland Castle

  • Binchester Roman Town, Bishop Auckland, Durham DL14 8DJ; Tel: +44 1388 663 089; Website: Binchester Roman Town


Durham Dales castles


For a taste of history, visit Raby Castle, built more than 600 years ago. To admire a piece of gorgeous French architecture, visit the Bowes Museum. This magnificent 19th-century chateau would look more at home in France than in the Dales. It's filled with works of art by painters like El Greco, Goya, and Canaletto.


  • Raby Castle, Staindrop, Darlington DL2 3AH; Tel: +44 1833 660 202; Website: Raby Castle

  • The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Durham DL12 8NP; Tel: +44 1833 690 606; Website: The Bowes Museum


Hartlepool harbor and headland


Anyone who loves ships and the sea will enjoy Hartlepool, 18 miles from Durham. This harbor town is crammed with maritime history. On its waterfront, you'll find historic ships and a re-created 19th-century quayside at Hartlepool's Maritime Experience. On the headland above the harbor, you can visit a fort whose guns battled German warships during World War I at Heugh Battery. For a breath of fresh air, take a stroll along Hartlepool Bay to Teesmouth National Nature Reserve to watch seals and seabirds.


  • Hartlepool's Maritime Experience, Jackson Dock, Maritime Avenue, Hartlepool TS24 0XZ; Tel: +44 1429 860 077; Website: Hartlepool's Maritime Experience

  • Heugh Battery, Moor Terrace, The Headland, Hartlepool TS24 0PS; Tel: +44 1429 270 746; Website: Heugh Battery


Durham countryside and seaside


You'll find big skies and seascapes on Durham Heritage Coast. Once blighted by coal mining, this long stretch of limestone cliffs and sandy shores has been restored to pristine beauty. The England Coast Path follows the shoreline, and you can walk among meadows that in summer are full of wildflowers. There's more walking in the hilly Durham Dales, where sheep outnumber people. The North Pennines Area of Natural Beauty is traversed by hiking trails like the Pennine Way. You can visit cascades like High Force, one of England's most dramatic waterfalls.


  • Durham Heritage Coast, Durham Heritage Coast, Durham County Council, County Hall, Durham DH1 5UL; Tel: +44 3000 268 131; Website: Durham Heritage Coast

  • High Force, Forest-in-Teesdale, DL12 0XH; Tel: +44 1833 622 209; Website: High Force