Every year on April 18th, the world celebrates the International Day for Monuments and Sites and the Durham area is definitely a place where you can celebrate the day appropriately! Durham has an incredible amount of heritage attractions on offer and encapsulates what is regarded as typically English, from castles to cathedrals.
If history and culture is your passion then this is the ideal place for a short break. Durham does not just make the ideal base for exploring Northern England, the town itself has much to offer. It has a story to tell, the skyline is filled with beautiful architecture, not to mention the river that runs through it, its many bridges and the university... Check out our top 5 below.
1. Durham Cathedral
The heritage of Durham Cathedral is so important that it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with Durham Castle. They stand proudly on a hill, nestled amongst the rooftops of the town’s medieval village and surrounded by the River Wear. The cathedral is an example of one of Europe’s greatest Norman Buildings. It dates back to 1093 and it took over 40 years to reach completion. To delve deeper into its fascinating history, visit the cathedral library, where you will find written works dating as far back as the 6th century. This is a working church with over 1,500 services annually.
2. Durham Castle
Durham Castle was built within a fortified complex on the orders of William the Conqueror in 1072. It later became the ancient palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham, who added many additional features of today’s most admired sections of the castle. Today, it is home to the Durham University. During term time, access is restricted but entrance is granted by guided tour. This is the best way to experience the castle as knowledgeable guides have great stories to tell.
3. Auckland Castle
Aukland Castle was the palace and residence of the Prince Bishops of Durham for over 900 years. Steeped in history, it is one of England’s national treasures. Visit the dining room, St. Mary’s Chapel, the Scotland Wing and Throne Room, as wells strolling around the Deer House and Park. There is a great exhibition about the Tudor times, looking at its impact on medieval England and The War of the Roses. Make sure you see the King’s Lost Bed, which was carved from oak in the 15th century. For lunches, snacks or authentic afternoon tea, with sandwiches, cakes and scones with a pot of tea, visit the castle’s tearoom, which is found in the library. This was originally the castle’s grand library. On a sunny day, why not buy your lunch and go and have a picnic on the grounds instead?
4. Beamish Living Museum of the North
Step back in time to experience England in Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian times at the Living Museum of the North. Beamish is a working museum, 12 miles from Durham, brought to life by costumed actors. Explore the streets of the Town, pre-WWI, and step into shops or the dentist, printer mechanics or bank, or visit the residential Ravensworth Terrace. The Pit Village, set in the early 1900s, shows how the coal industry dominated life at the time in the North East. The highlights here are the school, stables and the fish and chip shop, where you can buy your fish supper cooked in a coal-fired range. At the Colliery you can even take a trip into the mines and see the conditions the pit workers experienced daily. The museum’s 1940s farm is set during the WWII. Here you can learn about the blackouts, evacuations and rationing and how it affected life on the farm. This is just a taste of what you can expect to find at this living museum. Bring your family and enjoy an afternoon exploring the past.
5. Killhope Lead Mining Museum
A great day out for the kids, Killhope is a restored Victorian mining village from the 19th century. Put yourself in the shoes of a lead miner and his family. Learn about the history of mining in a fun way and delve into the lifestyle that these miners lived. On site you will find a functioning water wheel, a mine shop where they lived, and children can work as a ‘washerboy’ panning for minerals and lead ore. Before you head back to the hotel, take some time for a break at Killhope Café which serves soups, pastries and cakes, all homemade.