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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in durham (city)
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Durham is a city in the county of County Durham in North East England.
It is a cathedral city with a fine norman Castle, dating from 1073 (currently a hall of residence for Durham University and the oldest student accommodation in the world) and lies within a loop of the River Wear, locally known as The Peninsula.
Bill Bryson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Bryson) was quite taken by Durham, writing in Notes from a Small Island (1995), "Why, it's a perfect little city. If you have never been to Durham, go there at once. Take my car. It's wonderful."1 (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bill_Bryson)
Best arrive by train for breath-taking high view of the city. Trains run on the East Coast Main Line from London Kings Cross and York as far as Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh. Trains also run from lots of other places including Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. Durham train station is a short walk from the city centre and is connected to the Cathedral by the Cathedral Bus, which operates every twenty minutes from circa 0700 to 1740. An all-day ticket costs 50p.
By road, Durham is easily reached from the A1(M). From December 2005, a Park & Ride (http://www.durhamparkandride.com/) service has operated from three sites on the outskirts of the city centre. Most useful of which is the Belmont Park & Ride, located approximately 300 yards from junction 62 of the A1(M), towards Sunderland on the A690. A bus service operates ten minutes between the Park & Ride and the city centre, 0700 - 1900 hours. Parking costs £1.70 all day.
The centre of Durham is compact, with small roads and the only congestion charge (http://www.durham.gov.uk/durhamcc/usp.nsf/pws/Roads+-+Road+User+Charge+Saddler+Street+Market+Place+Durham) in the UK outside London (actually the first congestion charge in the UK, beating London by a few months). Thus, it is easiest and nicest to walk.
There are a number of sites worth visiting in Durham:
- Durham Castle (http://www.durhamcastle.com/) - take a tour conducted by current students, some residing within The Keep, the oldest student accommodation in the world, dating from 1073.
- Durham Cathedral (http://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/) - one of the most magnificent in the UK, boasting a 66 metre tower, with wonderful views of the entire city and surrounding countryside. The cathedral is open from 0700 to 2000 (1800 in Winter season), and the tower from 1000 - 1530 (closed during services and all day on Sunday).
- The Treasures of Saint Cuthbert, found within the claustral buildings of Durham Cathedral, housing hundreds of amazing artefacts, including the 7th Century coffin of Saint Cuthbert himself, and his 6th century pectoral cross (possibly even older).
- Walk along the attractive River Wear around the peninsula Durham is built upon.
- The Botanical Gardens (http://www.dur.ac.uk/botanic.garden/)
- The striking 1960's Kingsgate Bridge designed by Ove Arup (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ove_Arup).
- The first sight of the cathedral from the railway viaduct coming from the South, without a doubt the most breathtaking railway view in the United Kingdom, if not Europe.
- The Durham Indoor Market (http://www.durhammarkets.co.uk/), a wonderful victorian covered market. Smoker or not, visit the amazing tobacconist and the sweetie shop in the corner, with hundreds of jars of real traditional sweets.
- Hire pleasure boats on the river, from Easter to Autumn.
- Watch a performance at the modern Gala Theatre (http://www.galadurham.co.uk/) complex, or ice-skate here in late December and early January.
- Have a pint of local real ale at one of Durham's magical pubs, particularly worth a mention are The Dun Cow (http://www.bestpubs.co.uk/layout0.asp?pub=117563) on Old Elvet and The Shakespeare Tavern (http://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/s/15/15395/Shakespeare_Tavern/Durham) on Saddler Street ("England's most haunted pub" and housed in a 12th Century building).
- Try Durham Lamb Squab Pie, a local speciality, served in The Bridge Hotel, underneath the splendid victorian viaduct.
- Visit the Durham Light Infantry Museum (http://www.durham.gov.uk/dli/usp.nsf/pws/dli+-+dli+home+page), behind Durham Railway Station. (See Durham Light Infantry Chapel in Durham Cathedral)
- Participate in a Ghost Walk, contact the Tourist Information Office within the Gala Theatre for dates and times.
- There are some "one-off" shops near to the Cathedral which are definitely worth a visit.
- A local tobacco blend from the tobacconist in the indoor market.
- Fresh produce from the Farmers' Market, or the French Market (check dates with Tourist Information)
Durham has all the eateries one would expect to find in any City: the usual burger joints and sandwich shops, but Durham has some hidden gems and supposedly the most restaurants per capita in the country. Particularly worth a mention are:
- Café Continental, at the foot of Silver Street (opposite Pizza Hut)
- Saddlers, on Saddler Street, near the Market Place
- Vennels, opposite Saddlers, up an alleyway (or "vennel" in local dialect)
- The Durham Indoor Market Café, upstairs in the Durham Indoor Market, with a splendid vista of the railway viaduct and river on one side, and the market stalls on the other.
- Durham Cathedral Undercroft Restaurant, housed in the 14th Century wine cave, serving wonderful traditional roast dinners.
- The Garden House Pub, through the park behind the railway station, serving excellent Pub Grub and considerably cheaper than city centre pubs and restaurants.
- The Bridge Hotel, under the viaduct, for legendarily massive portions.
- The Almhouses Restaurant, on Palace Green, between the Castle and cathedral.
- Romeo's on Elvet Bridge for a chintzy italian restaurant.
- Michaelangelo's at Neville's Cross (approximately two kilometres from the cathedral) for a classy italian restaurant.
- Bistro 21 (http://www.toptable.co.uk/details.cfm/qs/rid%7C889/) (approximately three kilometres from the cathedral) for the best and most expensive cuisine in Durham.
- Hide Bar and Bistro, for trendy food and cocktails in a contemporary atmosphere.
- Or, eat like a true citizen of Durham and have a mince pie and sticky bun from any of Durham's many bakeries.
Durham is equally as well-served when it comes to watering holes, with more than forty within a mile radius of the Cathedral. Drinking is a major pastime of Durham residents and students alike and alcohol is far cheaper in than just about everywhere else in the country.:
- For the cheapest pint in Durham try one of the College bars if you have student ID (£1.20/pint for lager).
- For the cheapest non-student pint in Durham, try the wonderfully unadulterated Colpitts Hotel at the top of Crossgate, where you can pick up a pint of Samuel Smiths Old Brewery bitter for £1.23.
- For the trendiest drink in Durham, try a cocktail at Hide on Saddler Street, or the newly opened Fabio's Bar, conveniently straight over the road.
- For the scariest pint in Durham, try The Shakespeare Tavern, the "most haunted pub in England".
- For the most interesting pint in Durham, try one of the plethora of local brews on sale at The Woodman at the bottom of Gilesgate Bank (around one kilometre from the Market Place). Be warned that they will not be to everyone's taste and may be considerably stronger than your standard tipple!
Durham isn't fantastically well endowed with nightclubs, but should this be your scene then worth a mention are:
- The Fishtank, possibly the smallest club in the world (it is above Bimbi's Fish & Chip Shop on Neville Street, hence the name), but offering up an impressive programme of alternative music.
- Planet of Sound, at Durham Student Union (http://www.dsu.org.uk/) every Friday during termtime, with three floors of different music genres. (Note: you must be a student and a guest of a Durham student to be permitted entry)
- Klute, think school disco every night of the week, voted the second-worst nightclub in Europe by FHM magazine (http://www.fhm.com/), but currently the worst by default after an arson attack destroyed the previous holder of the title. Student-only.
- Studio (http://www.dh-1.co.uk/About.aspx), the closest Durham has to a non-student nightclub, but don't expect to be blown away and get your drinks in elsewhere (they're very expensive here).
Accommodation is in very short supply in Durham, with most being expensive hotel accommodation:
- The Three Tuns Hotel (http://www.swallow-hotels.com/hotels/swallow-three-tuns), a Swallow hotel on New Elvet, rates from £75.
- The Royal County Hotel (http://marriott.com/property/propertypage/XVUDM), a Mariott right next door with similar prices.
- Farnley Towers Guesthouse (http://www.farnley-tower.co.uk/), slightly further out but still with similar rates.
- The Travelodge (http://www.travelodge.co.uk/find_a_hotel/hotel/hotel_id/204/Durham), situated on Gilesgate in a former stationhouse, with commanding views of the Cathedral, and within easy reach of the motorway. This is your best bet for "budget" hotel accommodation, with some good offers from time to time.
- The Bridge Hotel, under the viaduct offers accommodation for around £55.
- The Garden House, up the hill behind the railway station, offers B&B accommodation.
Predominately outside of termtime, but not exclusively so, the colleges of Durham University offer B&B accommodation with very good rates (from as little as £20 pppn), visit the website of Durham University (http://bookings.travelstay.com/DurhamUniversityBooking.htm) for a booking form.
An SAS Radisson is currently being built opposite the Gala Theatre, but is not expected to be accepting guests until 2007.
Accommodation is more plentiful in nearby Newcastle and Gateshead, with easy access to Durham by rail and road.
- Visit the iconic (and huge) Angel of the North statue, Gateshead.
- Go shopping at Gateshead's Metro Centre Mall, the largest shopping mall in Europe.
- Visit Newcastle - the throbbing heart of the North East, with world-class shopping, clubbing and art.
- Visit The Bowes Museum in nearby Barnard Castle (around 30km South-West)
- Visit High Force, the highest waterfall in England (around 40km South-West)
- Visit Locomotion in Shildon, if you're a train buff (around 20km South)
- Visit Whitby, the North Yorkshire harbour town (around 50km South)