Nestled in the heart of North East England, Durham is famed for its enchanting cobbled streets, dramatic skyline of castle and cathedral, and a history that reaches far back into the pages of time. Conjuring up quant charm and lasting grandeur, Durham is a historical gem that cuts an imposing figure against the backdrop of the North East.

This scenic county offers the best of both serene countryside and bustling city life. Our guide will explore the rich tapestry of Durham’s heritage, its top landmarks, activities, and provide practical tips for living here, such as educational institutions, transport, and properties available.

History of Durham, United Kingdom

Durham's history begins with the establishment of a monastery by Lindisfarne monks, fleeing Viking invasions. The city grew around this religious site, and in 995 AD, the monks chose this place for Saint Cuthbert's final resting place, making the city a sacred pilgrimage site. Its strategic position led to the construction of Durham Castle in the 11th century, under William the Conqueror’s rule, which then marked the city's significance in the Norman kingdom. Durham’s reputation as a seat of learning began with the establishment of Durham University in 1832, the third oldest university in England. This rich and diverse history continues to shape the city's culture today.


Durham is brimming with awe-inspiring landmarks, monuments and historical buildings. The Durham Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a towering masterpiece of Norman architecture that has housed the Shrine of St Cuthbert for over a millennium. Durham Castle, another World Heritage Site, now serves as Durham University's residential college, maintaining its grandeur and elegance. Lastly, the Beamish Museum provides an immersive experience of North East England's history, allowing visitors to explore life in the industrial era.

Landmarks we love

  • Botanic Gardens, Durham City: A 25-hectare oasis of flora and fauna, these gardens are home to exotic plant species from around the globe, beautifully tended and displayed.
  • Crook Hall, Sidegate: This 13th century grade I listed medieval manor house, provides a glimpse of a bygone era through its beautiful rooms and stunning gardens.
  • Palace Green Library, Durham City: From rare books to artefacts, this part of Durham University's estate houses a range of exhibitions that delve deep into local and global history.
  • Raby Castle, Staindrop: This majestic medieval castle sits within vast grounds, showcasing elegant interiors and vibrant gardens.
  • High Force Waterfall, Forest-in-Teesdale: The largest waterfall in England, its raw natural beauty and power is truly a sight to behold.

Top 10 things to do in Durham

  • Durham University Botanic Garden, Durham City: Explore the themed gardens, woodlands and wildflower meadows, and admire exotic plants all year round.
  • Explore history at Beamish Museum, Beamish: A visit to this open-air museum provides an immersive look into life in the past.
  • Walk the city, Durham City: Discover the beautiful medieval pathways of Durham for a leisurely stroll through history.
  • Relax at Hamsterley Forest, Hamsterley village: Enjoy outdoor activities such as walking, cycling, horse riding and more in this 2000-hectare woodland.
  • Discover Durham Riverside Walk, Durham City: A serene trail offering beautiful views along the River Wear.
  • Visit Diggerland, Langley Park: An interactive adventure park for families, offering the chance to drive, ride and operate full size construction machinery.
  • Get active at Adventure Valley, Brasside: This outdoor adventure park offers a great day out for families, with play areas, soft play, farmyard animals, and more.
  • Visit Hardwick Hall Country Park, Sedgefield: With a lake, park, walks and various events, this spot offers a fantastic day out for all family members.
  • Shop at Dalton Park Outlet, Murton: Shopping enthusiasts will love North East’s largest outlet shopping centre, offering up to 50% off high street prices.
  • Explore Heritage Coast, Seaham: Admire the fantastic sea views, beautiful beaches and wildlife.

Our recommended areas to live in Durham, United Kingdom

  • Durham City: Renowned for its stunning architecture and rich history, Durham City is a vibrant location ideal for families and professionals alike. With a friendly community, excellent schools, and a diverse range of amenities and attractions, Durham City offers an exceptional quality of life.
  • Chester-le-Street: Offering a mix of suburban and country living, Chester-le-Street is known for its community spirit and is well-served with schools, restaurants and shopping facilities.
  • Stanhope: This traditional dales town in the heart of the Durham Dales and the North Pennines offers a slower pace of life surrounded by stunning local scenery.
  • Sedgefield: A quintessentially English countryside village, Sedgefield offers top quality housing, excellent transportation links and quality schools.
  • Bishop Auckland: For those seeking a blend of urban and countryside living, Bishop Auckland is home to a range of amenities, schools and transport links, all set against the backdrop of picturesque, rural Durham.

Best schools in Durham, United Kingdom

The quality of education in Durham is renowned, with a broad spectrum of top-quality schools and Durham University consistently ranking among the top in the UK. There are numerous excellent primary schools such as St Oswald's CE Primary School and Blue Coat CE (Aided) Junior School. For secondary education, Durham Johnston Comprehensive School and Durham High School for Girls consistently provide excellent academic results. The independent sector includes the prestigious Durham School and Chorister School, known for their high academic standards and extracurricular opportunities. Durham University is one of the oldest English universities and consistently ranks among the very best in the world, known for its research and teaching quality.

Transport links in Durham, United Kingdom

Durham enjoys excellent connectivity to the rest of the UK. Durham Railway Station offers direct services to London, Edinburgh and Manchester, making commutes and weekend getaways hassle-free. For road travel, the A1(M) provides quick access to Scotland and the South. Regular bus services operate throughout the county, connecting residents to nearby cities such as Newcastle. For air travel, Newcastle International Airport is only a short distance away, offering domestic and international flights.

In summary, Durham is a city abound with history, education, and natural beauty. Whether you are an individual, professional or a family, Durham offers opportunities for everyone, be it in the form of thriving employment hubs, top-class schooling, quality healthcare services or numerous leisure and cultural options. Living in Durham means embracing a lifestyle characterised by quality and diversity.

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