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Not many cities can claim to be founded by divine intervention, but the location of Durham was allegedly decided by a miracle involving a lost cow and the bones of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. While searching for the missing bovine, monks discovered a perfect hill, bound by a loop of the River Wear, and the coffin of the saint became immovable. A grand Norman cathedral was erected on the site and Durham became the most important pilgrimage destination in medieval England, until the murder of Thomas Beckett of Canterbury in 1170. The pilgrims may have gone, but the cathedral still remains, looming dramatically over a tangle of winding ...

Not many cities can claim to be founded by divine intervention, but the location of Durham was allegedly decided by a miracle involving a lost cow and the bones of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. While searching for the missing bovine, monks discovered a perfect hill, bound by a loop of the River Wear, and the coffin of the saint became immovable. A grand Norman cathedral was erected on the site and Durham became the most important pilgrimage destination in medieval England, until the murder of Thomas Beckett of Canterbury in 1170. The pilgrims may have gone, but the cathedral still remains, looming dramatically over a tangle of winding cobbled streets. With its cathedral and castle, narrow lanes and riverside setting, Durham is one of the most attractive towns in northern England, and the large student population ensures that nightlife is loud and lively. Many people day-trip here from Newcastle, but there’s plenty to see in the villages around Durham and the town makes a handy base for trips to the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors.

Joe Bindloss
About the Expert

Joe Bindloss has written more than 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Time Out and other publishers, with a focus on Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and island nations.

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Joe Bindloss for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    April to October for the best weather. Durham has some interesting festivals of music and the arts - contact the tourist office for details and timings.