On a dreary day in Durham a lifetime ago my now wife and I were part of a tense gaggle of twentysomethings crowding around a noticeboard, craning our necks to try to see the pages where our degree grades had been published.
Now, in the blazing sunshine, we were back, daughters in tow, staying in the same building. The former university offices at the Old Shire Hall are now Hotel Indigo Durham and we’re happily on holiday.
Hotel Indigo, which recently received a silver medal in the Visit England Awards for Excellence, is as comfortable and smart as that gong suggests – there are marble floors and stained-glass windows everywhere you turn.
Carnivores can also rejoice: attached is a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill, based in the old senate chamber.
As we relax in our chic, classic room (each one is individually styled), the stress of finals is a distant memory – but as a family, we’re swiftly making new ones.
Here, my seven-year-old daughter enjoyed her first – and definitely not last – knickerbocker glory. For this, at least, Durham will always hold a special place in her heart.
The incredible views over Durham’s wondrous Norman cathedral. Its fact-packed tours are a delight: it features a rare example of medieval glass to have survived Henry VIII’s dissolution, an extraordinary stone-vaulted ceiling – the first of its kind in the world – and views from the tower that stretch for miles. Nearby on Palace Green is Durham Castle, almost 1,000 years old itself. Guided tours offer an insight into the politics of the region. The centre of Durham, a place that’s impossible to tire of, is at your fingertips. It’s a bijou city of narrow, wandering lanes. Characterful pubs abound and riverside terraces, gin bars on bridges and restaurants are plentiful.
Who goes there?
The streets are often bustling with bright young things, so expect visiting parents to camp down during term-time. When uni is tranquil and all the Volvos have gone, expect couples on a romantic weekend.
The River Wear is a fantastic place for a romantic stroll and if you crave more nature, there’s the Botanic Garden. Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, is an open-air attraction with themed areas spreading across the centuries. Explore the likes of a 1900s pit village and colliery, with shops and traditional vehicles ferrying visitors around. Period bobbies are also on hand to keep pesky daughters in order. Crook Hall Gardens, set around a medieval manor house, and recently acquired by the National Trust, also offer an enchanting escape.