Durham Castle

Alexander Iles
Durham Castle
Durham University

Opposite the cathedral is Durham Castle. It was constructed initially because of the dangerous conditions following the Norman Invasion. The Anglo-Saxon population of England were not pleased at the idea of being invaded by a small group of French-speaking Vikings and were doing their best to try to drive them out of England. This involved open revolt, murder and the deaths of three Earl’s of Northumbria – one of which Robert Cumin died in Durham after misjudging the willingness of the people of Durham to drive the Normans out, by burning down their own town. William the Conqueror decided to send a Bishop up to control the North East of England. Bishop Walcher was sent and built the castle, before he too was murdered by the population of Gateshead, on the River Tyne. This caused King William to order the first English genocide – the “Harrowing of the North”, where one quarter of the north’s population was thought to be killed and one tenth of England’s population died. From there on Durham was fortified as an administrative palace of the new Prince Bishops of Durham; powerful religious lords whose role was to protect the North of England on behalf of the king against rebellion and Scottish attack.

In the early years Durham’s castle remained a fortress, but over time it was transformed into a palace as castles and fortresses were constructed to the North. Though the Bishops of Durham had a residence in Durham, they preferred Auckland Castle and so Durham Castle was often overlooked until 1832. In that year an act of parliament – the Great Reform Act – removed the secular powers from the Bishops of Durham. The Final Prince Bishop, Van Mildert, was aware this was going to occur and so he put a plan in place to create a University out of many of the buildings around the Cathedral that had formerly administered County Durham. As a result of this Durham Castle was refurbished and became student accommodation for the students at this new university. The castle is still accommodation to this day and while a lot of the building is from the 19th century, there is still a fantastic Norman chapel within the Castle that can be seen during a guided tour of the castle – bookable at the Durham World Heritage centre or online at Durham University’s website.

Palace GreenDurhamDH1 3RW View map
Telephone: 01913342932 Visit Now

Opening Hours

  • Monday9:00am - 5:00pm
  • Tuesday9:00am - 5:00pm
  • Wednesday9:00am - 5:00pm
  • Thursday9:00am - 5:00pm
  • Friday9:00am - 5:00pm
  • Saturday9:00am - 5:00pm
  • Sunday9:00am - 5:00pm

Always double check opening hours with the venue before making a special visit.

What's on near Durham Castle

FestivalsCumbria
Kendal Calling Festival 2024

Featuring over 200 artists and performers, immersive arts experiences and kids activities, Kendal Calling is a great, family-friendly festival set in the stunning Lake District.

from £199.00

Where to go near Durham Castle

North East
Museum
Museum of Archaeology

Durham University’s specialist museum showcases an exhibition which ranges from the prehistory to modern times, charting the history of Durham.

Assembly Rooms Theatre
Durham
Theatre
Assembly Rooms Theatre

In the heart of Durham, a stone’s throw from the cathedral, is Assembly Rooms Theatre, an historic building showcasing theatre throughout the year.

The Cellar Door
Durham
Restaurant
The Cellar Door

The Cellar Door is a premium restaurant built into an old 13th century baker shop enjoying wonderful, wooded views over the River Wear.

The Mugwump
Durham
Shop
The Mugwump

The Mugwump is a unique boutique on Saddler Street. With a history stretching back to 1966, when it was founded by two art school graduates, it has grown to have something for everyone. The ambition of The Mugwump is to find the most wonderful clothing, glassworks, ceramics, and gifts that can be purchased and bring it together under one roof for all to enjoy and be owned by you.

Fat Hippo
Durham
Restaurant
Fat Hippo

Founded in 2010, Fat Hippo offers signature burgers and indulgent desserts at purse-friendly price points.

The People’s Bookshop
Durham
Shop
The People’s Bookshop

The People’s Bookshop sits one of the alleyways that comes off Saddler Street and is a hidden gem and a treat for the book lover. Away from the bustle of the main streets, it is a treasure trove of books from all areas and periods and encourages those to enter to discover a whole new theme of knowledge through the book that they have purchased.

Gavin Shelley Jewellery
Durham
Shop
Gavin Shelley Jewellery

Within the side alleys of Saddlers’ Yard, there is a small shop that many would pass by, but holds a wonderful surprise for those who go in. Going to Gavin Shelley Jewellery you will be able to see a fantastic range of items from rings to pendants, and earrings, it is likely that the piece you are looking to buy has been made by him.

Vennels Café
Durham
Café or Coffee Shop
Vennels Café

Vennels Café is a fantastic venue in the heart of Durham, steeped in the charming history of the city. The word “vennel” comes from a corruption of the French word for an alleyway and the vennels in Durham are the alleyways that date back to the medieval city.

North East
Theatre
The Durham

A home for theatre in Durham, showcasing many talents such as those of the Durham Dramatic Society at greatly affordable prices.

Tango
Durham
Restaurant
Tango

Tango is an independent restaurant providing the best in comfort food with a varied burger menu and in-house deserts.

Nadon Thai
Durham
Restaurant
Nadon Thai

Nadon Thai is part of an independent chain of restaurants with a menu with a traditional and modern palette with a passion for Thai food.

North East
Shop
Bookwyrm

This LGBTQ+ bookshop, nestled in the heart of Durham’s city centre, is more than a business but rather is a community hub.

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