If you’re looking for a vibrant city with a small-town community, Durham could be the perfect place to call home.
Durham is found in the north east of England on the banks of the River Wear.
The medieval city at the heart of Durham oozes charm, from its winding, cobbled streets and world-class university, to its enormous castle and Norman cathedral.
The city gained prominence in the medieval period as the resting place of Saint Cuthbert and Saint Bede the Venerable, and grew further thanks to the mining industry.
Living in Durham: what to expect
Durham is compact and well-connected, making it easy to get around. There are good schools in and around the city. These include Durham Johnston Comprehensive School and Framwellgate Moor Primary School, both of which were rated ‘outstanding’ at their last inspections.
Durham is also bursting with history and culture. And Durham University, founded in 1832 and considered to be England's third university of choice, plays a key role in city life.
It is on the doorstep of some wild and rugged landscape too, including the Durham Dales, the coast and the North Pennines, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
House prices in the city currently stand at £155,718, substantially lower than the average across England. You can check up-to-date house prices here.
Where to start your property search
City centre: If you want to be near the train station, look to North End and Fieldhouse Lane. The streets are lined with grand Edwardian properties that boast attractive period features.
For spectacular views across the river to the cathedral and castle, opt for the Crossgate area. The cobbled streets are home to spacious period townhouses and stone terraces with decent-sized gardens.
You can also secure views of the historic city centre with a property in the Gilesgate area. Homes here include period and listed townhouses, which are easily accessible from the A1.
Or if you’d prefer a new-build home, check out the new estate on South Road – just a 30-minute walk from the city centre. You can choose from substantial detached or semi-detached family homes.
At the higher end of the market, look at St Anne’s Court for two- and three-bedroom flats with private landscaped gardens and views of the city centre.
If you have a tighter budget, consider the flats above shops in St Andrew’s Court or period conversions on St Godric’s Court.
Suburbs: Try Neville’s Cross, just a short walk from the very centre of the city, where there are new-build town houses on Faraday Court and modest Victorian terraced homes on roads, such as Lowes Barn Bank.
For a rural setting, head for Shincliffe village, just five miles to the south of the city. Opt for country cottages with beamed ceilings on roads such as Willow Tree Avenue, or a 17th-century terrace on Manor Close.
Another popular village is Lanchester. Check out the three-bedroom semis on Durham Road and Alderside Crescent, or try a quirky cottage on Howden Bank. Luxury new-build apartments are also on offer at Lynwood House.
If you want to be a bit further from the city, the market town of Bishop Auckland could be a good option. Large semis with bay windows can be found on Byron Avenue, while large detached homes are available in quiet cul-de-sacs such as Middlehope Grove.
There are also some notable developments underway within Durham's surrounding villages, Sherburn Hill for example. The Pastures development from Keepmoat is currently offering a range of new-build properties there. Two-bedroom homes start from as £107,000 (below the first stamp duty threshold) while four-bedroom family homes are available from around £180,000. The Government's Help to Buy scheme is also available on many of the purchases making it more affordable still.
In the village of Ushaw Moor, the Middlewood Moor development by Taylor Wimpey also offers brand-new homes.
Getting around Durham
Four trains per hour run to Newcastle with a journey time of 10 to 20 minutes. Edinburgh can be reached in just under two hours while a journey to London takes three hours.
By car: The A1(M) passes to the east of the city. To the west is the A167, which runs north to south from Newark-on-Trent to Chesterfield. The A691, which runs to the north west, is also nearby, as is the A690, which tracks towards Sunderland.
By air: The Durham Tees Valley International Airport is just a 40 minute drive from the centre of Durham. This airport offers four daily flights to Amsterdam, from which travellers can connect to other international flights. Regular flights to Aberdeen are also available.
Newcastle International Airport is also half an hour away by car. Travellers can choose from 80 direct destinations, which are offered by airlines such as easyJet, Flybe and Ryanair.
Things to do in Durham
History: Take a tour of Durham Castle to discover the history of one of the city’s most historic monuments. The castle is now part of Durham University and has been occupied since the 11th century.
Durham Cathedral, the city’s other most recognisable building, is also a must-see. Admire its architecture and cavernous vaulted ceiling.
Wander the gardens, orchard and maze at Crook Hall. This 13th century hall is only a short walk from the cathedral and serves cream teas in its courtyard. Look out for the ‘White Lady’, who is said to haunt the area, while you’re there.
Also visit Durham University – and while you’re there, look at the Egyptian mummies, Chinese porcelain and head-hunting swords from Borneo at the Oriental Museum.
Culture: Head to the Gala Theatre to see performances from leading theatre companies. It’s currently being transformed into a new culture, leisure and catering venue with four cinema screens and a restaurant, so look out for new programmes in the future.
You can also see amateur theatrical groups at City Theatre. This bijou venue hosts the Durham Dramatic Society, which puts on regular performances throughout the year.
Outdoors: Enjoy the Durham Regatta from the banks of the river. It takes place every June and is thought to be the second oldest regatta in England.
Climb up to the 19th-century battlements at Wharton Park and take in spectacular views of the city.
And walk or cycle through the rolling hills of the nearby Durham Dales, discovering unspoilt countryside, waterfalls and panoramic views.
Alternatively, head to the North Pennines for open heather moors, woods and hay meadows.
Shopping: Peruse more than 40 popular high street shops at The Gates Shopping Centre. It is currently undergoing a £30m revamp and should be finished by 2018.
For more retail therapy, head to Prince Bishops Shopping Centre, home to major brands such as Boots, H&M and New Look.
For locally-made goods, browse the stalls at Durham Market Hall. This Victorian hall is home to more than 50 independent traders who sell everything from vintage clothing to traditional sweets.
Food and drink: Discover the secrets of beer-making at the Durham Brewery. The microbrewery is just a 10-minute drive from the city centre and offers tours outlining the history of beer and beer culture. You can then enjoy a tutored tasting of the brewer’s draught and bottled beers.
If you love a cup of tea, settle down in Tealicious Tea Room. This dedicated tea shop serves 17 individual blends of loose tea alongside homemade cakes, scones and sandwiches. Try the traditional ‘Durham Miner’s Brew’ of Assam and Kenyan black tea.
For fine dining, book a table at Restaurant DH1. Choose from a menu of seasonal dishes, or opt for the tasting menu to sample a bit of everything.
Durham is home to the UK’s biggest light festival. This biennial event turns the city into a series of installations that make use of historic buildings and light to create magical projections.
5 reasons to live in Durham
- Affordable homes
- Historical city centre
- Easy access to the Durham Dales
- Good train connections to cities such as Newcastle
- Range of independent and mainstream shops