Overlooking the medieval city of Durham and the winding River Wear, you will find Durham Castle proudly perched atop a hill. It has guarded over Durham from as far back as the 11th century. Indeed, it was once England’s cornerstone of defence against Northern forces and was the main seat of power for the fearsome Prince-Bishops.
What is Durham Castle like?
The city of Durham has an extensive and turbulent history, which Durham Castle has not been exempted from. From Norman invaders, religious reformers and civil wars, this 13th century castle has been an epicentre for scandals and intrigue for centuries! You can explore this fascinating history by joining a guided tour and see for yourself surviving artefacts of Durham Castles story.
Wander through the wonderful gatehouse to be delighted with the sight of the castle courtyard and striking keep, which now houses university students. From here you can explore the Tudor gallery, which serves as a museum and houses Tunstall Chapel.
Interestingly, Durham Castle actually has two chapels, the first of which is the Norman Chapel. It dates back to the 11th century and is actually the oldest structure still standing in Durham! Here you will find an array of ornate and peculiar stone carvings, including one of a mermaid!
Be sure to snap some pics when visiting the 14th century Great Hall. This magnificent building served as inspiration for the dining room in the Harry Potter films. Indeed, filming was supposed to take place here but alas, it was never to be. However, when visiting you might be able to spot gowned students eating here! Look out for the muskets lined along the walls. They are reportedly still loaded in preparation for a Scottish invasion – though we wouldn’t like to be there to find out!
On your tour, you can also peek into the Norman Undercroft, with its vaulted ceilings, and stop by the Black Stairs. These stairs are fragile and quite crooked but are allegedly a favourite haunt of the ghost of the Grey Lady. There are carved pineapples adorning the staircase but note that they appear quite peculiar compared to the real things!
Durham Castle is one of the seventeen working colleges at Durham University. Therefore, you can only see it when on a guided tour. See the FAQ below to learn how to pre-book a ticket.
As the castle is thousands of years old, it is not wholly accessible. Wheelchair and pushchair access is very limited as you must navigate numerous stairways to follow the tour. These areas are unavoidable and quite awkward, with steep, sometimes worn and uneven, steps. Some stairways are very narrow, though all have some form of handrail for you to use. Those with limited mobility may struggle to explore the castle. Although the grand Great Hall can be accessed via one small set of stairs. Furthermore, you can still see the level courtyard without needing to climb any steps.
Unfortunately you can not drive to nor park here, though please see our FAQ below for further detail on this matter. Additionally, Durham can be quite difficult to navigate, with cobbled streets and numerous hills. To reach the castle, we therefore recommend that you jump aboard the wheelchair and pushchair accessible Durham Cathedral Bus. This bus comes regularly and stops at Palace Green, a very short distance from Durham Castle.
Further points of interest
Want to see all that Durham has to offer? Follow a 2 minute walk across Palace Green to Durham Cathedral, one of the grandest examples of Romanesque architecture in the whole world. If you fancy a bite to eat, a browse through the historic Durham Market Place, a 5 minute walk away, would not go amiss!