Let the train take the strain.
Within the British Isles, the train is definitely mt preferred mode of transport. Flying has become such a time consuming and unleasant chore that even when I would have flown a few years ago, I am now taking to the rails.
When I recently visited Durham I arrived from Edinburgh and left a few days later to return to my home in London completing both journies by train with no problems at all. In a bizarre quirk of the British train ticketing system, which is all but impossible to make sense of, I had actually travelled first class as it was cheaper than economy class. Yes, you read that correctly, and don't ask me how it works, I really don't know.
Arriving at Durham station, I was suprised how small and unprepossessing it was given the relative importance of the city, certainly historically. I suppose I was expecting some grand structure like nearby Newcastle but nothing of the sort. I should offer a word of caution here, though. It is a little way out of the centre of town. I decided to walk with my luggage and it proved to be a bit of a hike. There are taxis available at the Station but if you are on a budget you may want to consider the much cheaper Cathedral bus (see seperate tip on this page).
Durham is well-connected to the rest of the country on the rail network and I do recommend getting there by train.
A note on accessibility. According to the attached website there is not step-free access all over the station although staff help and wheelchairs are available as well as train access ramps. A full list of facilities and opening times is on the attached website.
Useful and green as well.
I have noted elsewhere that I found Durham to be a very compact city and I was more than happy to walk around it. I appreciate that this does not suit everyone for whatever reason and so the Cathedral bus may be of use to them. The bus is a service linking the rail station and coach park with the Cathedral / Castle complex via the Market Place.
The first time one of these buses passed me I was amazed at how quiet it was and it was only when I looked closer at the livery that I discovered it was electrically (battery) powered so by using it you are doing your bit for the planet as well. Apparently each vehicle saves 15 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year and there are no engine exhaust emissions.
An all day ticket costs £1 for adults and 50p for children under 13. The following times are taken from the attached website where you may also want to check for concesions and the limited University service. All buses are fully wheelchair accessible.
The Cathedral Bus operates Monday to Saturday. It does not run on Sundays, public holidays or on the Saturday of the Durham Miners' Gala in July.
On weekdays between Christmas and New Year a Saturday timetable will apply.
A special timetable may apply on weekends when there is a Christmas or Summer Festival taking place.
Journeys from the coach park to the Cathedral now operate Monday to Saturday at:10 and 45 minutes past each hour between 10.10am and 3.45pm.
Return times from the Cathedral to the coach park are three and 30 minutes past each hour between 10.03am and 4.03pm.
Journeys from the rail station to the Cathedral now operate Monday to Saturday at:10, 30 and 50 minutes past each hour between 9.50am and 5.10pm, with an additional Monday to Friday journey at 8.30am and additional Saturday journeys at 9.10am and 9.30am.
Return times from the Cathedral to the rail station are on the hour, 20 and 40 minutes past each hour between 10.00am and 5.20pm, with additional Saturday journeys at 9.20am and 9.40am.
If you don't fancy a walk, just hop on the bus.
- Budget Travel
The station for Durham is rather away from the centre, and down quite a hill one way and then up a hill (vice versa for the return trip). There is a Cathedral bus which goes every 20 minutes between 09.00 and 16.30, stopping at the bus station, the market square and then Palace Green for the Cathedral area.
Cost is 0.50p per trip, which is a bargain. English Concession Travel Cards are valid.
The bus leaves from a stop which is near the exit for South-bound travel. Go down the stairs and there it is. If arriving from the south, go out of the station and walk along the underpass, which goes under the train tracks. There is a sign for "buses" but it is a bit vague.
- Historical Travel
Durham by Car
Given the amount of photo gear we had, we've opted to do the trip from London to Durham for the Lumiere 2011 festival by car, even though the city is well-connected by rail. From our flat in south-east London, the typical journey time is ca. 4.5 hours. The main road to follow, wherever you're coming from - if you're on the eastern side of the UK - is A1(M). If you're on the western side, you still most likely will have to cut to this one. 2 to 4 lanes wide, it's an easy drive, unless you're doing it on Friday or Sunday afternoons. Keep in mind that there are plenty of roadworks - they added about 49 minutes to our travel time in November 2011. Durham itself is just a short drive from Junction 62.
Unless you're staying overnight in a hotel with parking, you're better off parking in one of the Park+Ride facilities as city centre parking can be scarce. But do keep in mind that some P+R areas do not operate on Sundays. As a back-up, Riverside and Railway Station car parks are good options, and so is Sands - all central and with reasonable number of spaces available
Local buses from the station to the cathedral
Just outside the railway station (from the southbound platform) is a bus stop rom where there is a "Cathedral bus", which connects travellers to the Castle, Castle and town centre, without having to walk up or down the hills. The bus company uses low (easy access) floor minibuses on Service number 40, the fare is just 50p (all day travel), senior citizens travel free and children under 14 years travel half fare.
Durham Bus station, North Road, also offers services to the outskirts of Durham, and towns and villages in County Durham
- Castles and Palaces
- Budget Travel
Getting to Durham
We visited Durham on a day-trip from Newcastle. The easiest way to get between the cities is by train, which costs about 4.50 for a single ticket and takes about 15 minutes. We returned to Newcastle from Durham by train but getting to Durham took a lot longer as we wanted to go via the Beamish Museum, which is about 10 miles north of Durham.
It was a pretty long journey to go by this route. We went from Newcastle to Beamish Museum on 709 bus from Eldon Square which cost and took about 50 minutes. Then from the Beamish museum we took the 778 bus to Chester le Street (2 pounds) and connected with the 21 bus to Durham. The first two buses were very slow. Incidentally Chester le Street looks like a nice place but we had only a couple of minutes there as our bus arrived straight away. The bus station n Durham is on North road, a short walk from the centre of town.
Arriving by air
The nearest airport is Durham Tees Valley, although whether it can be classed as a truly international airport is debatable. It's not really in Durham, but tucked away in some distant corner of that mysterious area called Teesside. That said, a couple of budget airlines do operate flights from there to cities in France and the Netherlands as well as popular holiday destinations on the Med.
A better bet is Newcastle-upon-Tyne Airport, which has hundreds of flights to destinations in Europe, North America and the Middle East (well...it will start direct flights to Dubai soon). Connections with London and Amsterdam are excellent, so Newcastle is increasingly accessible from all over the world.
Getting to Durham from the airport means taking the Tyneside metro into Newcastle city centre (half an hour), changing at central station for the 20 minute train journey to Durham.
National Express has coaches from Durham bus station to many British cities, including London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool. Again, like the trains, bus tickets depend on when you book, when you travel, and how you book. You can find good deals online if you're early enough, but leave things to the last minute and prices rise rapidly. Still, bus journies are much much cheaper than going anywhere by train...however, they do take longer. For example, the train down to London takes just under 3 hours if things are running smoothly, but by bus the journey is long enough to make an overnight bus possible...there is one that leaves at midnight and arrives in London Victoria just before 7am.
The budget intercity bus company Megabus does not operate from Durham, although you can get very cheap tickets if you're willing to make your own way to and from Newcastle.
Local buses serve Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesborough frequently all through the day, as well as all the smaller towns and villages in County Durham.
Durham is on the main London-Edinburgh line, so there are frequent trains running north to Newcastle (20 mins) and Edinburgh (2 hours) and south to York (1 hour), Sheffield (2 hours), Birmingham (3-4 hours) and London (3 hours).
Prices for British trains are a mystery to everyone. Tickets to London range from £10 to over £100 for a standard seat, depending on when you travel, how far in advance you book, and whether you book in person or online. Often asking two different members of staff can turn up two different prices, and often the better deals are only available if the staff can be bothered to hunt them down for you.
Local ticket prices are set...a return to Newcastle is £5.20 at the moment. Be warned that the last train back is around 10.30pm (on Saturdays, 2am), and taxis back to Durham aren't cheap!
missing Bus schedules
On the most of bus stops all the timetables are missing, so you have no idea at what time does the bus leave. I have asked the driver for information where I can get a schedule and the answer was at the Tourist Information in the City Center, 1 minute walking from the main squere.
The lady at the TI was very helpful and I received everything I needed toghether with the map of the city.
- Budget Travel
- Study Abroad
- Work Abroad
Arrive on the Flying Scotsman (route of)
For a city of its size, Durham is very well connected by train to the rest of the country.
As it lies on the main East Coast Line from London to Scotland it can be reached in under three hours from London. Direct trains leave normally on about the half-hour from King's Cross.
Durham therefore makes an excellent stopover if you are travelling from Scotland to London or vica-versa.
You will also find long distance trains coming up from the south-west.
Alternatively Durham can easily be visited as a day trip from Newcastle.
Your train may well have a logo on the outside, showing that it follows the route of the famous "Flying Scotman" train. A nice touch, although I would prefer to travel on the real thing.
To Durham by airplane
During my year in Durham, of course I wanted to travel home or somewhere else every now and then.
The airport to go to is Newcastle airport. From there you can go to Durham by bus or taxi.
The cheapest way is usually to go to London Stansted with Ryanair from one of the many locations that Ryanair flies from. Then, at Stansted you can catch cheap flights with Easyjet to Newcastle.
Also, Ryanair has connections to Dublin from Newcastle and from Teesside.
- Business Travel
- Budget Travel
- Study Abroad
Going to Durham by ferry
I lived in Durham for an entire year, so I was actually moving there. Since we wanted a car with us as well as take more than the 20kg that you are allowed to take on an airplane, we decided to take the ferry.
Since in Germany I live close to the border of the Netherlands, we picked Ijmuiden as our port to leave from. We took the route to Tynemouth/Newcastle with DFDS seaways.
The trip was not cheap, but then again not that expensive either, I think about 200 Euros per person, but that was the car included (one way).
It was a good trip. It was easy to find Ijmuiden and the ship. We had a two-person indoor berth (without windows) which was fine for a night. It was pleasant - you just went to bed at night and when you woke up you were practically in Newcastle.
We left Holland at about 6 pm and arrived in England at 9 am in the morning.
Then we just drove to our rented house near Durham and that was it.
When we left again a year later we took the same route, just the other way around.
- Study Abroad
- Family Travel
Train is your way to Durham
Most trains between London (Kings Cross) and Edinburgh stop here although not all. There are also more frequent local trains from Newcastle. The mainline trains are run by GNER or Virgin trains.
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