Fine food, good views and a city with history

Durham Cathedral - classified as a World Heritage Site
Durham Cathedral - classified as a World Heritage Site
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When thinking of Europe’s greatest skylines, there are a few which immediately spring to mind - Paris, Moscow and London among them.

But as the train sweeps into Durham station, its route taking in the vista of the city’s historic cathedral by the river Wear, a similar wow factor is on offer for anyone taking a trip to one of the North East’s more refined locales.

And as well as the sights and heritage, there’s much more besides in Durham, from a burgeoning food scene to good shops and, a little further afield, wonderful countryside.

Direct CrossCountry trains run regularly from Sheffield via the East Coast Main Line, always a pleasant and relaxing journey in itself.

Almost 30 years ago Durham’s cathedral and castle was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site - meaning it so revered it has been put on a par with Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal and Bethlehem.

The cathedral boasts breathtaking Romanesque architecture, exquisite stained glass, and a stone-built vaulted roof, an engineering marvel in its day.

Climbing the many steps up to the summit of the tower affords visitors with a head for heights views far and wide.

Meanwhile, close by lies Durham Castle, which has been occupied continuously since the 11th century.

Seeing inside the castle is a little less straightforward than touring the cathedral, unfortunately - visitors need to join a guided tour and cannot wander round freely, as the building is a jewel in the crown of Durham University.

However, out of term time tourists can stay in rooms at the castle for a reasonable fee - not a bad place to spend the night.

We stayed in the Radisson Blu, a more modern but equally plush venue right on the riverside.

Offering more than 200 rooms, it’s probably the city centre’s best hotel. Guests receive free evening drinks - who could say no to a pre-dinner gin and tonic - the rooms are comfortable and spacious and meals are served in the Radisson’s own Italian restaurant, Filini.

We dined at Restaurant DH1, which shares a building with a guest house and is not in obvious spot for anyone passing through Durham, but well worth the effort to find - as the compilers of the Good Food Guide agree.

An excellently-priced Market Menu is available from Tuesday to Thursday all evening, at £18 for two courses, or £22.50 for three courses.

Mouth-watering starters of lamb shoulder, served with a salt crust, were followed by mains of old spot pork - belly and cheek - drizzled with a delicious cider sauce.

Desserts were something of a piece de resistance, too - always a sign of a good restaurant when thought’s gone into making pudding worthwhile. Dark chocolate delice with orange, fennel and vanilla ice cream was every bit of the treat it promised to be - although the spiced rice pudding with Yorkshire rhubarb and ginger bread appeared equally tempting.

Book your table today is the advice of this reviewer - maybe even coincide the experience with a visit to the Durham Streets Summer Festival in August, a celebration of street performance. Just a suggestion...