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A Perfect Little City

In his first best selling travel book (Notes From A Small Island, 1991) Bill Bryson called Durham ‘A perfect little city …with… the best Cathedral on planet earth’.

This is high praise indeed from a man who made his reputation by taking the rise out of everywhere.

In the nicest possible way Bryson rubbishes many grubby and unappealing places in Britain and pokes fun at others – but Durham – he can’t find anything bad to say about it. And he’s not alone in his praise of Durham – it was voted the ‘Best city in the UK’ by Condé Nast’s Traveller magazine and BBC listeners voted the Cathedral and Castle Britain’s favourite building.

So it’s got a lot going for it, but in that case why do only 0.27% of overseas visitors go there? I suspect its overshadowed by the big marketing budgets of London, Bath, Oxford and York and maybe there’s a perception that its tucked away in the far northeast of England. Durham does get plenty of visitors but they’re mainly locals, so if you get fed up with the tourist crowds in London – Durham would be a great antidote.

In 2015, Bill Bryson is still right – Durham is a perfect little city although he didn’t mention its spectacular setting and surrounding countryside – the North Pennines and Durham Dales are some of the most unspoilt landscapes in England.


Profile photo of Peter Lynch

I’ve been writing about travel for the past 14 years and have travelled extensively from [A]ustralia to [Z]imbabwe. I’ve been around the world a few of times and have written widely for the international press in America, Australia and the UK, for newspapers, magazines and websites.I am also the author of a definitive guide to Wildlife Conservation Volunteering (Bradt, 2012) and have worked on volunteer projects in South America, Africa, India and Europe. Working from a riverboat on the Amazon has to be my favourite conservation project – a bit of comfort and luxury at the end of the day after getting filthy ploughing through the muddy jungle.I think the best way of getting around is travelling by train, not just because it’s eco-friendly but because I enjoy the journey as much as the destination. I’ve written a lot about train travel and am a contributing author to Great Railway Journeys of the World (Time Out 2009). My enthusiasm for travelling on trains culminated in 2011 – 2012 when I travelled around the world by train - from London to Sydney. This was the most amazing trip I’ve ever done and I spent three months because I couldn’t stop myself getting off to explore what couldn’t be seen from the window.Naturally it’s now a book!

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