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.