Scotland on Sunday, Do Not Disturb
Durham seems to be on a roll just now: the treasures of St Cuthbert are back on show at the city’s cathedral, while live action extravaganza Kynren, which celebrates 2,000 years of English history, myth and legend, is pulling in the crowds in Bishop Auckland. So, if I’m to make the most of my short break in the city, a bit of indulgence is in order. The Radisson’s business room is just the ticket – acres of space, luxury shower and a glimpse of the glorious cathedral. The good thing about staying in a Radisson hotel is that you know what you will get in terms of comfort and service, leaving you free to enjoy the cultural attractions on its doorstep. The art of a break in Durham is packing in just enough to feel you have your finger on the pulse, while still making it a relaxing experience.
Budget or boutique?
There are cheaper places to stay, but as this purpose-built riverside hotel is only a few years old, it is looking good and service is impeccable.
A riverside room obviously has the more congenial views and an upgrade to a business room brings more space, a Nespresso machine, as well as drinks and nibbles in the early evening.
Wining and dining
The Collage restaurant is a quirky setting: a motorbike takes pride of place in its funky décor. The menu is a mix of brasserie and gastro-pub classics. However, on a leisure break you are probably going to explore and chance upon one of the town’s home-grown foodie offerings.
The self-service breakfast covers all the traditional bases with some special-order treats for a morning flourish. It will set you up for the walking you are sure to do.
Worth getting out of bed for
Durham itself, of course: the Radisson is perfectly placed with a footbridge across the River Wear at the front door which cuts the walk to the historic city centre.
The obvious destination is the cathedral and its newest addition, Open Treasure, the imaginative – and quietly hi-tech – home for its most important artefacts.
The long journey of St Cuthbert’s relics reached another milestone at the end of July when they went back on public view at this a multi-million pound exhibition space. The relics – wooden coffin, embroidered vestments and pectoral cross – could not be put on display until everyone was happy with the environmental conditions in the refurbished octagonal medieval monastic kitchen.
Time spent in the cathedral is always rewarded, whether by the ethereal sound of singing or by contemplation of powerful modern art.
In its second year, Kynren is bigger, brighter and bolder. There are more participants creating its intoxicating interpretation of English history – as far as entertainment goes this is as exhilarating as you can imagine. Bishop Auckland is just 11 miles away so Durham makes the ideal place to linger before the evening’s entertainment.
History is an inevitable consequence of a visit to Durham – the city has a World Heritage site at its heart, after all. When you tire of its lessons and have exhausted its shops and coffee bars, Crook Hall and Garden is a short walk along the river from the Radisson. A haven from the bustle of the town, it’s easy to see why it has become the second most visited attraction in the city.
The hotel’s leisure centre is one of the best you’ll find, with 15-metre swimming pool, sauna and steam room. There’s also a spa and gym on site, so whether you need relaxation or more exercise, it’s all included. The hotel car park is a bonus, though you won’t need wheels to explore the cobbles and steep gradients of the city.
Central and comfortable, this newcomer is setting the bar high for city hosts.
Radisson Blu, Frankland Lane, Durham DH1 5TA, 0191 372 7200. Rooms from £85.50 per person (www.radissonblu.com/en/hotel-durham)
Kynren shows this year: 9 September, 16 September. Tickets £25-£55 adults, £19-£41 children (www.elevenarches.org)
Open Treasure, Durham Cathedral, open daily, adults £7.50, under fives free, child 5-18 £2.50 (www.durhamcathedral.co.uk)