Rooms start at £135 at Hotel Indigo Durham (Photo: Hotel Indigo Durham)

On a gloomy day in Durham a lifetime ago, my now-wife and I were part of an tense group of twenty-somethings who sat around a bulletin board, sticking our necks out to try and see the pages where our financial statements were posted.

Now, in the blazing sun, we were back, daughters in tow, in the same building. The former university office in Old Shire Hall is now the Hotel Indigo Durham and we are happy on holiday.

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Recently awarded a Silver Medal in the Visit England Awards for Excellence, Hotel Indigo is as comfortable and chic as the gong suggests — marble floors and stained glass windows throughout.

Meat eaters can also indulge themselves: adjacent is a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill, located in the old Senate Chamber.

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As we relax in our chic, classic room (each room is uniquely decorated), the stress of final exams is a distant memory, but as a family we quickly make new ones.

This is where my seven-year-old daughter enjoyed her first – and certainly not her last – knickerbocker fame. Either way, Durham will always have a special place in her heart for that.

The university’s Old Shire Hall has been lovingly repurposed (Photo: Hotel Indigo Durham)


The incredible view over Durham’s wondrous Norman cathedral. The fact-packed tours are a treat: it has a rare example of medieval glass that survived Henry VIII’s dissolution, an extraordinary vaulted stone ceiling – the first of its kind in the world – and views for miles from the tower. Close to Palace Green is Durham Castle, which itself dates back almost 1,000 years. Guided tours provide insight into the politics of the region. Central Durham is within easy reach, a place you never tire of. It is a bijou town with narrow, winding streets. There are many characterful riverside pubs and terraces, gin bars on bridges and restaurants aplenty.

Who goes there

The streets are often teeming with bright young people, so expect visiting parents to camp during the school year. When the university is quiet and all the Volvos are gone, couples are waiting for a romantic weekend away.

Out and about

The River Wear is a fantastic place for a romantic stroll and if you want more nature there’s the Botanic Gardens. Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, is an outdoor attraction with themed areas from all eras. For example, explore a mining village and colliery from the 1900s with shops and traditional vehicles that transport visitors. There are also regular bobbies to keep troublesome daughters in order. Set around a medieval country house and recently acquired by the National Trust, the Crook Hall Gardens also provide a charming retreat.

Rooms from £135, Hotel Indigo Durham.