Durham Castle was built in 1072 by the order of William the Conqueror, who intended it as a statement of power over the local Saxons as well as a bulwark against Scotland to the north. Like Windsor Castle, it is an outstanding example of the “motte-and-bailey” style of fortress, whereby an imposing, almost circular stone structure sits on raised earth surrounded by fortifications.
Since the Norman era, the castle has been expanded and remodeled and now includes a soaring Great Hall, the Gothic Revival Bishop’s Rooms and the impressive Black Staircase, added during the 17th century Restoration.
Today Durham Castle remains a residence, though not for lords and knights, but rather for students of the city's university which owns the site.
Review by scubagolf, October 2011
If you're in the vicinity of Durham City then it is well worth the trip to see this castle and the cathedral and walk the river walking paths surrounding the city. Visiting during university term time and holiday time can give one a different feel to the place. I was a student there many years ago and the castle was our hall of residence - an impressive monument to have as one's living place. I still go back from time to time, and it never ceases to amaze me that this castle is very much in use daily. Don't compare it to Windsor Castle because that castle is for Royals and tourists (an odd mix!), whereas Durham Castle has young people in the building and it's very much alive.
The cathedral is regarded as one of the finest Norman structure still standing today, so when one combines this with the castle, the ground and surroundings where these buildings stand, plus the shop and teashop inside the cathedral croft - I think one's visit will be most memorable.
Durham makes an easy side trip from nearby Newcastle. The castle can only be accessed with a guided tour, and you should also allow time to visit the nearby Durham Cathedral, the finest example of Norman ecclesiastical architecture in Britain.