Author Bill Bryson tells the tale of his love affair with Durham

It is a love affair that could inspire a novel of its own - travel author Bill Bryson's adoration of Durham.

The American-British writer has been speaking of his love for the city to ITV News Tyne Tees during County Durham's bid for City of Culture.

His first visit to Durham as a relatively unknown author in the mid-90s was recorded in his bestselling book, Notes from a Small Island (1995).

In it he described Durham as “wonderful – a perfect little city” and home to “the best cathedral on planet earth”. 

Remembering his first encounter with Durham, he said: "I was heading to Newcastle by way of York when I did another impetuous thing.

"I got off and Durham, intended to poke around the Cathedral for an hour or so...and fell in love with it instantly, in a serious way.

"I couldn't believe that not once, in 20 years, had anyone said to me, 'you've never been to Durham. Good God man, you must go at once! Please, take my car.'"

Bill Bryson says Durham Cathedral provides "one of the great backdrops in the world". Credit: PA

His love affair with the medieval city continues more than 25 years later.

"It is an absolutely magical place," he said. "When you see Durham and the cathedral, from the station, it's one of the great backdrops in the world; there's no question about that.

"I was just completely flabbergasted by how wonderful it was."

He continued: "And, also, walking up to it, from the station, through this absolutely perfect little city and up the cobbled street going up to the castle hill, to the palace green.

"It is just one of the great places in the whole world. In my view, it deserved then - and still deserves now - to be much much more famous."

Ten years after Notes from a Small Island was published, in 2005, Bryson was appointed Chancellor of the University of Durham - a post he held until 2011.

The following year the main library at University of Durham - which previously had no specific title - was named the Bill Bryson Library.

Bryson said: "I do genuinely and sincerely believe that it (Durham) is the most perfect place on Earth.

"And a big part of this, something that people in the North East never appreciate, is just how friendly it is.

"It is the most wonderful thing I think about the North East, is that it is genuinely the most friendly part of Britain; probably the most friendly part of the whole world."

The winner of City of Culture 2025 will be announced on Tuesday 31 May.

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