Getting Married in Durham Castle
Looking for a historic wedding venue? We recently visited the iconic Durham Castle and loved what we saw! For the ultimate castle wedding venue in the North East, it could be your perfect choice. Read on to find out more…
Getting married in Durham Castle allows you and your guests step back in time at this unique Grade 1 listed castle. The castle is adjacent to Durham Cathedral in the cobbled “bailey” area of the city. It is perched high above the River Wear, at a point where the river loops back on itself, and is almost entirely surrounded by water. The surroundings are truly breathtaking, and make for fabulous photographs.
The venue has only been licensed for civil wedding ceremonies since 2016 so is one of the newest licensed venues in County Durham and holds around 40 weddings a year. During term time the castle is the home for students at the prestigious Durham University so the castle is only available for weddings during the Easter, Christmas and summer holidays. Most weddings take place during July, August and September. As soon as the students leave at the end of June, a team of groundsmen transform the grounds from university to wedding venue.
Guests access the castle drive up steep, narrow cobbled streets to the top of the Bailey. Each wedding couple are given 15 parking passes for guests to park outside the castle and cathedral. There’s additional car parking at the bottom of the Bailey.
Your guests will enter through huge double castle doors under a wide arch into a grassy courtyard before they are shown to your chosen location for the wedding ceremony. Your wedding will be the only one at the castle that day to make it feel truly your own.
Limited access for wheelchair users
One thing to be aware of is the limitations when it comes to wheelchair users. Other than this first courtyard, there are steps to every part of the castle. It is a historical Grade 1 listed building so unfortunately modern additions like lifts are unfeasible. There are too many steps to use ramps, and a lot of the steps are sloped and uneven. In fact, some of the floors are at an interesting angle too! This adds to the character of the building and your guests will love the authenticity. However with the cobbled streets leading to the castle and so many steps, this isn’t the venue for you if you have guests in wheelchairs or with limited mobility.
Your wedding ceremony
There are two small rooms licensed for civil ceremonies, one of which is lined with priceless tapestries. They are both next to each other on the second floor. This offers really flexible options for the drinks reception to be in the other of the two rooms while your ceremony room is turned around for the wedding breakfast.
The most popular option for the wedding ceremony is the Norman Gallery which comfortably fits 120 guests. It consists of a long hall on the third floor with thick stone walls and windows looking down over the courtyard below. Your guests enter through double doors at the top of a wide wooden staircase. You will enter via a narrow winding stone staircase from the other end of the gallery. It brings you straight out at the far end of the long aisle to make a dramatic entrance.
Outdoor weddings in Durham Castle
Durham Castle is one of the few places in England where you can legally get married outdoors. Stone steps lead down to the Fellow’s Garden. This walled courtyard has shrub borders and a huge tree that flowers throughout the spring and summer. Up to 100 guests can be seated on chairs on the grass, leaving a central aisle. You’ll need a long piece of entrance music to take you from the top of the steps to the top of the aisle. It is a bit longer than the average aisle!
Regardless of the weather, if you are opting for a garden wedding the team at Durham Castle will have prepared the Norman Gallery for your ceremony too. This gives total flexibility for last minute changes.
Your drinks reception
Whether your wedding ceremony is held in the Garden or the Norman Gallery, you have a choice for your drinks reception. On a sunny day, you can’t beat the main courtyard with grassy areas and wooden picnic tables. A hundred guests can line up on the stone stairs leading from the courtyard for a fantastic group photo.
The Tunstall Gallery, immediately below the Norman Gallery, is a fairly narrow hall looking out over the courtyard. It houses many artefacts from the castle which will fascinate your guests.
For real atmosphere, take your guests back in time into the vaulted cellar below the castle for your drinks reception. This is where the college bar is during university term time. For weddings it transforms into a medieval bar where you could choose to create a special cocktail from one of their many artisan gins.
Your wedding breakfast
By this stage in your wedding celebrations your guests will already feel that they have had the full castle experience. A wedding breakfast in the huge Great Hall will exceed all their expectations. The hall looks like it is straight from the set of Hogwarts. There are long wooden banqueting tables with a long top table on a stage at one end. There is armour on the walls, high stained glass windows and lots of dark wood panelling. You’ll have no need for lavish table settings or lots of flowers or decorations; the room sets the scene for you.
For your evening reception, there is a modern buffet area adjacent to the Great Hall for catering. The dining hall has wooden floors which easily act as a dance floor. There is already raised staging for the band or disco. As there are no immediate neighbours to disturb and the walls are so thick, you can really turn the music up!
There is space for up to 200 guests to be seated in the dining hall at long tables.
The wedding night
Book the castle’s wedding package and you’ll receive a honeymoon suite within the castle for the wedding night. You’ll have your own living room with a piano, a four-poster bedroom and a quirky bathroom up a few stone steps. There is a second en-suite bedroom suite on the floor below.
Can guests stay nearby?
There are only two suites within the castle, however they also offer many 4* en-suite bedrooms on the university campus that are perfect for wedding guests as they are located within the main Castle or in the Owengate building adjacent.The Durham Radisson Blu, Durham Marriott Hotel Royal County Hotel, Premier Inn and historic Hotel Indigo are all within a pleasant few minutes’ walk.
The perfect Harry Potter themed Hogwarts wedding venue
When you walk around Durham Castle you feel like you are in Hogwarts. The long wooden dining tables, armour hanging on the walls and wide crooked wooden staircases all add to the illusion. The castle itself isn’t a filming location for the movies, but for a Harry Potter-themed wedding venue, it’s hard to beat! If you are a Harry Potter fan, you may already be familiar with scenes from Durham Cathedral next door to the castle, as it is one of the most recognisable buildings featured in the Harry Potter films. The spectacular Norman cloisters of the cathedral became the snow-dusted quadrangle for the owl-flying scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Professor McGonagall taught Harry and his friends to turn animals into water goblets in the cathedral’s chapter house.
How much does hiring Durham Castle for a wedding cost?
Our tour of the castle was full of lovely surprises, none more so than the cost of a wedding here. It is really good to see one of England’s historic venues at a price that so many couples can afford.
Venue hire for wedding at Durham Castle is £1,500. Three course menus are from £45 per person. Wine is from £18.00 a bottle, with sparkling wine from £24.00. Jamie and his catering team will help plan you choose a package to suit you, your theme and your budget. The castle offers special package rates for weddings from Monday to Thursday.
Getting to Durham Castle
Durham is in County Durham in the North East of England. It is 3 hours by train from London and an hour by train from Leeds. It is just 15 minutes from Newcastle where there is an international airport.
For more details and their latest midweek offers please visit the Durham Castle listing online.
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