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Introducing County Durham

Spread across the lonely, rabbit-inhabited North Pennines and Teesdale's ochre hills, County Durham's star attraction is its county town. Its cathedral and adjoining castle were the seat of the once powerful prince bishops, rulers since 1081 of the Palatinate of Durham, a political entity created by William the Conqueror as a bulwark against Saxons and Scots.

The county was at the heart of the region's coal-mining industry, a brutal business that saw the last pit close in 1984 and left the landscape with some fast-dissolving yet evocative scarring.