The Central Tower
At 218ft tall, the tower of the cathedral is one of the most recognisable sights in Durham.
Conquer the 325 steps and enjoy unrivalled views over the historic city of Durham and see recently-completed restoration work up close.
Where is this space?
In good weather conditions, you can climb the 325 steps to the top for breathtaking views of the city stretching for miles.
Entry to the tower is accessed via the South Transept.
How is it used today?
Providing beautiful views for our visitors, the tower is open to climb during good weather conditions.
Today the central tower houses 10 bells, which are regularly rung by our volunteer bellringers.
The Central Tower in the medieval monastery
The tower of the cathedral can be seen for miles across Durham, and this was intentional. When designing and building the cathedral, the role of the tower’s height was to reassure pilgrims when travelling to Durham, letting them know that their destination was close.
Changes over the past 500 years
A major three-year conservation project on the central tower finished in late 2018. The restoration work conserved and replaced weathered stone on the upper part of the central tower, completed entirely by our in-house team of around 8 stonemasons.
The fast-weathering sandstone used to build the towers means repair work has been common over the centuries. The central tower was rebuilt in the fifteenth century after lightning strikes, and Victorian architects added a parapet to the central tower in the nineteenth century.
Wheelchair users and visitors with limited mobility
The cathedral tower is not accessible without use of stairs. There are 325 steep stairs through a narrow passageway. Alternatively, at the base of the tower is a touchscreen, which you can use to see the views from the tower.
Visitors with a hearing impairment
There are interpretation panels throughout the climb to the top of the tower featuring a mass of information.
The tower can be very narrow and crowded to climb. You may have to pass other visitors on your way. If you wish to climb the tower, please contact our Visitor Desk.
The climb is dark with minimal natural light and can be cold. At the top of the tower, the weather can be very windy and wet.
Blind and partially sighted visitors
Light levels in the tower can be very low and the stairs are uneven.