Launch of augmented reality project  set to bring new life to Durham’s heritage

Launch of augmented reality project set to bring new life to Durham’s heritage

Durham City is one of twelve of England’s historic cities which have collaborated to develop an innovative augmented reality (AR) product that is set to bring heritage to life.

The app has been produced by the England’s Heritage Cities consortium, of which Visit County Durham is a founding member, with funding secured from the Discover England Fund. Working in partnership with Durham Cathedral, the ground-breaking new AR experience consists of an app and videos that transport the user back in time to unveil the hidden lives of some of history’s most fascinating characters.


The premise of the app is to capture significant historic moments in time whilst providing tourists with the opportunity to explore England’s most historic cities. It uses cutting-edge technology to give the historical moments a fresh perspective and make history’s fascinating characters come to life.


It is set to transform Durham Cathedral’s appeal by making its fascinating heritage more accessible by introducing it to a new, more technologically-motivated and younger audience. It also hopes to encourage return visitors by offering the opportunity to experience an attraction in a different way. In a rapidly-changing and competitive tourist environment, the use of AR technology will offer a point of difference that will attract visitors and showcase the best of the city.


In Durham City the AR experience brings the story of the historic cathedral to life through a set of trigger points inside the iconic building. Through the app, visitors will discover the earliest stirrings of recorded English history, meet the Venerable Bede and experience a rare glimpse into the enigmatic and scholarly lives of the Benedictine monks.


Michelle Gorman, managing director of Visit County Durham, said: “This is one of the most exciting tourism products on the market – a true marrying of old and new and a completely innovative way to inspire an increasingly digital world to take a step back into the past. It enables Durham and all the cities in question to be able to reach new audiences and showcase the iconic cultural heritage we have to offer. New audiences and repeat visits all help to raise the profile of Durham and boost the visitor economy in our county.”


Ruth Robson, head of marketing and events, Durham Cathedral, said: “We are always looking for creative and innovative ways to engage with our visitors, and the England’s Heritage Cities app reveals the remarkable history and heritage of Durham Cathedral from a new perspective. We would encourage as many people as possible to download the app and use it to explore Durham and the other Heritage Cities represented, which all have their own fascinating stories to tell.”


England’s Heritage Cities cover the length and breadth of England, from Canterbury to Durham and Salisbury to Carlisle. They offer diverse experiences and all of them are well-connected via rail, making it easy for tourists to travel to more than one at a time.


The exciting new project is one of a number of projects to benefit from the £40 million Discover England Fund - a central government-funded programme of activity administered by VisitEngland supported by match-funding from private and public partners.


The ‘England’s Historic Cities’ app is available to download for free in Google Play and on the app store or at


Website URL:
App Store:
Google Play:


Michelle Gorman, managing director of Visit County Durham, and The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham, trying out the app at Durham Cathedral

Michelle Gorman, managing director of Visit County Durham, and The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham, trying out the app at Durham Cathedral

The Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral which features on the app

The Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral which features on the app




Katharine Capocci  T: 03000 261223




Notes to editors:

About Visit County Durham


  • Visit County Durham (VCD) is the Destination Management Organisation for County Durham working on behalf of businesses and public agencies. We came into being on 1 April 2006 and are a private, not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, with a board of directors including an executive director.
  •  The company’s main funder is Durham County Council. The private sector also contributes financially to our work in return for benefits and activities that meet their needs.
  • Visit County Durham assists the county to fulfil its potential as one of North East England’s lead destinations, attracting visitors to the region from across the UK and from target overseas markets. Its objective is to ensure that the tourism sector performs to its maximum capacity and brings economic benefits to the county in the form of wealth and job creation. Its broad aims are to attract people to the area and to provide visitors with the best possible experience.


About Durham Cathedral


  • Durham Cathedral has been a place of welcome, worship and hospitality for almost a millennium. It is a Christian Church of the Anglican Communion, the Shrine of St Cuthbert, the seat of the Bishop of Durham and a focus of pilgrimage and spirituality in North East England.
  • Today Durham Cathedral attracts over 700,000 visitors each year from all over the world. Located at the heart of the Durham UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is often referred to as the best example of Romanesque architecture in Europe, or as American writer Bill Bryson put it, ‘the best Cathedral on planet earth.’ 
  • Durham Cathedral has recently enhanced its visitor offer with the launch of Open Treasure, a £10.9 million development project which concluded in July 2016, transforming some of the Cathedral’s most historic spaces into a world-class exhibition experience. Open Treasure tells the story of Christianity in the North of England, monastic life in Durham and the life of the Cathedral today, through the Cathedral’s magnificent collections and a rolling programme of exhibitions. Open Treasure received a £3.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.


About the Discover England Fund

  • In November 2015, the Government announced a £40 million Discover England Fund; an unprecedented opportunity for English tourism. The Fund aims to deliver world-class bookable tourism products joined up across geographies and/or themes; including integrated transport solutions to provide an end-to-end customer experience.
  • The Fund supports the growth of one of England’s most successful export industries, inbound tourism. England has seen record tourism spend in the past year from both domestic and international visitors delivering economic growth and jobs across all the English regions.
  • The Fund will support a number of projects and pilots in year one (2016/17) to test and develop product development approaches and a small number of large-scale collaborative projects that create a step-change in bookable English tourism product for international consumers (in years two and three - 2017-19). A smaller funding pot for new one year projects and pilots, and continuation funding for existing round one projects that can demonstrate early learnings, will also be available.

About VisitBritain/VisitEngland

  • VisitBritain/VisitEngland is the national tourism agency – a non-departmental public body funded by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)
  • Working with a wide range of partners in both the UK and overseas, our mission is to grow the volume and value of inbound tourism across the nations and regions of Britain and to develop world-class English tourism product to support our growth aspirations. For further information and to access the latest in-depth market intelligence and statistics visit or and  for consumer information.

About England’s Heritage Cities

  • England’s Heritage Cities is a consortium of cities who work together principally focused on marketing, lobbying and research. The consortium includes the destination management organisations representing Bath, Cambridge, Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Greenwich, Lancaster, Lincoln, Oxford, Salisbury, Stratford-upon-Avon and York. More information is available on




Published: 22, June, 2017

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