A definitive ranking of every Durham college bar, from best to worst
This might prove a little controversial, to say the least
Here at Durham, college bars are an integral part of student life. They’re where we’re initiated into societies, where we meet our sports team all dressed up in ridiculous fancy dress, and where we pre-drink (a little too much) before college formals. Though sadly, as Durham heads into its fifth week of an online only term where all the bars are shut, drinking your stress away in a college bar seems like a distant memory.
We’ve set out to answer one simple question: Once they’re all open again, which of the college bars will be the most worthwhile place to spend your night? All factors into consideration (location, price, atmosphere, people), here is a comprehensive listing all the Durham college bars, ranked from best to worst. This will make you miss the pubs, sorry!
As much as we might not want to admit it, it comes as no surprise that “The Stag’s Head” makes the top spot. It has a massive bar, great outdoor area, a reusable cup system (we love the environment, take note, other colleges…), and stocks of almost every type of booze under the sun. What’s not to love? Slightly unrelated, but their toastie bar (a short walk from the bar) shuts around midnight, so is the perfect way to line your stomach. Its popularity does result in some pretty long queues, but it’s definitely worth it.
Famous for being the end-goal of all bar crawls, the “Undie” inside Durham Castle never fails to impress. If you are fortunate enough to even be allowed inside, this bar will make for the most atmospheric pint-off of your student life. Despite its exclusivity and charm, it falls shy of the top spot for its cash-only policy… It really is stuck in the 11th century.
A large bar with an even larger garden, you can rely on Cuth’s Bar for a good time. It doesn’t quite have the same drinks range as Collingwood, and it obviously doesn’t have the aesthetic of a Norman Castle, but in every other aspect Cuth’s bar delivers. You can be sure you’ll have a great night here.
This bar couldn’t prove the saying “Grey by name, Grey by nature” more wrong. Accessible to all at the bottom of South Road, “The Greyhound” never fails to provide cheap drinks and a good atmosphere. The college drink, “chili vodka”, is definitely one to tick off the list. Sadly, it’s not quite as iconic as Collingwood or Castle, and doesn’t have the outdoor space of Cuth’s, which is why it belongs in fourth place.
Small. Pretty, but small. Chad’s bar boasts an original tube-like map of Durham, and you can enjoy your drink in a classy conservatory-like “Quad”, which sets it apart from the rest – it’s probably the most Insta-worthy of them all. But alcohol and those stairs don’t mix – try and visit this one early in a bar crawl to avoid any bruising.
Not the most spacious inside, and it’s dark but cosy. It also has a garden that overlooks the river, which makes for a very scenic VK boat race. However, it is like Castle in the respect that getting into the bar is a challenge in itself.
Much like the college, you will either love or hate Hatfield Bar. If you go to Hatfield yourself, you will defend this bar till the day you die, and will refuse to admit that any other bar could do it better. If you don’t go to Hatfield, your stay won’t be long- you don’t want to be mistaken for someone who actually goes there!
Hatfield hate aside, their bar is big, modern, close to the clubs and the drinks are cheap. Despite being surrounded by schoffels and chinos all evening (and the fact that the bar feels weirdly like a cafe??), you’ll have a decent night here. If you are too sober and need to catch up before hitting the clubs, take a shot every time you hear someone talking about their “gap yah”.
Despite its distance from town, Butler Bar is arguably very underrated. It has the most amount of space (ideal for a social), and is stocked with pool tables, dartboards, and a stage. Arguably, however, its best feature is the food – you can get takeaway food pretty much all day every day. This includes an iconic “Ultimate Nugget Platter” which does taste as good as it sounds. The gross college drink aside (the Suffragette I think?), the cheap booze and good food mean you will never be hungry or sober here. Maybe it is worth the 30 minute walk out of town after all.
9. Van Mildert
Van Mildert Bar is the definition of “standard” – it’s spacious, modern, has reasonable prices, but nothing really stands out here (apart from the ducks you see on your way in, of course). It’s a great stop for a bar crawl, being in the centre of the hill, but equally, skipping it isn’t the end of the world either.
Much like Jobo, the trek up to Stevo places it further down in the rankings. However, after a recent refurb, Stevo Bar is not one to be overlooked. It’s spacious, hosts a pool table, has a banging college drink (the “steamo”) and you can order pizza from the bar. What’s not to love?
A walk up South Road and a further 85 steps later, you arrive at Aidan’s Bar. Was it worth the glute work? Unfortunately not. The college drink, a black shot of “Unicum”, is as horrible as it sounds. At least you can tick the box and say you’ve been, but you won’t be going back in a hurry.
Stepping into Trevs bar feels like stepping back in time and into your primary school lunch hall – the coloured plastic chairs and the plastic cups set the tone early on. I have never seen this bar busy, but at least you will have the full attention of the bar staff.
As iconic as the Mary’s challenge is, this shoebox-sized bar can’t be placed any higher in the rankings. After the impressive main building gets your hopes up, your descent down some steps and into a damp and dark basement lets them down.
The location of Ustinov, far away from literally everything, doesn’t do its bar any favours. Despite the trek to get there, and the fact that it feels a little bit like a night out with your parents, it’s spacious and modern with a wide selection of drinks. If you’re a postgrad and want a break from your studies, but don’t want to be surrounded by fresh, this is the place to be.
15. Hild Bede
Hild Bede’s bar, “The Vern”, is so out of reach that it is a mystery to all of us. Hild Bede freshers seem to rate it highly, but anyone outside of that demographic probably doesn’t believe them.
16 and 17. South and John Snow
Only South and John Snow College freshers will have been able to experience their respective brand-new bars – the rest of us are in the dark. In terms of how they compare to other college bars, only time will tell.