ACADEMIC gowns at the ready, Jacquetta Gomes, of Kendal, is looking forward to formal dinners in the “magical” setting of Durham Castle’s Great Hall, thanks to a prestigious invitation.

Four decades after studying social sciences at Durham University, Mrs Gomes has been invited to become a member of its University College Senior Common Room, which is composed of academics, tutors and people from the wider community.

Members can use the Common Room, attend talks and dine in Durham Castle’s magnificent 13th century Great Hall and play croquet in the Fellows Garden.

“It’s a really special, unique opportunity,” said Mrs Gomes, 59, who is secretary of the Buddhist Group of Kendal, and also worked on the Faith and Fire project to help increase awareness of different faiths among the Fire and Rescue Services.

Mrs Gomes has fond memories of her days at Durham in the 1970s, and she said that Durham Castle, with its 900-year history, is the oldest building in use at any university in Europe, “possibly the world”, which made it feel very special.