Day 1. A weekend in Durham

Durham is a small city nestled on the banks of the River Wear in the north east of England.  It’s famous for its Norman cathedral, 11th century castle and world renowned university, with this part of the city designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In his book ‘Notes from a small island’ Bill Bryson called Durham a perfect little city and we were excited to be following in his footsteps and exploring the city for ourselves.

Durham Cathedral overlooking the River Wear
Durham Cathedral overlooking the River Wear

The city is easily accessible by road, just off the A1M at Junction 62, and by rail as it is on the East Coast main line.  We enjoy travelling by train and arrived into Durham around lunchtime on an LNER inter-city service.  The station lies on top of a steep hill but help is at hand for those not wishing to trundle their luggage downhill as the Cathedral Bus operates Monday – Saturday around the city centre and up to the cathedral at just £1 for a day ticket.

Durham market place
Durham market place

After dropping our bags off at the hotel we headed to The Riverside where we found a selection of bars and restaurants for a spot of lunch overlooking the River Wear.  Feeling suitably refreshed, we made our way to the Market Place which looked attractive in the afternoon sun.  In the middle of the square stands a larger than life statue of a man on a horse.  To be more precise, it is of Charles William Stewart, 3rd Marquis of Londonderry, 1778-1854.

On the eastern side of the square is the Church of St. Nicholas which was built in 1858 to replace an earlier church from the 12th century sharing the same name.

The church of St. Nicholas, Durham
The church of St. Nicholas, Durham

We’d come to visit the Town Hall next door to the church which offers free admission and is open from 10.00-3.00 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday.  Tours are self-guided with helpful members of staff on hand to point out artefacts and provide more information.

Durham Town Hall
Durham Town Hall

The Town Hall has been a central part of Durham’s history since 1350 and has recently re-opened following refurbishment works.  The Great Hall built in a 14th century Gothic style drew inspiration from Westminster Hall in London with its 16 metre high hammer beam oak ceiling.  It also features a beautiful stained glass window at the rear of the hall depicting bishops who granted charters to the city and of Durham Cathedral and its people.

The Grand Hall, Durham Town Hall
The Grand Hall

The Mayor’s Chamber was the official meeting room of the city council and is resplendent with oak panelling and portraits of former mayors and civic dignitaries lining its walls.

The Mayor's Chamber, Durham Town Hall
The Mayor’s Chamber

Other displays showcase colourful local characters such as Joseph Boruwlaski (1739-1837). the 3ft tall ‘Little Count’ who retired to Durham in 1790 after performing at the grandest Royal courts of Europe.  There’s also the bell from Durham’s adopted ship the HMS Invincible which was deployed as an aircraft carrier during the Falklands War.

The Lantern Room, Durham Town Hall
The Lantern Room

The Guildhall connects to the Town Hall and is usually open to the public but at the time of our visit renovations were taking place and it was shrouded in scaffolding.

Durham Market Hall
Durham Market Hall

Adjacent to the Town Hall and Guildhall is Durham Market Hall, home to more than 40 independent traders with many of the stalls remaining in the same hands for generations.  The market was established in 1851 by an Act of Parliament and continues to operate as one of the few privately owned markets in the U.K.  Opening hours 9.00 -16.30 Monday to Saturday.

Durham Market Hall
Inside the market hall

We enjoyed a wander around finding everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to second-hand books, street food and candles.  The attractive Victorian hall is light and airy and has a pleasant cafe up on the balcony offering views of the traders below.

Prince Bishop's Shopping Centre, Durham
Prince Bishop’s Shopping Centre

After leaving the building we spotted some brightly coloured umbrellas adorning the Prince Bishops shopping centre which looked very photogenic.  This art installation was inspired by a similar public art display in Agueda, Portugal which has been copied around the world bringing a pop of colour to our high streets.

View from Framwellgate Bridge, Durham
View from Framwellgate Bridge

Our stroll continued along the narrow pedestrianised Silver Street as far as Framwellgate Bridge, a medieval stone arched bridge crossing the River Wear.  At the far end of the bridge we accessed the riverside path via a flight of stone steps and enjoyed a stroll under the shade of the trees whilst walking upstream.

View of Durham Cathedral from the riverside path
Spectacular views of Durham Cathedral from the riverside

From the riverbank there are splendid views of the 900 year old Durham Castle which was built by William the Conqueror and is now part of Durham University.  The pathway follows the river around the peninsula passing an old corn mill and a school boathouse where there are benches to sit and take in the dramatic views.

Views from Prebends Bridge, Durham
The Corn Mill and Boathouse viewed from Prebends Bridge

It wasn’t long before we had reached Prebends Bridge (1778) where we crossed the river.  On the bridge there is a stone plaque inscribed with a verse by Sir Walter Scott taken from “Harold the Dauntless”.  It was in 1827 that Scott was a guest of the Bishop of Durham at a dinner held in honour of the Duke of Wellington which inspired his verse.

Prebends Bridge, Durham
Prebends Bridge

After crossing the bridge we left the riverside returning to the centre along The Bailey.  Both the North and South Baileys are among the most attractive and historic streets in Durham and form part of the World Heritage Site.

The Bailey, Durham
The Bailey

The Bailey formed part of the enclosure of the Norman Castle with some of the properties occupying the remains of the castle walls.  The houses were originally owned by the military who maintained the castle but by the 17th century the location high on a hill away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre became a fashionable neighbourhood.

St. John's College, Durham
St. John’s College, Durham

Nowadays the main occupants of the South Bailey are St. John’s College and St. Cuthbert’s Society both of which are associated with Durham University.  It was our plan to visit the cathedral and explore this part of the city in greater depth the following day so we continued downhill to Elvet Bridge, the second oldest after Framwellgate which we had crossed earlier.

Elvet Bridge, Durham
Elvet Bridge

This narrow bridge was a hive of activity with bars and restaurants spilling out onto the pavement along the edge of the bridge.  It was so nice to see so many people out and about enjoying the balmy weather.  At the far end of the bridge, my eyes lit up when I spotted the Tin of Sardines Gin Bar.

The Tin of Sardines Gin Bar, Durham
The Tin of Sardines Gin Bar

This is one of the smallest gin bars in the world and with COVID social distancing rules still in place, can currently only accommodate 13 people.  Fortunately, the weather couldn’t have been better and we were able to find an outdoor table to enjoy a refreshing gin and tonic from their vast selection of 230 different types.

Elvet Bridge, Durham
Rowing boats for hire beneath the bridge

From the bridge we watched people enjoying a leisurely row along this idyllic stretch of river in such perfect, still conditions.  Brown’s Rowing Boats operate from beneath Elvet Bridge between March to September (£7.50) per person.

Rowing boats on the River Wear in Durham
Rowing on the River Wear

After eating dinner we set off again, this time to visit Wharton Park, located high on a hill just above the railway station.  It was a bit of a climb up to the park but worth the hike as there are spectacular skyline views of the cathedral and across the city.

Stunning views of Durham Cathedral from Wharton Park
Stunning views of Durham Cathedral from Wharton Park

In 2016 the park re-opened after a £3m restoration programme with the inclusion of a splendid open air theatre with stage and seating carved out of the grassy slopes.  Winding paths lead through the gardens to a heritage centre and cafe.  The well equipped park also boasts a putting green and miniature car track (currently closed).

Open Air Theatre, Wharton Park, Durham
The open air theatre

Thankfully it was then all downhill back to the centre and we were soon back at our hotel reflecting on what a lovely start to the weekend it had been with such beautiful weather.  To be continued.

 

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Exploring Durham

 

88 thoughts on “Day 1. A weekend in Durham

  1. jasonlikestotravel

    Glad you finally got the chance to visit Durham, that was actually my last pre-Covid trip that I squeezed in. It’s a lovely city, I must have missed the colourful umbrellas though. That’s pretty cool! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes it’s great that we can now get out and about and explore more of our home country. I can’t imagine why I hadn’t visited Durham before as I had glimpsed it from train windows on my way to Edinburgh many times! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Amanda.

      Like

  2. Great job dear.
    Durham is a city in northeast England.. North of the castle, 13th-century, medieval Crook Hall is home to gardens and a maze.
    I just know this about Durham, But I hadn’t visit this place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful place to explore and take a step back in time. I had to google more about Durham’s Cathedral, and I have to say it’s a truly spectacular place of worships especially its stone vaulted ceiling. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I went to university in Durham, so your post brought back lots of happy memories (although some parts have changed a lot since I was there!). Glad to see you did the river walk to Prebends Bridge. In the three years I was there, I never tired of the views or the walk, it’s such a beautiful and peaceful part of the world. Looking forward to reading your other posts about Durham 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Apologies my finger inadvertently caught on the post arrow before I’d finished writing because I’m sitting in the garden and can’t see the screen properly. I was trying to say that Beautiful South were and still are one of my all time favourites with Blackbird on the Wire and many more, but I never got to see them. Hope your weekend is going well. Marion

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Durham is one of my favourites. Had a perfect moment in a beer garden overlooking the Wear, listening to Beautiful South singing Perfect 10. End of the last century I reckon. Looking forward to your piece on the Cathedral which is truly magnificent inside and out.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m so pleased to read Shane that Durham is one of your favourite cities. I can’t understand why we’d only glimpsed it from train windows in the past as it is an absolute delight. Beautiful South with Paul Heaton , Jacque Abbot and co. in

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Durham looks so quaint and historic. Another place we keep trying to get to but haven’t quite made it to. Looks great from the train as we’ve travelled through and love your photos.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Jonno for taking an interest in the first of my posts on Durham. You must try and visit sometime as it’s such a beautiful city with elegant buildings. Like you, I’d only glanced the city from train windows heading to and from Edinburgh. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to stop off there but I’ll definitely be returning as it’s so lovely. Hope your weekend is going well. Marion

      Liked by 3 people

  8. What a stunning city! The view of the cathedral from the river vaguely reminds me of the views in Albi, France, although the two cities are worlds apart. I’d never heard of Durham until now, and I can see that I’m sorely missing out on such a beautiful little place! Should I make it back to England, I’ll definitely have to make the trek up north to check it out! Thanks for sharing, Marion. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  9. In Canada the name Durham is probably better known for the former colonial governor than for his home town. Your review of the town also takes you back in time to the days of the great lords who administered their estates with skill. Today it remains an elegant and attractive city to visit. Thank you for showing it to us so beautifully.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. nice full turn with you, is the furst time that i have hire about this beauti place near of a wonderful River, nie osting it’s like my posting about old city azmour in Morocco 🇲🇦. nice to meet you

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I’ve only ever seen Durham from the train passing through. One of these days, I need to stop off there. Lovely photos, Marion, and how lucky you were with the weather 🙂 Look forward to reading more about your time in Durham!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I love the Town Hall building with it’s beautiful architecture and the walk overlooking the castle is stunning. I always show your posts to my husband as a motivation for us to move to the UK. I’ll convince him one of these days 🙂 Have a great weekend Marion!- Meg

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Another brilliant post Marion. Durham is indeed attractive and interesting. It is amazing how much life a university can bring to a small city. The river looks gorgeous. We saw similar umbrella art displays in Old Town Nice and in Old Quebec. They do make for some stunning photos. Thanks for taking us along. Have a great weekend. Allan

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Durham looks like a wonderful place to explore with its medieval castle and buildings. Travelling is such a great way to learn more about the history of a certain area. The umbrella art installation at the Prince Bishops shopping centre looks beautiful!

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Thank you very much for taking us to Durham and giving us all these infos. We have been to Durham several times. Now we know what we missed to see.
    Wishing you a great weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  16. How lucky to be blessed with the good weather and such lovely sights.. Your photographs, as ever, are excellent.Certainly sounds a worth-while venue for a weekend with the castle and cathedral and beautiful country and river-side scenery. Keep well on your travels. Hugs xx

    Liked by 4 people

  17. I love how the Cathedral is “popping’ up through the trees! And the umbrella street is really lovely – did indeed made a colourful photo!
    And the market hall also looks like a nice place where one can take a stroll to stroll … indeed a perfect little city!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Durham is an absolutely gorgeous small city and I don’t know why we had never got around to visiting previously. We had a lovely time with so much to see and beautiful weather too. Thanks so much for commenting, it’s much appreciated. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

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