Day 2. Exploring Durham Cathedral and University

Sunshine streamed through the windows as we drew back the curtains and it looked as if the previous day’s beautiful weather was continuing.  We started the day with a walk through Durham’s Market Place where stalls had been set up for the weekly Saturday market.  Being unable to resist a browse through the stalls, we discovered some delicious breads and sweet treats at Earth & Fire, plus lots to interest us elsewhere.

Saturday market at Durham Market Place
The Saturday market

After grabbing some breakfast we headed uphill to the Bailey.  It’s a hilly little place so come prepared with comfortable shoes or make use of the Cathedral Bus (£1 all day) to get around.  The North Bailey is home to several Durham institutions including Hatfield College, the second oldest of Durham’s colleges, St. Chad’s and the Durham Museum & Heritage Centre where we were heading next.

Durham Museum and Heritage Centre
Durham Museum and Heritage Centre

This museum is located in a building that was once the parish church of the North Bailey and retains impressive woodwork from that period.  The museum (entrance £2.50) details the origins and development of the city and contains models of the medieval city and the 19th century market place.  To the rear, the churchyard has been transformed into the museum garden.

Dun Cow Lane, Durham
Dun Cow Lane

Leaving the museum it was then just a short walk up Dun Cow Lane to Palace Green.  It is said that the lane takes its name from a local legend involving a milkmaid and her cow.

Palace Green, Durham
Palace Green

Palace Green is a beautiful grassy square flanked by the castle and the cathedral.  Durham Castle is  currently closed to visitors but we were able to step through its stone archway to admire the Norman fortification.  Since 1832 it has been occupied by University College Durham and is the oldest of the university’s colleges.

Palace Green Library, Durham
Palace Green Library

Close to the castle lies  Palace Green Library which we had hoped to visit as I have a keen interest in libraries but were unable to do so as it is currently closed to the public due to roofing repairs.  The library holds the university’s special collections of books, medieval manuscripts, artefacts and maps so I’ll look forward to visiting on a future visit to Durham.

The entrance to Durham Castle
The entrance to Durham Castle

In the corner of Palace Green is the entrance arch to Durham Castle which is preparing to re-open for tours from July 2021 (standard adult admission £5).  It has been University College since 1832 and is the oldest of Durham’s colleges.

University College Durham
Students relaxing in the sun at University College

The college was the former outer court of the Durham monastery.  Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries Act by Henry VIII in the late 1530’s it was converted into accommodation for the cathedral Dean and his 12 Prebends (clergymen).

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral

Continuing our stroll around Palace Green we soon reached the magnificent cathedral which offers free admission (donations welcome).  Opening hours Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 4.00 p.m. and Sunday 12.00 – 4.00 p.m.

Interior of Durham Cathedral
The Rose Window and Nave

Durham Cathedral is thought by many to be the finest example of Norman church architecture in England and contains the tombs of both St. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede.  It is also the seat of the 4th ranked bishop in the Church of England.  We looked in awe at the splendid interior with its stunning stained glass Rose Window designed to cast dappled colourful sunlight onto the cathedral’s stone floor which looked exceptionally beautiful on such a gorgeous day.

The Shrine of St. Cuthbert, Durham Cathedral
The Shrine of St. Cuthbert

The cloisters are a delight and we could just imagine bygone times when the monks would have studied and exercised there.  One side is now used as outdoor seating for the Cathedral’s Undercroft Restaurant so we made a note to return after our exertions of climbing up to the top of the tower.

The Cloisters, Durham Cathedral
The Cloisters

Standard adult tickets to climb the 325 steps cost £5.50 and access is currently available between 10.20 a.m. – 2.50 p.m.  Durham has the steepest spiral staircase of any cathedral in England and Wales, the last third being extremely narrow.  We had no difficulties reaching the top but if you need to stop for a breather there is a rest point with seating half way up.

View from the top of Durham Cathedral
View from the cathedral rooftop over Palace Green

Stepping out onto the roof we couldn’t have wished for a better day as there was barely a cloud in the sky.  Our efforts were rewarded with some absolutely beautiful views looking down onto Palace Green, across to the castle and of the surrounding countryside.

Far reaching views from the roof of Durham Cathedral
Far reaching views from the cathedral rooftop

We returned through the oak door at one corner of the tower and after adjusting to the dim light we carefully made our way back down to ground level for our well earned cups of coffee.

Penfold Post Box, Palace Green, Durham
Penfold Post Box on Palace Green

After leaving the cathedral, we completed our tour of Palace Green and came across this lovely Penfold hexagonal post box, it was slightly on the lean but otherwise in excellent condition.

Durham Cathedral Chorister School
Durham Cathedral Chorister School

Our tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site continued around to the back garden of the cathedral, known as College Close.  This is another attractive square and is home to the Durham Cathedral Chorister School which has been established for more than 600 years.

Prebends Bridge, Durham
Crossing Prebends Bridge 

From there, we continued along South Bailey towards the riverside crossing the stone arched Prebends Bridge which connects the cathedral to the west bank of the river.

Durham University Botanic Garden
Durham University Botanic Garden

We then followed signposts to the University Botanic Garden set amongst beautiful mature woodlands.  The gardens are currently open 10.00 – 3.00 p.m. with standard admission £4.00.

University Botanic Garden, Durham
View of the University Botanic Garden

The Durham garden is an RHS partner garden and contains collections from around the world.  We enjoyed a stroll along shady paths taking in the woodland, alpine gardens and the magnificent bamboo grove.

Artwork in the Durham University Botanic Garden
Artwork in the Botanic Garden

Tucked away amongst the paths are numerous pieces of artwork and a carboniferous garden which has been created by students from the Department of Earth Sciences to tell the story of coal in County Durham.  The glasshouses are closed at present but we peeped through the glass to get a glimpse of the tropical rainforest and desert cacti flourishing inside.

Oriental Museum, Durham
Oriental Museum, Durham

Whilst in this part of the city we took advantage of visiting the University Oriental Museum just a short distance away.  The museum is open Wednesday – Sunday 10.00 – 4.00 p.m. and offers free admission but it is advisable to pre-book a timed entry slot at present.  The museum opened in 1960 to support teaching and research and is the only museum in the north of England devoted entirely to the art and archaeology of Northern Africa and Asia.

Chinese Bed, Durham Oriental Museum
A Chinese Bed on display in the Oriental Museum

Having visited South Korea three years ago, we were particularly interested in the gallery displaying tea making traditions and historic and contemporary ceramics.  Other highlights included a magnificent Chinese bed, costumes including silk dragon robes, footwear and head dressings.  The museum exceeded our expectations and I would definitely recommend adding it to your itinerary.

Buddhism in Japan at Oriental Museum, Durham
A Buddhism in Japan exhibit in the Museum

Returning to the city centre we then spent the remainder of the afternoon looking around the shops along Silver and Saddler Streets.  The latter is thought to take its name from where saddles were made and sold for horses, although the lower part of the street which joins the market place was originally called Fleshergate as it contained the butchers shambles (an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market) similar to the famous one along the narrowest street in York.

Saddler Street, Durham
Saddler Street

Well, we’d had such a wonderful day exploring the city’s world heritage site, visiting museums, toning our calf muscles climbing up and down the cathedral tower steps and enjoying the tranquillity of the Botanic Gardens.  Our feet were tired but we didn’t mind, it had all been so lovely.

Our weekend was supported by Visit Durham and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.


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Durham Day 2



57 thoughts on “Day 2. Exploring Durham Cathedral and University

      1. It truly is amazing to read especially whenever I am taking some time to myself I have loved the Durham one so far as I myself have visited Durham and It is such a beautiful place!

        As a lifestyle blogger I love this sort of thing and it makes me feel inspired to write myself so thank you so much! – Kirby

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I’ve only ever been there once and we went to a lovely family owned coffee shop in the centre of town which was brilliant. If you ever have the chance try to visit the city of York as its absolutely stunning with so much to explore as well.

            Liked by 1 person

              1. I’ve only been to York a few times but I have been travelling a lot to Scotland recently and last month spent a weekend in Edinburgh and it has to be one of my favourite places that I’ve ever visited.

                I go back to Scotland in just under 2 weeks and then hopefully to Blackpool in October.

                Liked by 1 person

                  1. I love Blackpool, I used to live there a few years back but I haven’t been since around 2019 or so and so a few friends and I decided to have a weekend away there as we all love it and it will be the first time for one of them travelling to Blackpool.

                    Liked by 1 person

  1. Yet another wonderful post, Marion 🙂 Durham is brimming with historic jewels, and I am in awe of its magnificent Cathedral and the huge carved pillars! I am glad to hear that the sun was shining while you were visiting Durham, as being outdoors in the sunshine can lift your spirits and reduce stress. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Mike Hughes

          I believe the artist (Graeme Hopper) who created the bug at the Botanic garden was inspired by the build up to the new millennium in 1999 and all the talk of the “Millennium bug” which would have thrown the worlds computers into chaos. Nothing much happened of course in the end and we have all probably forgotten about the concerns we had as the year 2000 approached…

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Oh my goodness Mike, you just sent me back down memory lane. All those hours listening to highly paid consultants warn us of the dangers. All those hours creating “Business Continuity Plans” – some of which should be dusted out now every time some hacker holds a business to ransom by locking up their computer systems. At the end of the day, those of us who’d grown up on carbonised paper delivery dockets etc etc would have still managed to receive an order, pick it from the warehouse and put in on a truck. But what if all that computer operated space junk had simply dropped out of the sky?
            And what actually happened?
            Errrrm … well … nothing, actually.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. So nice you had the bright blue skies, Marion. That cathedral is indeed stunning and the hike to the rooftop sounds right up my alley. Patty would not likely try it with her knees though. Thanks for sharing and have a great day. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think that should be milkmaid and her cow, not milkman?!

    Durham I used to know very well in the early 90s and is one of the most beautiful towns in Britain I think. Alas, I believe the amazing ‘Last Supper’ display that used to sit on the bank of the river is long gone which is a great shame. It was a great piece of art and cleverly designed.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Durham is looking better and better. The cathedral sounds incredible and the climb to the top a great thing to do. We’d be so up for that. You must have walked your socks off though?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My phone recorded that we’d walked a very long way but everything was so lovely and new to us that we hardly noticed. We couldn’t have been luckier with the weather either! Hope your week is going well and thank you for taking the time to comment Jonno. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful to explore this beautiful sights in glorious sunny weather! The Durham Cathedral is such a beautiful place to visit – love the interior! And to enjoy this sunny day, I thought your walk in the green Botanical Garden must have been quite nice.
    Oh, and I’m really impressed with the detail on that Chinese bed in the Oriental Museum … this was definitely a great day for exploring these special places in Durham!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Hi Marion, from the evidence supplied so far Durham looks just lovely. Aside from the cathedral, I knew next to nothing about the place, so nearly all of the sights from your visit are new to me. The Oriental Museum was a surprising one, would definitely include that if I ever make it to Durham. Do you think they’d accept a modest bid for that Chinese bed?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m certain that you’d just love visiting Durham and hope you manage to fit in a trip at some point. Everything about this compact city is beautiful and we were so lucky with the weather. That Chinese bed is rather nice isn’t it! Thanks so much for your welcome thoughts Leighton and I hope your week is going well.

      Liked by 1 person

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