Becca and I decided to go to Durham on Wednesday. Durham has a famous castle and cathedral and it was cheaper than Scotland (the original plan). So at 9:11am we hopped on the train and went north!
The previously mentioned castle and cathedral dominate the skyline as soon as you get off the train. In general, medieval cathedrals were built on the highest point of land in the town and castles needed to be as defensible as possible so the skyline wasn’t surprising, but very dramatic. When we got there, it was quite cloudy but it quickly cleared up so the first and last pictures of the day (from the lookout point by the station) are quite different.
We wandered down the hill and had lunch at Yates’s. Apparently this is a pub chain and the food wasn’t bad. Then we meandered through the downtown area taking pictures, and mailed a package. Becca is really into markets, and Durham happens to have a cute indoor one, which you can see in the middle of the picture of the square, under the red awning. The square was kid of weird, there was a statue of a Lord Londonderry on a horse and another one of Neptune killing a sea creature with is trident.
After the market we made our way up the other side of the valley to the main attractions. The cathedral was quite lovely and was our first stop. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good pictures of the whole thing as the sun was right behind it, but was we walked around outside I took some interesting shots.
As you walk through the sanctuary door, there is a fantastic door knocker. This is apparently a reproduction, and the original is inside the cathedral.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside but I did buy some postcards of the two main attractions: the Shrine of St. Cuthbert, about whom I know very little; and the tomb of the Venerable Bede (I hope my medieval friends will be suitably impressed). I actually almost missed Bede as he is tucked away in a side chapel that we didn’t go in and I only found out that he was there because of the postcard. I didn’t realize that he had been buried there, apparently his bones were stolen from JArrow in 1050ish and there he’s been ever since.
I decided to pay the 5 pounds to walk up the cathedral tower. It was a great view and VERY windy. There are a total of 325 steps and while the first half isn’t so bad, the last part was very narrow and very steep. Totally worth the money and leg shakes. What a great view of the castle and the surrounding countryside.
We left out the back and made our way around the cathedral, looking at the side buildings when Becca stopped and said, “Wow, look at that knocker!” and really, it was quite nice.
We finally crossed the courtyard to take a tour of the castle, which is actually part of Durham University, which according to the tour guide is the 3rd oldest university in England (I haven’t verified this, but if it is true, there were no new universities formed between Cambridge in the 13th century and Durham in the 19th century). The castle was originally built by William the Conqueror to protect the north from the Scots, so there are some really cool, Norman arches throughout, especially in the dormitory area. Again, no pictures from the inside but here are some of the courtyard. As for the impressive keep on top of the hill, yeah, that was built by the Victorians to house more students.
We made our way back down the hill and had dinner at a cool, modern pub called The Head of Steam. Probably the best chips (fries) I’ve had in the UK; they were basically perfect!
We caught the 8:27 back to Lincoln and it was a great end to a very fun (and exhausting day).