United Kingdom
Durham

Here you’ll find travel reports about Durham. Discover travel destinations in the United Kingdom of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

14 travelers at this place:

  • Day118

    Day 118: Durham Castle & Cathedral

    June 13, 2017 in the United Kingdom

    Another day, another UNESCO site. Today we got out and on the road early again, heading eastwards to Durham. The castle and cathedral here for a single UNESCO heritage listing, mainly for their age and importance. The castle dates back to the Norman conquest, and was originally the bishop's palace. The bishop here was one of the most powerful in all of England, and was essentially a king in the north as he had powers of law-making, taxation and so on. Essentially as a subservient buffer kingdom against the Scots further north. The cathedral is from the same era, though it's a replacement for earlier buildings which have stood on the site since about the 6th century.

    We parked up in a shopping centre carpark and headed into town. Bought ourselves some tickets for a castle tour at 1:15pm (it's now part of the university and quite active as such, so access for non-students is tightly controlled), then set to filming the outside of the cathedral. It's nice, but there was a lot of scaffolding at the top doing repairs or restorations of some sort.

    Headed inside to discover no photos or videos are permitted! This really irritates me, since I don't really know why it's not allowed. I get that it's an active place of worship and people praying/reflecting probably don't want a bunch of cameras around, but it just seems silly that your beautiful building can't be shared with the world. Also a bit bummed since their library holds an original copy of Magna Carta, but wasn't on display for a few days because of some work in the room where it's held. Alas.

    Did our best to enjoy the rest of it, before heading back down into town for an early lunch. Went to a student pub where we both had a parmo (essentially a parmigiana). These are some sort of delicacy in the north-east! Back up the hill to the castle area where we joined our tour and headed in. Photos permitted in the courtyard this time, but again not inside the buildings. Though I guess there were quite a few students around, so I understand that a bit more.

    Although the castle itself dates from the Norman conquest, the main keep that looks spectacular is actually 1700s, as earlier buildings kept falling down! Even the oldest parts are only from the 1300s or so - the Norman parts remaining are just earthworks these days. Basically their original castles were built from wood, and definitely haven't stood the test of time. Still an interesting tour though!

    Back to the car where Schnitzel was quite happy to see us - he'd been cooped up in the underground carpark just sleeping for the last few hours. It sounds awful but we think he's much happier in his bed, under his blanket in the car. Rather than being in an unfamiliar room with strange sounds and smells.

    Drove back to our hut via Tesco for supplies, then gave Schnitzel a short walk and settled in for some work. Did a couple of videos and some writing, but also caught up on podcasts as I'd fallen chronically behind in listening! Amazing how much leisure time you don't have when you're retired.
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  • Day117

    Day 117: Studley Royal Park

    June 12, 2017 in the United Kingdom

    Time to leave York and head into the north-east. We left our house a bit earlier than usual, at around 9am, and drove northwards towards our first stop, the UNESCO world heritage site at Studley Royal Park (actually pronounced stood-ly).

    This is actually a two-fold site, as it also incorporates the ruins of Fountains Abbey, and it's quite an interesting story albeit a slightly long one. The abbey was set up in the 1180s by Cistercian monks, who lived a primitive life but became very wealthy due to their talent (??) for sheep farming. They sold their wool as far away as Venice and Belgium, and at the time of the Reformation it was found to be England's wealthiest monastery.

    Obviously, due to the reforms everything now belonged to Henry VIII, so all the valuables were carted off and the monks evicted from Britain. The large, impressive monastery became a ruined shell, but in the Georgian era (late 18th century), Romanticists and nature-lovers began exploring the countryside again, and the ruins became quite an attraction. A disgraced politician owned the plot of land next door to the ruins, and so constructed an elaborate water garden for visitors to enjoy while maximising views of the site. So both halves are UNESCO listed.

    We spent a couple of hours wandering around each, though I must confess we were actually a bit disappointed. Although Fountains Abbey was impressive, it was probably less so than Tintern Abbey which we'd visited in Wales a couple of weeks earlier. And although Studley park was also quite nice, the water features at Blenheim Palace and Versailles were far more impressive. It was good to see the way landscaping had been done to maximise views over the fence, as it were.

    Done with the site, we hopped back in the car and drove northwards to our accommodation, a small shepherd's hut on a farm just outside the town of Consett, 25 minutes southwest of Newcastle. It was quite a small space, roughly the size of a caravan, but very modern and well equipped. Drove across the moor to a nearby pub for dinner, where we had great and hearty meals.
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  • Day12

    On the road again ....

    August 4, 2017 in the United Kingdom

    Today we start our road trip around the UK. First challenge is to get the train to Kings Cross and then to Russell Square to pick up the car. The train station platform at Shepherds Bush is on top of a mountainous staircase. Mary said we would be alright. Well I had it planned, like crossing the New River Lagoon in Tassie's South West where you use two boats an cross several times - I had a system ready. When we reached the bottom of the stairs, people [well young men] grabbed our suitcases and carried them up the stairs. Luckily they didn't make off with them - just kind hearted.

    We got to Hertz and their computers were down. American tourists were waiting and getting crabby. Anyway, after almost an hour we were upgraded to a larger vehicle with a sat nav [I had already paid $100 for UK maps on my own Garmin]. Still it this bigger car will hold all our bags nicely.

    Mary & I were most worried about getting out of London [BTW we had to pay £11.50 congestion tax] through the traffic. As it turned out, the road beside Russell Square ends up on the M1 ... too easy. Our drive to Durham was going to be 4.5 hours but ended up near to 5.5 hours because of road works.

    I like driving on the big freeways - in some ways its like a waltz. Cars need to change lanes all the time to keep things moving. You just have to watch your rear view mirrors almost as much as you look forward. It was a good drive.

    Arrived at Marie and Bill's (our friends for 34 years) to be welcomed by a magnificent dinner and then we sat down to watch the Women's Soccer - unfortunately England lost. I did mention that Australia won their soccer competition in the USA?

    Tomorrow Mary will go hunting for Sea Glass ...

    Cheers
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  • Day13

    Finding Sea Glass

    August 5, 2017 in the United Kingdom

    After travelling for a couple of weeks, its time for a good long walk [not shopping], especially for Mary who is in the habit of a 10km walk almost every day. Today we went for a walk with Bill and a dog called Bow, a black Labrador - well behaved.

    We started at the beach - was a bit windy but not cold. As you walk along this beach you can find small pieces of tumbled glass [called, not surprisingly "Sea Glass"] that was orginally thrown from a glass factory that used to make the small medicine bottles. Mary is determined to find these little gems - so not much walking happened.

    We them drove to the cliff tops and walked through the fields. This would be an 8.5km walk. The views and the history made this a very pleasant and interesting walk. We dropped down to the beach at the end, under the viaduct that is still used by the speeding trains and onto another beach with sea glass. While we sat there a baby seal came up on the beach to sun him/herself.

    Friday night is pub night. Bill and I went out to the Hetton Lyons cricket club to watch the first soccer game of the year between his club Sunderland and Derby. Sunderland has been relegated to division two and expectations were low. However, they did play well and a draw of "one all" was a fitting and somewhat pleasing result. Bill and his drinking mates have this agreement - they have one "round" of drinks, in this case we had a shout of four, then you buy your own. So I had four pints of John Smith Ale while we watched the game. Not sure I understood every word spoken as the night went on, especially trying to understand their very strong geordie accent in the excitement of a football game - but they were lovely blokes and we had a lot of fun.

    After the game we went to the Tavern. A tiny pub, full of people and a karaoke machine/operator. I didn't sing - thank goodness. It gave me a fascinating view into the local lifestyle and community friendship built up over decades of knowing each other. Another couple of pints here and then Bill's wife came down to pick us up.

    A good day of exercise and pub culture. Tomorrow we go to York for the day.

    Cheers.
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  • Day15

    Real Pub - Real Ale

    August 7, 2017 in the United Kingdom

    Having watched TV shows where people buy treasures at a market or car boot sale and then sell them at auction for a profit, we thought we would see what it was like. The Murton car boot sale had about 200 sellers in a large farm paddock and, judging by the car park about 2000 people looking for bargains. I was surprised at the old and worn out things that people were buying, traders were having a good day. Luckily, Mary only bought one thing, a small magnifying glass - happy me.

    Time for lunch and an afternoon drink or two at a local pub. We went to the Smiths Arms, a beaut little pub in a country laneway. They have Sunday roasts, Pork, Beef or Lamb with seven types of vegetables and Yorkshire pudding. A hearty meal indeed. This is where we caught up with Bill and Marie';s son Scott who was dog walking.

    We tried a couple of real ales, first a Mole Catcher then the Urban Fox. I liked the Urban Fox and so tasted a few more. You can't order half pints, people look down on you, so pint after pint it was. The bar also allowed dogs - so we had dogs all around us - Mary, though not fully comfortable, didn't mind so much.

    Home then for a night in, watching bit of TV, Mary even got to see the last episode of Poldark - happy days.

    Tomorrow we have a big drive up the east coast to near Aberdeen in Scotland. A good test of my driving and Mary's navigating.

    Cheers
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  • Day8

    Durham

    December 26, 2017 in the United Kingdom

    Left the coast and drove west to Durham. The River Wear loops around the Romanesque Durham Cathedral and Norman Durham Castle. North of the castle, 13th-century, medieval Crook Hall is home to gardens and a maze. South of the river, Durham University offers a Botanic Garden.

  • Day8

    Durham Cathedral

    December 26, 2017 in the United Kingdom

    Durham Cathedral is one of the great buildings of Europe. Set grandly on a rocky promontory next to the Castle with the medieval city huddled below and the river sweeping round, the profile of the World Heritage Site is instantly recognizable to people travelling up and down the East Coast Main Line.

You might also know this place by the following names:

County Durham, Durham, DUR

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