Durham, County of Durham
Standing proud in the middle of the historic city of Durham is the Cathedral that took 40 years to build. Built in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, to house the Shrine and relics of St. Cuthbert, one of the most popular saints in the early Medieval times. This magnificent building captures a thousand years of political, social and religious history and has been in constant use since its original construction and still remains today, a place of worship and pilgrimage. With over 600,000 visitors each year and costing a staggering £60,000 each week to maintain, this charitable organisation relies on donations and revenue from its venue hire.
This amazing edifice is the largest and finest example of Norman architecture in England and is the oldest surviving building with a stone vaulted ceiling of such a large scale. Various parts of the structure were added at later dates, which include the Galilee Chapel and two western towers.
With artifacts such as the Sanctuary Knocker, this replica adorns the north door and in Middle Ages people who had committed a crime could touch the knocker and would be granted sanctuary for 37 days. The hideous features were designed to ward off evil and the original is on display at the Cathedral Museum.
Father Smiths great organ case, part of the original built in 1685 still stands, a true work of art. The Miners’ Memorial is touching and informative, showcasing Durhams proud mining heritage, in the 1800’s Durham was the leading producer of coal in England. Walk along the Tunnel of Light, adorned with drawings from local schools depicting their understanding of their mining heritage.
The Cathedral is home to a stunning collection of manuscripts, records, embroideries and other historic objects. Entrance to the museum is chargeable, £7.50 per adult and under 16’s free, there are toilets and a welcoming restaurant. Unfortunately dogs are only allowed in the cloister and grounds.
Just outside you will come across the Cathedral Library which looks after a vast collection of books dating from the 600’s to the present. You can’t fail to notice the impressive Durham Castle, now home to students of the University College, and a popular wedding venue. Construction of the Castle began in 1072 and was strategically important to defend the troublesome border with Scotland. Only as part of a guided tour can visitors look around the Castle, sorry dogs are not allowed. Entry price at time of writing was £5 per adult, children under 15 enter free. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to take a tour of this grand building. Next time.
Walking through the cobbled streets of Durham, with its many small independent shops, you will discover a bustling town, filled with shoppers, visitors and of course budding scholars. We stopped for a delicious lunch of fish and chips at Bells, located in the market place and can honestly say it was worth the money.
One thing to mention here, is be prepared for how hilly the area is. The walk back to the train station was uphill, phew, have to admit it was a bit of a struggle for me. However, there is an excellent bus service, approximately half hourly, from the train station to the Cathedral, for only £1.00 single trip and £1.50 for a return ticket.
With so much to see, take in and take part in, you will certainly not be bored. Enjoy.