Snapshots of Durham, England for Instagram Travel Thursday
Whenever someone mentions Durham in a room full of people in the UK, at least one person makes a reverent oohing sound.
Yes, you must see Durham.
So when we heard that Taido was slated to speak at a conference at Durham University, the rest of us tagged along to see the city.
Dodging a slight drizzle that was broken up by sporadic patches of sunlight, we made our way straight to the World Heritage Site, Durham Cathedral.
Began in 1093, this grand Romanesque structure was conceived to hold the bones of the humble St Cuthbert, who spent his life wandering in the woods and farm lands just north of here, before taking up residence on the Island of Lindisfarne.
Within the cathedral is a giant shrine to the Saint, a place to which medieval and modern pilgrims alike have come in search of peace, healing and enlightenment. (St Bede is also entombed here.)
I found these stories super fascinating and I felt honored to have seen this place before I started walking St Cuthbert’s Way. However, I had three kids with me who cared nothing for reading the history of the cathedral.
The sacred site held their interest for other reasons, the first of which was that the courtyard of Durham Cathedral appears in the Harry Potter movies.
And whether we were imagining Benedictine monks or Daniel Radcliffe, we all enjoyed walking through this beautiful cloister.
The second reason the kids enjoyed the cathedral is that they discovered that for five pounds (2.50 for kids), you could climb to the top of the tower. They begged me to do it and even talked the attendant into letting Simon stand on his tiptoes to fudge the height requirement.
325 steps did not actually sound like that many to me. (The Eiffel Tower has 710.) But actually it was quite a lot. And the last few were very tight. Mary Polly started to get scared towards the top as we began to get glimpses through small windows of how high up we were getting.
She and Simon did not stay on the roof for more than a minute, but Ben and I walked all the way around the edges of the tower, taking photos from each side.
I was so glad they had talked me into climbing it, because the views were breathtaking, and I loved getting a feel for the shape of the city from up so high.
You could actually see the whole bend of the river as it appears on this old map.
Getting down was a little harder, and I don’t recommend it if you have a bit of claustrophobia, but Ben and I were both so glad we had climbed it.
The attendant gave us all stickers that said “I climbed to the top of the Durham Cathedral Tower,” which I thought was cute.
But if you ask the kids about their favorite part of Durham Cathedral, they might just say that it was this Lego model.
And I have to say that this is a brilliant marketing strategy on someone’s part for this World Heritage Site. All over the cathedral, attendants and workers were wearing t-shirts about this Lego model, so before we ever found it, the kids were looking for it.
And then, when we finally found it, we discovered that it is in the slow process of being built and actually, you can pay a pound to add a brick to the model, which of course the kids wanted to do.
It was pretty impressive already, but it would be fun to see it when it is completed.
The meander in the River Wear which encircles the city has a lovely walking path, so after we visited the cathedral we headed off to walk it. Of course.
The kids were not super excited about this walk. It was exactly that time of day which is too early for lunch but when your breakfast (especially if you had an early one) was long enough ago to make you grouchy.
We were not staying in Durham so we needed to spend the whole day there while Taido was in his sessions and I knew if we ate lunch at 10:45, we would be in trouble waiting for him until five. Our blue sky was gone and if you sat still, you began to get cold so I told the kids if they would walk all the way around the city with me we would eat out instead of having the peanut butter sandwiches we had brought in the car.
And though this cost me a pretty penny in Italian food later on, it totally did the trick!
After our walk we warmed up with calzones and cappuccino at a yummy restaurant and Mary Polly remarked that she was so glad we were eating inside somewhere warm instead of having our peanut butter out in the cold.
After lunch, we visited a few of the shops.
There are a lot of great store and pub fronts in Durham.
The Shakespeare is one of the older pubs in Durham, LOVE!
We spent most of the afternoon looking at books, and I could imagine passing away lots more hours in these cozy spots that sit in the shadow of the great cathedral.
It was raining again when we went to the main town square to meet up with Taido, so the kids were all huddled together under a statue when I snapped this picture. Soon they would be falling asleep in a warm car. Bless.
PS If you’re visiting Durham, be sure to also pop over to beautiful North Yorkshire!