The beginnings of the City of Durham began with St Cuthbert, a 7th Century Northumbrian saint who became a monk at the monastery of Melrose, close to the River Wear. Upon his death and burial, the monks decided to remove his coffin for inspection, and found his corpse had not decomposed, even a few years later. These monks became wealthy as many believed the preservation of St Cuthbert’s body to be a miracle, however the Vikings began raiding much of the north so the monks fled, carrying the coffin of St Cuthbert around the north of England, before finally settling at Durham in 995 AD.
The name of Durham was founded when St Cuthbert supposedly visited one of the monks in a dream, and stated his coffin must be taken to a place named Dun Holm, Dun being an Anglo-Saxon word for hill and Holm being a Scandinavian word meaning island. The Normans renamed the city Duresme, and over the years this has changed to the modern form of Durham.
Durham is a small city located on the banks of the River Wear in the county bearing the same name. Situated an hour and a half north of York and just 35 minutes south of Newcastle, this is a great stop if you are heading north.
We didn’t want to do the journey from York to Scotland all in one go so we thought we would pop into Durham and grab some lunch. We first took a walk around the city centre and met some very friendly volunteers in the centre of town that were pointing clueless tourists (like myself) in the right direction.
Walking down to the river we quickly realised how imposing and magnificent Durham Cathedral really is. Now a World Heritage Site, the foundations of this magnificent cathedral were laid in 1093, completed forty years later. This is the seat of the Bishop of Durham and is a Christian Church of the Anglican Communion, the cathedral remains a place of worship today and we happened to be visiting on Easter weekend!
Take a sneak peak at the ancient cloisters around the back of the cathedral and you will find yourself standing in one of the more recognisable filming locations for the first two Harry Potter films. You also aren’t far from one of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s classrooms where they learnt how to turn animals into water goblets!
After snooping around the cathedral we headed over to Durham Castle, stood on what was once a Saxon fortress. The castle dates back to the 10th Century and the oldest surviving parts of the castle date from 1072 when William the Conquerer demanded the construction of this new fort. Luckily for us there was a wedding fair taking place so we were able to gain access into the castle quite easily, the castle is now a university college of Durham University and can be visited most days when tours are available.
We slowly strolled towards Saddler Street and stopped off at ‘The Library’ for a bite to eat. I can highly recommend this place if you want good food at a fair price. It was quiet as we arrived during the Easter break, but it was clear this is a place frequented by the students – a great vibe, friendly staff, and simple yet delicious food.
Most of the shops were closed as it was Easter Sunday so we made our way back to the car, admiring the architecture along the way – this city offers a beautiful example of how Georgian architecture should be preserved!
Before I stop writing, I must let you in on a secret. Head north out of Durham towards Newcastle, then take the A696 up into Northumberland National Park. This gem of a place is the least populated and least visited of all the national parks, but it is beautiful! – Have fun 🙂