Image Credit: @emphyrio, https://pixabay.com/photos/durham-river-wear-england-uk-water-4979090/
There are a few things that come to mind when thinking about the city of Durham - whether that be the impressive cathedral, the thick Northern accent, or the overwhelming population of Oxbridge applicants. Of course, there might well be an on-going joke that York is the university for Durham rejects, but that doesn’t stop the Northern town from being the perfect getaway from York, offering a day of wandering up steep inclines and peering around impressive castles.
For as little as £10 with a trusty railcard (depending on the date you pick), students can go off to Durham for the day, with the 46 minute train getting you into the city with plenty of time to explore. It’s a city that looks beautiful in all weathers – the sun might be a nice surprise, but the streets are used to their days being filled with grey skies and stubborn drizzle. It’s a small city, and a day is plenty of time to tick off the Durham essentials.
Once you get off the train and head down the hill into the city centre, make a beeline to the river for stunning views of the cathedral and the riverside banks. The city is split in half by the River Wear, and it offers the perfect opportunity for meanders along the forested waterfront. The Riverview Kitchen is a great stopping point for brunch or snacks – nestled in the hill, it’s cosy interior is a brilliant choice for an independent café, with tonnes of pancake options or open sandwiches for those wanting to grab a classy lunch. Alternatively, famed for it’s pretty townhouse exterior, Flat White Kitchen is an essential stop-off – serving all the coffee, cakes and brunch you could ask for. A Durham staple, this five-floor building is full of cosy hideaways and is conveniently located near to the key Durham attractions.
Of course, no visit to Durham is complete without a trip to the Cathedral. Go in the late afternoon to make the most of the final hours of sun glistening through the beautiful stained-glass windows, lighting up the intricate interior. We wandered around for over an hour, peering up at the ceilings and wandering past the Shrine of St Cuthbert. Entry to the Cathedral is free, although donations of £5 are recommended, and is a must-do part of any Durham daytrip.
Perhaps the most iconic part of the Cathedral is the Cloister, the covered walkway in the hub of the building. It’s been used for scenes in the first few Harry Potter films – acting as the Hogwarts corridors – and the grassy square in the middle of the Cloister appears in famous scenes like the moment when Ron’s ‘eat slugs’ curse on Draco backfires in ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’. If you are a fan of the franchise, no trip to Durham is complete without a photo opportunity in these walkways, and offers the chance to take a calm minute in the fresh air and ambience of the Cathedral.
Durham’s main city centre is a conservation site, and it is easy to see why as you wander along the old streets, popping into little shops filled to the brim with trinkets, postcards and teapots. Of course, the pièce de résistance is Durham Castle, watching over the rest of the city. Built in 1072, it is an impressive piece of history, and now houses part of Durham University. Tours are available in the afternoons during term time for about £5, but I would recommend just wandering up to the grounds and visiting Palace Green, where you get impressive views of both the Castle and the Cathedral, and are surrounded by little alleyways and hidden gems. From here you can always follow the North Bailey down, and pop to see the rest of the University colleges if you want to feel right at home.
If you’re anything like me, why don’t you end your visit with some casual drinks? Although Durham might not be the wildest place for nightlife, there’s certainly plenty of places to enjoy a relaxed meal or to grab a pint before the train home. My personal favourite is Tango, a snug restaurant/bar positioned with riverside views and cosy candlelight. It’s the perfect level of hipster, and the American-style menu is filled to the brim with burger-y goodness. If you’re stuffed already, why not head in for a drink instead? There are also plenty of other drinks spots along this street – for a unique experience, pop into Tin of Sardine’s Gin Bar - a tiny and intimate bar boasting over 300 gins in its distinctive interior.
York is lucky to be positioned in such a great spot for UK day-trips, and Durham is certainly one to make the most of whilst we are students. Whether you want historical goodness, or a day popping into shops and trying the local cafes, there is no doubt that everyone can enjoy a day in the peace and quiet of Durham.