We spent three days in Durham in late June, at the end of a two-week trip that started in York and was mostly spent in Scotland.You can see the earlier parts of the trip here:
Our time in Durham consisted of one afternoon, two full days, and a final morning before heading to Stansted airport for our return trip to Italy. You can see the earlier part of the trip here, including overall comments about restaurants and hotels, in both England and Scotland:
Day 1 (Day 9 of the trip)
In the morning, we left Scotland, with a strong desire to return one day, and took the train to Durham for the last leg of our trip.
We drove for part of our trip in Scotland, and I had considered keeping the car for the last part, but a little research convinced me that most of what we wanted to see could be achieved by public transportation. With a car, we could have stopped at more places, but we didn't have a lot of time for unplanned stops anyway.
We got to Durham in the late morning, and took a taxi to the King's Lodge Hotel. This was perhaps our favorite of all the places we stayed on this trip. The room was spacious and comfortable, although it had the inevitable heavy duvet, too heavy for the warm weather, and no top sheet.The lodge had a nice garden where we could sit to relax. There was also a lounge which had tea, coffee, and biscuits (cookies) all day long. There is a lot of construction going on in the vicinity at the moment. The street is being torn up for some public utility works, and there is a construction site next to the hotel. There was little noise from the construction, though.
There is an excellent restaurant at the hotel called Finnbar's, which seems to be very popular locally. The only noise problem we ever had was caused by noisy guests leaving late at night.
The one little quibble I have about the King's Lodge is that the wifi wasn't working, except in the guest lounge, two of the days we were there, although it worked just fine the other two days.
After checking in, we had a delicious lunch at Finbarr's. My husband had venison with spring vegetables, and I had a lamb ratatouille. For dessert, my husband had a crème brûlée; I had a pavlova (a sort of meringue) with raspberries and apricots.
In the afternoon, we walked into the center of Durham and visited the cathedral. The cathedral and castle are on top of a hill, so there is a bit of a climb to get there. We followed a sign that led us through narrow alleys and many steps to the top of the hill, but we later found that if we had stayed on the road, it was a longer, but less steep way up.
It was a splendid late afternoon, and lots of people were enjoying the sun on the lawn of the cathedral close. The cathedral is very beautiful. It was one of the first buildings to make use of the Gothic pointed arch, so the style is a bit heavier and more Romanesque than later Gothic churches. Somehow it seemed more earth-bound than some of the soaring Gothic cathedrals I've seen, but that's not a bad thing. I've always admired the Romanesque style. Italy has a lot of churches from that period, but, unfortunately, most of them were tarted up in the Baroque style in the 17th century.
There was to be a choral evensong an hour after we got there, and we decided we wanted to attend that, so our visit was a bit rushed. My husband and I split up so we could see the things we each wanted to see most. My top priority was to see the tomb of the Venerable Bede. I'm a great admirer of this great 7th century theologian, historian, and scientist (centuries ahead of his time) ever since I took a brief course on the Anglo-Saxon language when I was at university. The tomb is fairly simple, and I was the only visitor, although there were a number of visitors at the time in the cathedral. I think a simple tomb is appropriate for a man who led a simple, retired life, while maintaining contact with the whole world, ancient and medieval, through his reading.
The Choral Evensong was sung by a small, but excellent, choir. They use an older version of the psalms, probably the Coverdale Psalms, than I'm used to, and I could just imagine the exact same words being chanted in that space for almost 500 years.
Afterwards, we descended the hill and walked along the river-side path to get the view of the cathedral with the old fulling mill in the foreground. There are lovely paths on both sides of the river, and after walking up one side, we walked back on the other side until we got to the bridge that led back to the King's Lodge.
We had dinner at the Café Rouge, which we had enjoyed in York, but at this one the service was terrible. We waited well over half an hour for our food, after having waited almost that long to place the order. In the end, they brought my husband a green salad instead of a Caesar salad with chicken; My burger was supposed to be on a brioche, but it seemed to me to be a Wonder bread hamburger roll. The cheese was supposed to be Gruyère, but wasn't. Also, I had asked for a salad as my side, but I got chips. We ate what they brought us rather than wait any longer; I gave my husband some of the burger and most of my chips, because his green salad wasn't much of a meal. So much for the Café Rouge.
We walked back to the hotel, an easy walk. The roundabout just outside the center was planted with lovely flowers.