Anybody who knows me will tell you that I’ve had a lifelong love for North Yorkshire. I devoured everything I could find on the subject. I loved Last of the Summer Wine just for the scenery and read James Herriot books, picturing the scene in my head. I blame my Grandparents. They went often and were full of tales of how beautiful it was. Even as a child, I loved scenery and the countryside.
I never had much experience of the North East, never really thought of it as a holiday destination until about four years ago when hubby and I visited Newcastle. I found myself falling in love with the laid back pace and friendliness of the locals. I surprised myself by preferring it to York which I imagined I would love.
My love for the North East was sealed recently by our weekend trip to Durham which was more through necessity than anything else. That said, some friends of ours have visited and highly recommended it.
Hubby had a bow that needed repairing and the bowyer would be at a Medieval Market, the last of the season. Driving to Durham was much easier than shipping the long bow back to the Netherlands! It was a seven hour drive from Kent (including breaks) and at times it felt like we were in one big traffic jam all the way here.
We stayed in the Premier Inn at Bishops Aukland. Quite pleasant with a Brewers Fayre attached. Very slow service and if you are looking for posh nosh, this is not the place for you! I was excited to find that Brewers Fayre do an all you can eat fish and chip night, sadly not on the nights that we were there though!
The Medieval Fair was held at Brancepeth Castle which is a beautiful location to have it. The steampunk attired gentlemen at the front gate informed us that it wasn’t usually open to the public. It’s home to a couple of academics and some lodgers. I was pleased to discover a cat lived there too. We made friends with him/her while we were eating breakfast – a full english breakfast from the snack wagon. Delicious and a bargain at £5 each!
The market was quite small but had lots of interesting stalls. Most notably for me were Fairbow (I would say that because he is who we came to see!) and a stall selling some beautiful instruments. The harps caught my
attention, especially when a lady started playing ‘Greensleeves’. I stopped what I was doing and watched. It was such beautiful music, haunting and she played it so well. I’ve never had any interest at all in playing the harp but at that moment I really, really wanted to.
Hubby and I had finished by 12:30pm so we decided to head into Durham. Park and Ride would be the best option we decided as we had the large car with us so we could fit the bows into it. It wasn’t far – 3 1/2 miles. We were pleased to find that the parking spaces were plenty big enough. We didn’t have to wait for a bus. There was one there waiting. Even if we had, they were every 10 minutes. You could buy your ticket on the bus. A bargain at £2 each. Cheaper than parking in town and less trouble too when you have a big car like ours!
We met a friendly, older couple on the bus who advised us that the best places to see for half a day were the Cathedral and the Castle. There were plenty of restaurants and shops the gentleman told us but hubby and I have always been more Cathedral and Castle than shopping! Once we were off the bus, the couple pointed us in the right direction. It was only a short work, although some of it was on a steep hill.
We stopped at the World Heritage Site Visitors Centre on the way up where a volunteer told us about the Cathedral and Durham in general. Sadly you could only see the Castle by way of a guided tour because it is part of Durham University. I’m not a big fan of guided tours. I prefer to wander around, soaking in the atmosphere and environment at my own pace. We opted not to have the guided tour. Maybe next time we are in Durham because there will be a next time!
The Cathedral was impressive, alone it was worth the trip into Durham for. I found the staff who worked there were very pushy about the exhibition. Monks chambers where you could see the exposed ceiling. I found that off-putting. It really was quite a hard sell.
Some of the Cathedral was closed off for a wedding which was a rather grand affair. We had tea and scones in the Undercroft restaurant while it was going on then after looking at the Lego model of the cathedral (very impressive!), wandered round the grounds before heading back to the park and ride via Split and Glory which is a heavenly ice cream parlour!
Thanks to the gentleman on the bus we knew where we were going. While we were waiting for the bus an interesting old lady who smelt of roses told me how the Three Tuns Hotel, which looks like it has been closed for some time, used to be a dancehall. All the young people used to go there to dance and the men would ask the ladies to dance! It was a beautiful image. She painted such a vivid picture.
Relaxing Saturday night before a long drive back on Sunday. I felt a bit sad that we didn’t have time to stop in Yorkshire on the way back home but that’s one for next time!