As most of you know, we were invited by Virgin Trains to travel First Class to Durham. We had never been there so it was our first time visiting this amazing city. It was just a weekend break, leaving London on the Friday afternoon and returning on Sunday afternoon. We had all day Saturday and then Sunday morning to explore. The weather was not generous with us that Saturday but we had much more luck the next day.
I must admit as a foreigner (well actually I’m British now but I have only been here 11 years so there is a lot still for me to learn), I was not familiar with Durham. When we made the plan to visit I did a bit of researching which got me super excited about it. It is located in the North East of the country and as I mentioned in my post about travelling to Durham, it takes about 3 hours to get there by train from London.
We arrived in Durham on Friday evening and went straight to our hotel. We stayed at the Kingslodge Inn, which we really loved. The people couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful, which is something I have heard about people in the North – especially in this part of the country, and it was very nice to experience this first hand! 😉
The hotel was well located, just a 5 minute drive by taxi from Durham Station. You could probably easily walk but with 2 young children and our luggage there was never a realistic option! The kingslodge Inn is also not far from the town centre so it couldn’t be more practical. It is always great to know that you don’t need to travel much further to get to your hotel, to settle and rest, so that is what we did. We arrived at our hotel and we went to our room where we got our things organised. We bathed the girls and changed them into their pyjamas so then they were ready to go to bed after having dinner.
We were also very pleased with their restaurant. We had dinner there both days and breakfast every day. My girls ate most of their food which is always a great sign. They had kids meals which were what we ordered for the girls each day and Nick and I tried different options from their menu each day too. I really loved the idea of coming back to the hotel after being out all day and having a nice meal before going back to the room to relax and got to bed.
The hotel is less than a mile from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Durham Cathedral and Castle, one of the best-loved and most recognisable landmarks in the country and close to Durham University as well as the mainline train station.
The weather on the Saturday was really bad. It rained a lot and was quite cloudy and dark. We didn’t know what to do as we really wanted to walk to the centre but because it was raining heavily we decided to take the bus instead. We walked to the bus station and took a bus direct to Durham Palace Green, which on one side has the Castle and on the other side, the Cathedral. Between these is Palace Green Library, outside of which the bus stops so from there we walked the short distance to the Cathedral as we had heard that this was not to be missed.
The Cathedral is really big and we found there was a new Open Treasure exhibition. This included some activities for the kids which my girls really liked. They gave Bella a backpack full of items to use to keep her entertained while going around. She got a torch, a soft toy, and some binoculars amongst other things.
You can opt for a guided tour or just go around on your own. There is no charge to go into the Cathedral but you will have to pay to do the Open Treasure Exhibition although its free for children under 5 years old. My girls were very interested to seeing one of the locations within the Cathedral, The Cloisters that was famously featured in some of the Harry Potter Film’s as part of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They have filmed inside this gorgeous Cathedral which is one of the UK’s finest Norman buildings.
Durham’s elegant cloisters became the snow-covered quadrangle, where Harry sets the owl flying in the first film and is also the scene where Ron vomits slugs in the Chamber of Secrets. The cathedral chapter house is the venue for Professor McGonagall’s class teaching the young wizards to turn animals into water goblets. This was very exciting to see for sure! 😉
We were so looking forward to visiting this castle but unfortunately, despite trying a couple of times each (Saturday and Sunday) we didn’t manage to get in.
On Saturday after our visit to the Cathedral, we went straight to the information centre to find out more about the Castle. There were no tours taking place that day because it was booked for a private event :-(. We tried again on the Sunday morning but the remaining tours which we could have taken were already fully booked. It felt like it was not meant for us to go and visit the Castle. We were able however, to take a couple of photos from the outside. Apparently, this Castle is now home to the students of University College, part of Durham University.
The Castle was built on the orders of William the Conqueror in the 1070s, which then began life as a motte-and-bailey castle. It soon became a palace to showcase the wealth of the Prince-Bishops whose semi-regal powers made them one of the most powerful.
After our attempt to visit the Castle, we decided to instead walk around as the weather was finally picking up a bit. The sun was starting to shine a little and the city was starting to look more gorgeous than ever!
It really is a pretty city with certainly a lot of charm. It is beautiful to see the sun shining through the sparkles of the water of the river. It is a breathtaking view. The Town Hall is really pretty also. It was very colourful with flowers everywhere.
They have a relatively small pedestrianised area that was very easy to walk through. There are many interesting streets full of one-off shops and cosmopolitan cafe’s catering to a wide variety of tastes.
MORE TO SEE
We didn’t have time to do more tourism as we had to return to the hotel, to pack and make our way to the station to catch our train back home. We had heard about a few other attractions worth visiting such as Beamish Museum (The Living Museum of the North), Kynren, Auckland Castle, Locomotion (The National Railway Museum), The Bowes Museum, Hall Hill Farm and Diggerland among others.
We really had a great time in Durham. We were surprised at how pretty this city was. I was really happy to have the opportunity to visit. The Cathedral is stunning and the scenery too. We really feel that we should come back again and see more (especially the Castle!) and visit some of the other attractions we didn’t have chance to do.
I would definitely recommend you to visit Durham as I’m sure that like us, you will be surprised at how pretty it is.
Have you been to Durham before? Have you visited the Cathedral or the Castle? If so, what did you think? What other places could you recommend us to visit if we were to visit again? Please leave a comment below as I would love to read what you think.
*Disclosure: I was invited by Virgin Trains to use their trains service to Durham. We were also guests at the Kingslodge Inn for the weekend. However all opinions and thoughts are my own.
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