Yesterday we went to Durham – “a perfect little city” – according to Bill Bryson. In his book Notes from a small island, Bill Bryson summarises so well the feel of the place, so I’m going to copy and paste his words here:

Why, it’s wonderful – a perfect little city – and I kept thinking: ‘Why did no-one tell me about this?’ I knew, of course, that it had a fine Norman cathedral but I had no idea that it was so splendid. I couldn’t believe that not once in twenty years had anyone said to me, ‘You’ve never been to Durham? Good God, man, you must go at once! Please – take my car.

He is right. It is a perfect little city and if you’ve never been there, then you absolutely must go.

The city is built on an imposing peninsula, formed by a loop in the river Wear. There is a magnificent castle, now the University, and a Norman cathedral which is apparently the greatest Norman building in all of England. Both sit high on a hill overlooking the river Wear and surrounding countryside. It was an important defensive position against the Scots.

The river Wear with a tiny bit of the Cathedral visible in the distance
Durham Castle
Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral overlooking the River Wear


We might have had a nice family shot in the next photo except that Daniel so often refuses to stand for photos and he took off, while Elizabeth looks bored to tears, but she did really have a nice time. Honest. She told me when we were walking around the Cathedral that she’d like to live there one day.


I took so many photos, hundreds in fact, but most of them didn’t turn out so well because I always seemed to be pointing the camera into the sun. This next one though, is probably the best of the day.


Some of Harry Potter was filmed in Durham Cathedral. I half expected to see witches and wizards on their way to class.

Durham Cathedral.

Do you remember the scene where Harry stands in a snow-covered courtyard and releases Hedwig? That was filmed in Durham Cathedral in the exact same spot as my next photo:


Durham Cathedral.

The Cathedral shop. Impressive.

I was not allowed to take any photos from inside the Cathedral itself but it was magnificent. If you want to see what it was like you can visit their website: Durham Cathedral.

Construction of the Cathedral began in 1093 so it is getting close to 1000 years old. Imagine that! How did they build stuff like this without modern technology? The ceiling inside is vaulted stone and is said to be the first of its type on such a scale in all the world. I wonder whether any modern architecture will still be standing in 1000 years? Perhaps I am cynical but I doubt it. Modern society seems to have chosen short-term profits over beauty and quality.

Durham Cathedral

Sadly, we could not go into the Castle. It is owned by the University and the only way visitors can get inside is by way of a guided tour but because the semester has just begun, they were not conducting tours that day. Something to do with students settling in and some sort of party – perhaps they are still mopping vomit from the floors? I guess that means we will have to go back. 🙂

Durham Castle Keep.


The last photo is of an inscription on Prebends Bridge by Walter Scott, Scottish novelist/playwright/poet.


It reads:

 Grey towers of Durham

                             Yet well I love thy mixed and massive piles

                             Half church of God half castle ‘gainst the Scot

                            And long to roam these venerable aisles

                           With records stored of deeds long since forgot.

– Sir Walter Scott, 1816