UK city breaks: Enjoy a charming stay in County Durham

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With colourful Georgian terraces lining its meandering narrow streets, and imposing historic buildings standing over the River Wear that runs through it, Durham oozes charm and has an air of magic that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Harry Potter novel. Which is probably why this north-east cathedral city and World Heritage Site was chosen as a filming location in the movies. But the appeal doesn’t stop there. It’s just a short drive to the coast, where the North Sea breeze will blow away the cobwebs if the views don’t. And bustling Newcastle is close by to make your city break two for the price of one… 

Durham Cathedral

Even on a cold autumn day, this is arguably one of the best city views in Britain. From the Framwellgate Bridge, the gentle-owing River Wear is overshadowed by Durham Castle and the Romanesque cathedral sitting on a hill above it. The cloister at Durham Cathedral Climb the cobbled lane up the side of the river and you’ll reach Durham Cathedral. Whether you’re religious or not, the grandeur and architecture of the building, erected in 1093, takes your breath away. Make your way to the café for a savoury scone and you’ll recognise the cloister from Hogwarts. The cathedral also holds the relics of Saint Cuthbert and copies of the Magna Carta. Tackle the 325 steps up to the top of the tower – it’s worth it for the view. See durhamcathedral.co.uk 

Durham Castle 

Construction of the castle began in 1072 under the orders of William the Conqueror. While the castle now houses students in Durham University’s University College, there are also museums, galleries and Botanic Gardens to look around. These remain closed until early 2021, but will reopen with new things to see and do. Children will be fascinated by the tale of a ghost or two! See dur.ac.uk/durham.castle 

Angel of the North 

We couldn’t venture to the North- East without going to marvel at the Angel of the North in Gateshead. The sculpture, designed by Sir Antony Gormley, was constructed in 1998 and stands at 20 metres (65 ) high witha wing spanof 54 metres (177) across. The significance of the angel is important anda great reminder of how the local area has developed – beneath where it stands, coal miners worked for two centuries, while its modern structure represents the transition from an industrial to an information age. Gormley said it is a ‘focus for our evolving hopes and fears’. 

Adventure Valley 

At Adventure Valley, a short drive from the centre of Durham, there’s tractor rides, bird-of-prey displays, a maize maze to get lost in and everything from ponies to guinea pigs to pet. Look out for Pandora the llama, who’s well-seasoned at selfies. After that, let the children shoot cannons from the pirate ship, wobble their way across rickety bridges and pretend they’re knights in a fun castle. See adventurevalley.co.uk 

Stay 

Who wouldn’t want to stay in a castle? Tick it o your bucket list by booking in at the four-star Lumley Castle in Chester-le-Street, about a 10-minute drive from Durham. It’s steeped in history, having been built in 1388 by Sir Ralph Lumley, a well-known soldier, and retains every inch of its historical characteristics and charm today. Luxe, detailed fabrics adorn the walls and windows, while there are suits of armour and intriguing artefacts around every corner. Stay in one of the state rooms and you might even get a visit from Lily Lumley, Ralph’s wife who is said to haunt the castle. Legend has it, she was thrown down a well by two priests for refusing to join the Lumley Castle Catholic faith. You can learn more about her and explore her parlour and secret tunnels by booking into the castle’s very own Escape Room (from £15 per person). 

In the old stable blocks outside, large rooms retain many period features, such as four-poster beds and pull-chain toilets, but have a more modern vibe and views of the gardens – not a spook in sight. It’s worth mentioning how comfortable we felt in the hotel amid the pandemic. A one-way system has been put in place, while our room was spotlessly clean and staff provided a personal service, despite social-distancing. Rooms start from £75.65.
See lumleycastle.com 

Knights Restaurant 

Word has obviously got around about the atmospheric Knights Restaurant at Lumley Castle, because locals come to dine here as well as hotel guests. e Library Bar is the perfect place for a pre-dinner tipple, before you head into the award-winning restaurant to feast on dishes including roast rump of Lakeland lamb with salt-baked celeriac, fondant potato and a tarragon jus. Finish o with Valrhona chocolate tart with Seville marmalade ice cream. 

Riverview Kitchen 

Remember that amazing view we were talking about? Savour it – and some delicious dishes – at the Riverview Kitchen. Situated down a cobbled path overlooking the River Wear, in arguably the most scenic spot in Durham, it o ers everything from a stack of pancakes at breakfast to lunch or coffee and a cake, and even snacks for your four-legged friends. You’ll all be well-fuelled for the walk up the hill to the castle and cathedral a erwards. Call 0191 384 5777 to book 

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