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Travels with an Eriba

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Durham City and Finchale

The City of Durham

Our Explorations around the city


Generally speaking, we have concentrated up to now on visits to the Cathedral and Castle and walks around the banks of the River Wear. We were also lucky enough to get tickets in 2013 to see the Lindisfarne Gospels with an accompanying beautifully presented exhibition housed in Durham University’s new world-class facilities in Palace Green Library.

Durham is a very satisfying city to visit, especially if you delight in remarkable cathedral buildings, interesting castles, and a lovely river, all in a wonderful setting.

The River Wear loops around the Romanesque Durham Cathedral and Norman Durham Castle.

North of the castle, 13th-century, medieval Crook Hall is home to gardens and a maze.

South of the river, Durham University offers a Botanic Garden with woodland and tropical plants, and the Oriental Museum exhibiting Asian, Egyptian and Middle Eastern artefacts

Pictorial Tour of the Centre of Durham


At the base of the peninsula is the Market Place, which still hosts regular markets; a permanent indoor market, Durham Indoor Market, is also situated just off the Market Place. The Market Place and surrounding streets are one of the main commercial and shopping areas of the city. From the Market Place, 

the Bailey leads south past Palace Green; The Bailey is almost entirely owned and occupied by the university and the cathedral.

Durham is a hilly city, claiming to be built upon the symbolic seven hills. Upon the most central and prominent position high above the Wear, the cathedral dominates the skyline. The steep riverbanks are densely wooded, adding to the picturesque beauty of the city. West of the city centre, another river, the River Browney, drains south to join the Wear to the south of the city.

Taken from Wikimedia - linked text refers back to Wikipedia articles


Approaching the Cathedral

Distant View of the Cathedral from Durham Station

Approach via Palace Green

Approach via Palace Green

Getting Nearer

Getting Nearer

The famous Sanctuary Knocker on the Main Door

The famous Sanctuary Knocker on the Main Door


St Cuthbert

Who was Cuthbert?


In his lifetime, Cuthbert (635-687) was an influential churchman who was Prior of Melrose and then of Lindisfarne. He was a venerated religious figure, and a successful preacher who was responsible for the spread of Christianity in the North of England.  After his death, his grave in Lindisfarne and the places to which his incorrupt body was subsequently moved, Chester Le-Street and Ripon, became the greatest focus of pilgrimage in early medieval England up until the death of Thomas Becket in 1170. The Lindisfarne monks and their successors carried his coffin with them for many years until they eventually arrived in Durham in the year 995. His grave is still a shrine to which pilgrims travel.  In his life, Cuthbert’s importance lay in his role as a preacher and hermit. Accounts of his life show that he embodied the values of humility, simplicity and tolerance, and he must have been revered as a model Christian. He is also reported to have performed many healing miracles and was treated as a saint upon his death.  Eleven years after his death, it was discovered that Cuthbert’s body was incorrupt. The Durham Sculptor, Fenwick Lawson, depicted these events beautifully in his work "The Journey" - first in wood (now in the little Parish Church on Lindisfarne) and then in bronze. The photo below was taken in a square in Durham centre, but it's now in the care of the Cathedral.


"The Journey" by Fenwick Lawson now relocated to the Cathdral precincts
Cuthbert's pectoral cross
Twelfth Century Wallpainting of Cuthbert in the Cathedral
Cuthbert's Shrine
Cuthbert's Tomb


A bit of History

The Cathedral's origins date back to the first millennium when the Community of St Cuthbert settled in Durham. The current building was started in 1093 and it took forty years to complete. It existed as a Benedictine Cathedral Priory until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 when it was designated as a Church of England cathedral. In 1986 it was inscribed as part of the Durham UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As well as St Cuthbert, one of the other special tombs in the Cathedral is that of The Venerable Bede, whose most famous writings were on theology and history  (most notablyhis Ecclesiastical History of the English People) .Bede's remains were brought from Jarrow in 1022 by a monk called Alfred who had them buried alongside Cuthbert’s relics, where they remained until they were moved to the Cathedral’s Galilee Chapel in the 14th century. 

Bede's prayer beautifully displayed over his tomb

Where we Camped in County Durham


Finchale Abbey Caravan Site

We really enjoyed staying at the Finchale Abbey site. The owners were very friendly and welcoming. They run a great little cafe (we can recommend the chips!) and also sell the eggs laid by the hens who roam freely around the site. It's in a great position by the River Wear and, best of all as far as we are concerned, it's right next to the very picturesque ruins of a 13th century Benedictine Priory. The other bonus is that it only takes a relatively short time to be in the centre of Durham from there. Whilst we found the washrooms adequate, we did feel that they could definitely be updated and that has indeed now been done and the site and its facilities have excellent reviews. It is an adult only site. (The name is pronounced "Finkle" BTW)

More about Finchale Priory

On the banks of the River Wear, in a beautiful wooded setting, stand the extensive remains of Finchale Priory. It was founded in 1196 on the site of the hermitage of St Godric, a retired sailor and merchant, who settled here after a life of adventure and travel. The priory was an outpost of Durham Cathedral and functioned as a holiday retreat for the monks of Durham until its suppression in 1538. It's easy to see why this peaceful site was chosen by the monks.

  • Finchale