North by north-east

HIGHLY CUL­TURED: A Unesco World Her­itage Site, history in spades and a sweet shop to die for. ex­plores County Durham.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Travel -

HAVE vivid mem­o­ries of step­ping back in time at Beamish Mu­seum as a child, my nan at my side, stroking shire horses, head­ing down the drift mine, writ­ing on chalk boards in the school and buy­ing seem­ingly bot­tom­less bags of sherbert in the Ed­war­dian sweet shop. Sum­mer hol­i­days at their best.

And as I sat on top of the tram about to dis­cover it again 25 years later – it was just as ex­cit­ing. We started our short break around Durham at the open air mu­seum, which opened in 1970 with the aim of pre­serv­ing the build­ings, ob­jects and ma­chin­ery of in­dus­trial life in the North in the 1800s and 1900s.

It’s fair to say the high­lights of the day – lunch at the coal-fired fish and chip shop and a wal­let-bust­ing trip back to the sweet shop – set the prece­dent for my few days in Durham. Food. And lots of it.

The bar had al­ready been set high in the res­tau­rant of Beamish Hall Ho­tel. Our ho­tel for the evening was just mo­ments from the mu­seum in Stan­ley, in the Vale of Durham. Set amid rolling park­land, the coun­try house ho­tel has its own mi­cro­brew­ery and Sta­bles res­tau­rant, of­fer­ing lo­cal pro­duce with ex­otic twists. An evening stroll around the beau­ti­fully-kept grounds was very much in or­der af­ter tuck­ing into a huge plate of lamb tagine.

Af­ter a hearty Northum­brian break­fast in the el­e­gant Eden Room the next morn­ing, we made our way to the city cen­tre to ex­plore. It may be rel­a­tively com­pact, but Durham has a lot to dis­cover. We started by mak­ing our way up to Palace Green, which is over­looked by the cathe­dral, Durham Castle, Palace Green Li­brary, and var­i­ous univer­sity build­ings, each with hun­dreds of years of history and now com­pris­ing a Unesco World Her­itage Site.

A cathe­dral has stood at the site since 1093, and the Ro­manesque ar­chi­tec­ture is quite some­thing to be­hold. Some­thing, in fact, that is cur­rently be­ing repli­cated us­ing 350,000 pieces of Lego in sup­port of its latest de­vel­op­ment pro­ject. It’s well worth tak­ing one of the cathe­dral’s or­gan­ised tours to dis­cover more about the trea­sures that lie within – and as part of – its walls.

From the cathe­dral we headed across to the Palace Green Li­brary, which un­til Au­gust 31, is mark­ing the 800th an­niver­sary of Magna Carta. Across sev­eral gal­leries, an ex­hi­bi­tion charts the history of re­volt, stretch­ing from the War of the Roses to the Oc­cupy Move­ment. The only sur­viv­ing 1216 is­sue of the char­ter – on loan from Durham Cathe­dral – is the cen­tre­piece of the ex­hi­bi­tion.

Af­ter a lofty morn­ing of re­li­gion and pol­i­tics, it was time for more food. This time though, it could be easily ex­cused un­der the ves­tige of more history. The lovely Cafe on the Green is housed in the build­ing where the Bishop of Durham,

TAKE IT AS READ: The only sur­viv­ing 1216 is­sue of the Magna Carta is the cen­tre­piece of an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Palace Green Li­brary.

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