Having spent three years living and studying in Durham, I have visited many of the places and done many of the exciting things that Durham City has to offer. Durham is a small, cathedral city yet it is bursting with delightful tearooms, independent restaurants and historical and cultural beauty. Planning a day trip to Durham? Here are my suggestions for a day full of good grub, gin and exploring a city that I’m lucky enough to call my second home.
- Have Breakfast at Flat White Kitchen
One of the first cafés I ever visited in Durham was Flat White, a small and cosy coffee house nestled in a back street off Elvet Bridge. To the delight of many Durham residents and students, last year the owners decided to open up a larger eatery round the corner: Flat White Kitchen.
I have never been a big fan of pancakes myself, but after much persuasion I tried the Ricotta Pancakes at FWK and have been addicted ever since! Whilst you can get an array of different pancake toppings, including bacon and maple syrup, these pancakes are smothered in syrup, covered with fresh fruit and topped with the most delicious cinder toffee butter. Chunks of ricotta cheese are hidden inside these soft pancakes, making them one of my favourite things to eat for breakfast or brunch. Other popular dishes include avo, chilli, feta and coriander on sourdough toast, sumptuous cakes, all accompanied by the best coffee in Durham and a range of smoothies.
2. Visit the Castle and Cathedral
No visit to Durham is complete without visiting its best known monuments: Durham Cathedral and Castle. The 11th-century Cathedral is one of the most spectacular buildings I have ever been in, and is as impressive inside as it is on the outside (perhaps one of the reasons it has featured in films such as the new Avengers film and Harry Potter!) I feel very lucky to have graduated in such an iconic and beautiful place! This World Heritage site is the home of the tomb of the Venerable Bede and the Shrine of St Cuthbert – it is well worth taking one of the guided tours of the Cathedral to discover its rich historical and ecclesiastical past.
Also standing proud on Palace Green is the majestic Durham Castle. Not only is the Castle one of Durham University’s colleges and home to many students, but this Norman Castle has served as a strategically important base in the history of the region. I remember attending a candlelit History Society talk in the Norman Chapel at the Castle, and leaving feeling utterly spellbound. Make sure you don’t miss this atmospheric and impressive monument.
3. Walk or Row Along the River Wear
Durham University is famous for its rowing accolades, but it is not just the University and College rowing teams who can be seen on the River Wear. Brown’s Boats, located underneath Elvet Bridge, rent out wooden rowing boats which you can row up and down a lovely stretch of the River Wear. This is a great way to spend an afternoon and to take in the sights of Durham City. Rowing not for you? There is a lovely footpath that winds round the banks of the Wear, stretching right the way through the city. Don’t worry, there are plenty of tearooms and bars with great views along the way!
4. Have Afternoon Tea
I don’t think I’m the only person who has studied or lived in Durham who has enjoyed their fair share of afternoon tea! There are countless places in the city offering this traditional service, but two of my absolute favourites are those served at Tealicious Tearoom and Crook Hall & Gardens.
Tealicious Tearoom is a delightfully quaint speciality tearoom on Elvet Bridge, offering countless blends of loose leaf tea to try and enjoy. The owner, Alison, has worked hard to ensure that local produce is used wherever possible and that the quality of the food, drinks and afternoon teas served at Tealicious are of the best quality possible. From scones with clotted cream and jam or treacle, ginger and lime cake, to roast beef sandwiches with red onion marmalade, there is plenty to enjoy at this Durham tearoom and I can’t recommend it enough! Perfect for a special occasion or a relaxed catch up with friends.
Afternoon tea at Crook Hall & Gardens (pictured above) is a fantastic experience. When you book at Crook Hall, not only do you receive a Sparkling Afternoon Tea service, but you also get unlimited tea and coffee and entry to the wonderful Hall and beautiful gardens! In the summer you can sit out in the gardens for your afternoon tea, and in the colder months you can enjoy your sandwiches, homemade scones and cakes in the Georgian Dining Room. The afternoon tea stands are made to look absolutely stunning, decorated with edible flowers from Crook Hall’s own gardens. A real treat!
5. Enjoy a G&T an Extremely Small Gin Bar
Tin of Sardines Gin Bar, also on Elvet Bridge, is very aptly named. It’s really quite tiny! I think the main reason for this is that it houses a collection of over 160 gins for you to sample – the largest gin collection in Durham! This bar was a very welcome addition to Durham City last summer, with handcrafted gins made with new and unique flavour combinations becoming more and more popular. Each gin and tonic is served in a Copa de Balon glass with different fruits and herbs, making each glass look like a true work of art. It is well worth visiting Tin of Sardines and ending your day trip to Durham with a refreshing G&T – just make sure if you’re with a big group, that you can all squeeze in!