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Durham and the North Pennines

Wednesday September 10th

We dropped the others off at Northumbria University, where their conference was, and then drove to Durham. It was pretty quiet and we had no problems parking in a shopping mall, where we had coffee and snacks from a bakery.

The historic centre of Durham is enclosed inside a loop of the River Wear, and we began by walking around the outside of that. This is really peaceful and very green -- in places there are hardly any buildings visible, other than the cathedral towers looming above the trees. We crossed over the award-winning Kingsgate footbridge, built by Ove Arup.

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Durham cathedral
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the River Wear
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mature concrete award

We started the tourist attractions with the Durham Heritage Centre, which has a "non-cathedral" history of the town.

Entry to the central part of the cathedral is free, but we paid for access to three internal areas. First we climbed the tower, which is a long way up and offers splendid 360 degree views of Durham and the surrounding area. Then we visited "the Monks' Dormitory", which is a kind of museum with Anglo-Saxon crosses, books and musical scores, and some building history. And finally we saw the Treasures of St Cuthbert, which is a flashier museum with the more valuable and showy items.

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cathedral doorknocker
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looking down from the tower
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Durham university

We planned a big loop through the North Pennines to get back to Newcastle. First we drove south to Raby Castle, where we paid to see the grounds and garden but didn't go into the castle itself; we had lunch sitting under one of the trees (which aren't as big as the perspective illusion in the photo below suggests). Then we had a brief stop in a picnic area near Middleton, where there's a pleasant little brook. (On the map we noticed waterfalls called High Force and Low Force and speculated that "Force" was cognate with the Icelandic word foss (waterfall) - speculation sustained by later consultation of the OED.)

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Raby castle
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a micro-force (waterfall)
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sheep in the Pennines

Unfortunately we didn't have time to look around the area, but we had a pleasant drive through the rolling hills of the North Pennines in warm evening light, getting back to Newcastle in the dark.

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