Discovering Durham: aka The Cutest Place in The North.

Myself and my good friend, Annie (also work colleague check out her Insta here) have itchy travel feet at the moment, something I’ve been feeling since returning from Budapest in November last year. So, to satiate the need a little we decided to take a day trip to somewhere in the UK and the North that neither of us had experienced before. We settled on Durham because the train fares from York to Durham with a railcard are super cheap! We booked our tickets on the Monday evening and headed off on Tuesday morning, excited to get out of a York for the day and find some of the cool coffee shops we saw on trip advisor.

Arriving in Durham by train we were immediately struck by how teenie tiny the station was. We both thought we were at another small town before actually arriving in Durham when I saw the station sign. Walking out of the station with coffee on the mind two taxi drivers asked if we were heading towards the city centre, we politely replied with a yes and carried on walking, both suspecting that the two guys were going to try and rope us into a taxi ride. Our suspicions were soon dispelled however, when they both very cheerfully told us we weren’t heading in the right direction and quickly set us back on the right path. This was a pretty good introduction to the general vibe of the city really, full of helpful, lovely, cheerful people giving the city as a whole a really welcoming, relaxed feeling.

As we came out of the station we immediately caught sight of Durham Castle, looking down on the rest of the city. Walking down into the centre we passed an area very much still in the process of being built. This was contrasted immediately by the area leading down to the river and bridge which reminded us both of seaside towns, fishing villages. The streets were cobbled and all the buildings were made of sandstone or old brick, coloured bunting strobing across the streets from roof to roof.
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Our first stop was Cafédral, a small coffee shop located in the first floor of a small corner building.


The interior design, I won’t lie, is what drew is in when first spotting it on trip advisor, but the coffee and the scones we got did NOT disappoint.


The café was decked out in mismatch chairs, tables, display cabinets, light fittings and little hints of William Morris inspired wallpaper and painted furniture, all on a light white background.


We weren’t super hungry so we both had a scone with some jam and cream and got ourselves some sweet coffee. Annie went for a caramel latte and I went for their ‘caramel crunch’ cappuccino, which definitely quenched my craving for sweet coffee.

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After having a good over coffee natter, we finished off our scones and headed out, but not before getting some pics of the outside of Cafédral.


Post coffee fix no. 1 we headed up to Durham Cathedral. Only a short walk away from the café, we strolled up the winding street, admiring the buildings and taking in the beautiful, blue skied day.

The Cathedral itself is surrounded by a wide, open green, with old church school buildings facing it and curving round til you get to the entrance to the Castle.



The Cathedral is free and is funded solely by donations and the entrance fee to exhibitions at another building nearby. Unfortunately Photography is prohibited inside, but if you’re in Durham it is 100% worth a visit. Living in York, we both love York Minster. It is undoubtedly, beautiful, and HUGE! Durham Cathedral is smaller, the stone it’s made with is darker, the general feel of the interior of the Cathedral is dark, a tad gloomy, but beautiful. It has a more ancient feeling to it in comparison to York Minster. The pillars in the main hall are wrapped with engraved spirals or zigzag patterns that feel very medieval and though less opulent than other churches and cathedrals I have visited, it has a slightly unrefined nature to it that I really enjoyed. The windows were on another level though, rich in colour, detailed and just as impressive if not more so than other bigger cathedrals. Annie and myself danced about in the colour from the windows that dappled on the floor before making our way back round to the exit.

After visiting the Cathedral we looked into the castle but decided against it, it’s on a group tour basis only and we thought it’d be more enjoyable if we visited again with other people. Heading back into the centre we found two, yes TWO Waterstones?! It seemed like one was more of a student book shop, which was cool, then the other one further down the high street was the official one. It was such a cute little Waterstones (I make a point of visiting a Waterstones in every city or town I find one in). We had a chuckle with a friendly member of staff who was finding my amazement at two Waterstones on the same street funny, he ended up giving me a couple of stamps on my loyalty card for my enthusiasm in return for a rave Facebook review (which I fulfilled when I got home that evening) and I left with a very cool book called ‘Birds Art Life Death’ by Ryu Maclear. After my obligatory book purchase we went in search of some vintage shops. Unfortunately the one we were looking for, Ding Dong Vintage was closed (weird opening times apparently). But we found another vintage shop called Scarlet Ribbons which had an AMAZING selection of colourful high waisted 501 style jeans. I really wanted a pair of the orange ones but it wasn’t meant to be…that’s how it is with vintage 70% of the time. Annie left with a new nose ring and some cool earrings though and the shop in general was super cool. It’s always interesting visiting other vintage shops when you work in one, stock can vary so much!


From the vintage shop we found our way down to the riverbanks. In Durham the riverside is lined with thousands of trees and the shores of the river itself is abundant with plants. The area was so green and beautiful! On the way down we spotted some ducklings and a Heron bird. It was an area of the city that makes you feel like you are not in a city (if that makes sense?) it is so quiet and peaceful, filled with nature.

 

 


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The walk down from the main bridge in the city centre brings you to another bridge, giving you a idyllic view up-river of the city.  On the other side we found a spot near a willow tree to sit, enjoy the sun and take in the day. From here we decided to stay an hour later than originally planned so we could grab a late lunch.



Back up into the centre we found ourselves at the second coffee stop of the day, a cafe called ‘Flat White’. It is hidden in it’s own little courtyard and going with the day’s theme of lovely people the staff were friendly, chatty and Annie even got talking to one of the guys there about vintage, it turned out that he owns his own online vintage store and had seen our shop’s Instagram (which I help to run) and another complimented us on our coordinated pink and pastel outfits (totally by accident I might add). Annie got a latte and a sandwich and I got myself a cream cheese and salmon bagel, and a cappuccino. The food and coffee was so yummy, we sat outside and slowly made our way through our food (the servings were NOT stingy).


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Flat White was another cafe that had that perfect relaxed, almost European vibe to it, especially their outside area.

With full bellies and another coffee fix we decided to take a slow stroll back to the station, not before stopping into a shoe shop that had a HUGE collection of Doc Martens where one of the members of staff told us we looked like sisters.

At this time of year, a crazy amount of people come to stay in York, but I feel like Durham is such a gem. With train tickets as cheap as they are I can’t recommend taking a trip up there more if you’re staying in York or living in the North.

Sidenote: I think Annie, at one point, said to me ‘Shall we just move here?’

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