Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Alnwick via Durham

Sarah and I set off on our mini-break to Northumbria. We have a hotel booked in Alnwick and want to spend time on Holy Island, but other than that our plans are open.

On an impulse we decide to stop off at Durham on our way past. I’ve never visited Durham before (it’s smaller than I imagined) and I’ve eager to see the cathedral.

Built on an imposing summit in a large loop of the River Wear, seeing the cathedral is not a problem. More challenging for someone unfamiliar with the city is how to get to the Cathedral.

Parking in a multi-storey shopping centre car park and taking a shuttle bus just doesn’t appeal, so we find some on-road parking out of the city centre and walk back along the river until we find a footbridge across. Riverside woodland paths and old cobbled streets, fit much better with our carefree holiday mood.

The cathedral is stunning. I find myself staring up at the vaulted ceiling until my neck aches. I’m so glad we chose this detour.

We arrive in Alnwick in the bright sunshine of mid-afternoon, find the hotel and check-in.

The White Swan is a 17th century coaching inn and the frontage and foyer (complete with open fire) bode well. As we wind our way up to our rooms the décor falters somewhat and the worn carpets, woodchip wallpaper and exposed pipes start to raise concerns.

Happily these concerns evaporate the moment we open the doors to our rooms. These have obviously been refurbished quite recently and are amazingly sumptuous with deep reds and dark woods. Unbelievably good considering the late-deal room rate we got of £29.99!

Having dumped our bags we head out to explore the town. It’s very lovely and the glorious afternoon sunshine shows the golden sandstone off to its best advantage.

We eschew the hotel’s pedestrian and uninspriring dinner menu and find a nearby café/restaurant that is surprisingly good (whiskey and marmalade bread and butter pudding…yum!).

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