We arrived in Durham on a really sunny Sunday morning - it was a surprise part ot the our "Tilly Tour" as I though we were heading straight for Newcastle. Anyway at this hour before the shops opened we virtually had the place to ourselves. The cobbled market square of Durham was quite impressive with the town hall, the church of St Nicholas and two stautes - a bare bottomed Neptune and the third Marquess on Londonderry on horseback - more of this in the next tip.
Looking down to Elvet Bridge. Down here on both sides are some good "urban fashion" shops, Strides (on the left) being one of the ones for men, and View the one for women. On the left also is a couple of wine bar/cafe's with outdoor seating (when it's not raining). Just beyond the shops on the left is a set of steps down to the riverside.
New cafes seem to open every month in Durham. Yes, we've got the chains...Costa, Starbucks in the students' union, Esquires, Caffe Nero (where I spend money I haven't got!)...chains are all very well, but independent cafes are even better. Cafe Continental is so good it has its own tip above. Almost as good is Vennels, tucked away in a courtyard reached by a narrow passageway between a bookshop and a bizarre shoe shop on the Bailey. Vennels is known for its cakes, and though it may resemble a canteen downstairs, head upstairs for more unusual seating...the tables are made out of old sewing machines. The tables in the courtyard outside are good for newspaper reading in the summer.
For a taste of how Durham used to be, try Rumbletums for tea and scones, a very traditional place which seems as if it hasn't changed for decades...look out for a stairway leading down behind the post office. At the bottom of the stairs is another cafe in what is going to become Durham's art district (well, it's one street with a handful of art galleries, but they're trying....)
If you smoke, you'd better head for one of Durham's cafe-bars. The best is probably Brown Sugar, opposite the Three Tuns Hotel and the Marriott...service can either be lightning fast or terrifyingly slow, and there's often some confusion when it comes to paying the bill, but they have good cakes, some even better food, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and a licensed bar. Football or rugby fans should head here if there's an important match on, as there's a widescreen telly on the wall.
Other cafe-bars include Hollathan's (Elvet Bridge) and Hide (the Bailey), both nice enough, but both perhaps a bit pretentious. In the summer, Hollathan's has the best tables for people-watching, outside on the car-free cobbled road.
Market place is Durham's main town square. It is dominated by two statues. The largest is an equestrian bronze, by Raffaelle Monti, of Charles William Vane Stewart, 3rd Marquis of Londonderry and Lord Lieutenant of County of Durham, wearing his hussar uniform. It was unveiled on December 2nd, 1861. The second statue, which is much older, is a stone figure of Neptune, wearing a crown and carrying a trident, astride a small dolphin. It was commissioned by George Bowes, who gave it to the town, in 1729, as a symbol of the scheme to link Durham to the sea by improved navigation of the River Wear.
Market Place is flanked by the Town Hall, Guildhall and St. Nicholas Church. It is a very pretty square.
The sunlight streaming through the arches of the cloister windows gave a lovely warm tone as we walked through here. They were heavily rebuilt in 1828, however, and little of the original fourteenth and fifteenth century work remains apart from the wooden roof - so remember to look up for this feateure.