Durham, Whitby and Scarborough

Next stop Durham…. We hadn’t been planning to visit Durham this trip (visiting larger towns / cities by motorhome can be a pain) but then Mark found a Caravan and Motorhome Club CL that claimed to be within easy walking distance of the city centre…..

We had two nights at the Durham Amateur Rowing Club. We loved it there. OK, there was more mud than grass surrounding the five pitches (arranged in a semi-circle by the car park) when we visited (though to be fair it is February), and they take your payment by ‘phone when you book as your chances of finding anyone “in charge” after arrival are slim. Not that we looked very hard – everything is pretty much self-explanatory…. There were plenty of keen rowers scampering around, and Mark very quickly wangled a tour of the boat shed with one of the coaches.

It was indeed a short walk to the city centre, along a riverside path with things to look at along the way:

The “Durham cow” above relates to a story about St Cuthbert. Cuthbert was initially buried at Lindesfarne following his death in 687 AD, but with the repeated arrival of the pesky Vikings from 793 AD onwards, the monks thought it best to remove his remains from Lindesfarne in 875 AD for safety. They finally arrived in Durham over a hundred years later in 995 AD (having spent a long period at Chester le Street but also seemingly a heck of a long time in transit).

The story goes that one day, the cart carrying St Cuthbert suddenly stopped and would move no further (you do have to wonder why it took so long for the poor monks luging him around to come up with that ploy….). One of the monks had a vision that told him Cuthbert wanted to be buried at Dunholme. There was only one problem – it didn’t tell him where Dunholme was…..

Just then, a milk maid came by and, asking another milkmaid if she’d seen her cow, was told the missing animal was at Dunholme. Hurrah! The monks followed the milkmaid to Dunholme with the remains of St Cuthbert, the milkmaid retrieved her cow, and the rest, as they say, is history…..

Durham Cathedral was very impressive. It was free to go into the cathedral but then £7.50 to visit an additional exhibition that, we were proudly told, had been opened by Prince Charles last week (despite having opened to the public in 2016…. is his diary really so full that he couldn’t have popped round a bit sooner?).

One big downside of a visit to Durham Cathedral is that they don’t allow photos at all…… 😞 So we have no photos of the inside of the cathedral, none of the tomb of the Venerable Bede or St Cuthbert’s shrine, none of the monks’ dormitory or the fabulous medieval kitchen space in which the new exhibition is housed, and none of St Cuthbert’s cross, found in his tomb when it was opened in 1827…. Fair enough I suppose as otherwise, they’d just have hundreds of people wandering round with their noses in their ‘phones…..

The one thing I dared take a photo of later, situated as it was outside the main cathedral and directly between the entrances to the cathedral café and the cathedral shop, was a 300,000-piece Lego version of the cathedral, completed a few years ago as a fund-raiser (people could sponsor a brick for £1).

You can even see through some if the windows to a Lego interior complete with Lego visitors. HANG ON a minute, though – why is there a lego bloke in the middle conspicuously wielding a camera?????

From Durham we drove to Whitby. Our first task was to visit Whitby Abbey. The first monastery was founded here in 657 AD and the Synod of Whitby was held here in 664 AD, at which it was decided that the kingdom of Northumbria would follow the Roman tradition rather than the Ionan / Celtic tradition.

Rome and Iona disagreed on a number of matters but most notably the calculation of the date of Easter – which could cause no end of problems. The King and Queen of Northumbria apparently favoured different sides, which resulted in the somewhat farcical situation that when the King (who followed the Ionan tradition) started celebrating Easter, the Queen (who was originally fom Kent and followed the Roman tradition) might still be fasting for Lent. The argument for Rome was made at the synod by St Wilfrid (whose crypt we saw at Hexham Abbey) and he won the day, thus putting an end to any more unfair monopolisation of the Royal easter egg stash…..

The ruins you can see today are those of the later Benedictine monastery on the site, which dates back to the 13th century.

Whitby itself is a nice little town to wander around, thought the range of shops is somewhat limited (jet jewellery, fish & chip shops / cafes, and tourist tat shops prevail).

Mark wanted to see the whalebone arch:

The whaling industry was big business in Whitby. Between 1753 and 1833, 55 whaling ships were based at Whitby and brought back over 25,000 seals and 2561 whales to be processed.

Whitby is also famous for its association with Captain Cook:

James Cook was an apprentice seaman in Whitby between 1746 and 1749 and then stayed on with the same employer until 1755 when he joined the Royal Navy. There is an interesting small museum in the house where he lodged during his apprencticeship, with lots of information about Whitby in the 18th century, James Cook’s life and his voyages of discovery.

The first photo is the building as it stands today; the second is how it is thought it would have looked in James Cook’s time:

No visit to Whitby would be complete without a trip to the Magpie Cafe for fish and chips.

To be fair, there are lots and lots of fish and chip establishments in Whitby, and quite a few have been highly recommended to us, but the Magpie Cafe is the plaice for us (not that we had plaice: I had haddock and Mark had cod).

We had a day trip down to Scarborough whilst staying at Whitby. Scarborough castle, set on a very cold blustery headland above the town, has a long and varied history.

Remains from prehistoric settlements have been found on the site. The Romans had a signal station here, the remains of which are still visible.

Like most places along this coast, the Vikings had a big impact. “Scarborough” apparently means “the stronghold of Skardi” in old Norse.

The castle itself was founded in 1138 by a nobleman but was soon seized by Henry II (as Kings do….). Henry had the great tower built and his son John (boo… hiss…) later added the surrounding wall.

The reason that only half of the great tower remains is that Scarborough Castle also played a part in the Civil War. The castle, held by royalists, was attacked by parliamentarian forces in February 1645, one result being that the great tower was split in two by the parliamentarian guns.

Further trouble was to come in December 1914 when the castle and town were shelled by three German ships, killing 17 and seriously wounding 80 locals.

On exiting the castle we saw a sign to the grave of Anne Bronte in the churchyard mere metres from where we were standing. It was easy to identify her grave as the one with an expanse of mud in front of it from all the visitors.

Mark had one final pilgrimage to make whilst we were in Scarborough: a lap of the Oliver’s Mount road racing circuit. Yes, in a motorhome (“Oh, for God’s sake” I hear multiple voices cry……). It’s on public roads so there’s nothing to stop anyone pootling around it when there’s no racing going on. Here’s SOK taking up positions 1 and 2 on the grid (and probably quite a few more in the rows behind!).

In addition to SOK’s first introduction to bike racing, we hit another milestone today: Mark has completed page 1 of his 2018 savings list. This all started a few years ago with a National Trust membership. This year we’ve joined English Heritage, which offers much slimmer pickings, but he seems quite happy with our progress thus far:

And on that note, it’s time to head West towards more “Savings”……

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