*Collaboration (This post features a review of Hotel Indigo and MPW where we stayed and dined on a complimentary basis)
The historic city of Durham attracts millions of visitors from all over the world each year, but luckily for James and I it’s less than a 20 mile journey from our home in Newcastle. We often visit for day trips but until recently, we’d never stayed overnight.
An invitation to stay at the newly opened Hotel Indigo in the heart of the city was the perfect opportunity to discover another side of Durham and we eagerly planned a Saturday night out, safe in the knowledge that we’d have a wonderful night’s sleep followed by a hearty hotel breakfast the next morning.
Here’s a little round up of our trip…
There are lots of quirky shops dotted around Durham, particularly on Saddler Street so I made a bee-line for this area before we could check in to the hotel. We also had a wander around Market Place which was bustling with tourists and locals shopping for local produce from the array of independent stalls.
I can never go to Durham without popping in to Ding Dong Vintage on Milburngate Bridge but despite my best efforts to spend my birthday money the only thing I ended up buying was a lovely embellished top from Oxfam for £3.00. If like me you’re fond of a thrift store rummage then the Oxfam charity shop on Elvet Bridge is an absolute gem!
Durham is also home to Prince Bishops Shopping Centre which is where you’ll find high street stores like H&M, Boots and Next.
I asked my trusty Instagram followers where we should go for the best brunch in Durham city centre and every single response said the same thing, ‘Flat White’! We took their advice and found a cosy little spot in the cute café just off Elvet Bridge.
We thouroughly enjoyed our brunch (Avocado on Toasted Rye for James and a Ham & Cheese Toastie for me) and the coffee was exceptionally good. However, were slightly bemused by the lack of eggs on the menu… It turned out that the recommendations we’d received were for Flat White Kitchen, the big brother to the Flat White Café where the much broader menu (featuring plenty of eggs!) has people queuing all the way up Saddler Street! Oh well, we’ll have to check that out next time.
No trip to Durham city is complete without a visit to the awe-inspiring Cathedral which which together with the adjacent Castle forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From the iconic Sanctuary Door Knocker to the breath-taking Romanesque architecture and the beautiful stained glass windows, there is so much to look at you simply can’t take it all in.
I’m ashamed to say that until this visit, I’d only ever wandered around the grounds and never been inside but I’m so glad I finally have, it really blew me away.
Our visit to Durham coincided with the arrival of hundreds of students preparing for the start of a new year at University so it started to feel a bit crowded by mid-afternoon. The River Wear that runs through the city offers a peaceful escape. There’s a wonderful Riverside Walk that takes about an hour to complete plus opportunities to get out on to the water too!
The Prince Bishop River Cruiser sails every day from March till October, offering spectacular views of the Cathedral, Castle and Bridges. The one hour trip features a live commentary and on-board facilities include a sun deck and bar. Tickets are about £5 but I often seem them on Groupon on a 2-for-1 offer!
James and I were feeling adventurous so opted for a rowing boat instead. We hired the traditional hand built wooden boat from Browns (next to the Boathouse bar on Elvet Bridge).
Browns Boats has been in operation since the 1900’s and I doubt the boats have been upgraded much in that time! We paid £7 each and set off down the River Wear feeling all romantic.
The romance was quickly replaced with fits of giggles and regular shouts of ‘Careful!’ as we tried to avoid the ducks, other boats and reeds along the riverbank. It was certainly fun and I would definitely recommend it but I was ready for a drink by the time we got back to the Boathouse!
Before hitting the bars of Durham we decided to check in to our room at Hotel Indigo (I wanted to take some pics before I got too tipsy)!
The impressive grade II listed building is in a perfect location on Old Elvet and was formerly offices for the council and university, it was known as Old Shire Hall. I was delighted to see that many of the original features had been retained and restored.
The hotel oozes Victorian charm, with magnificent marble tiles adorning the walls and floors and stained glass windows on almost every corridor.
Our room was elegantly furnished and made the most of its traditional features but also featured lots of modern luxuries like a Nespresso coffee machine, smart TV, bespoke toiletries and superfast wifi. We were even supplied with a smart phone to use during our stay!
To be honest, I could have happily slipped in to the soft robe and slippers that were hiding in the wardrobe and spent the rest of the evening curled up watching telly in the room – but with Durham’s vibrant nightlife on our doorstep it would have been rude to not pop out for a few cheeky cocktails.
Durham city centre is great for a night out, offering an eclectic mix of pubs, cocktail bars and student hang outs.
James and I had heard rumours of a secret speakeasy that had recently opened not far from Hotel Indigo and after a bit of searching we discovered an opulent 1920’s inspired jazz supper club hidden behind a dusty looking antique shop.
As we stepped inside The Rabbit Hole we felt like we’d been transported to a bygone age. The oriental décor and low lighting gives the tiny bar and restaurant a lavish and sophisticated feel, nothing like you’d expect from the outside.
The Rabbit Hole is without doubt one of the most unique venues I’ve visited for a long time. I will definitely be heading back to try out the Chinese & Grill menu, perhaps I’ll do a full review then but for now I kind of want this place to stay a hidden gem, so you’ll have to seek it our for yourself!
This popular Steakhouse Bar & Grill is part of Hotel Indigo (you may have read my rave reviews about the one in Newcastle) so it’s the perfect place to dine if you’re staying at the hotel. The menu is pretty much the same as the one in Newcastle but the setting feels much more grand.
The table d’hote menu was included in our stay and offered tempting dishes like Mr Lamb’s Shepherd’s Pie and The Governor’s Fried Haddock with Triple Cooked Chips. We had our heart’s set on steak though so decided to upgrade. I’ve tried quite a few steaks from MPW over the last couple of years and it’s always of the highest quality and cooked to perfection.
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After dinner we joined the Saturday night revellers in in the city’s bars. There was a great atmosphere in the The Library bar on Saddler Street where we bumped in to a lovely couple enjoying their honeymoon. We persuaded them to join us for a cocktail in the quirky surroundings of Old Tom’s Gin Bar and I would have loved to party with them late in to the night but I can’t quite handle my booze as well as I could ten years ago so after one too many we wished our new friends a lifetime of happiness and staggered back to our bed at Hotel Indigo.
The hotel must have been full to capacity the night we stayed and it seemed like everyone decided to have breakfast at the same time as we waited quite a while for a table. I’m pleased to say it was worth the wait though, I never can resist Eggs Benedict! It also gave us another opportunity to soak up the surroundings of that beautiful dining room.
Sadly we had to cut our weekend adventure a little bit short and had to head back to Newcastle after breakfast. However, if you fancy spending the weekend in Durham there are loads of interesting places to explore nearby. I’ve heard lovely things about the afternoon tea at Crook Hall and Gardens which is just a stone’s throw from Durham train station.
Slightly further afield but easily accessible by car or bus is Beamish, one of my favourite days out in the North East (you can read about a previous visit HERE). Raby Castle, Bowes Museum, Kynren, Dalton Park Outlet Shopping Centre and picturesque countryside walks are all within easy reach too, so there really is something for everyone!
If this post has inspired you to plan your own city break in Durham then head over to www.thisisdurham.com for more ideas and inspiration and for the perfect place to stay check out Hotel Indigo Durham HERE
*A one night stay and breakfast at Hotel Indigo plus evening meal at MPW were gifted to us for review purposes but all other costs were covered by ourselves. As always, the opinions I have expressed in this post are honest and personal.