Durham, Jarrow, Lindisfarne and Scottish Abbeys

posted September 27, 2010 by Holly Hayes part of trip: UK + Western Europe 2010

OK, now that I have some free time in rainy Edinburgh, I'll share the fun we had on Saturday, a really busy day during which we visited no less than six great sights. Here's the route:

View Larger Map ## Durham We slept great in our Radisson BLU Durham and had a delicious buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The bus-girls were so attentive that they reminded us of eagles, attentively surveying the room then swooping down within 10 seconds of us finishing a plate. It was quite entertaining, but shows the impressive level of service at this place. It was a lovely morning, so then we hiked up to the Old Town to take some morning photos of the cathedral. We missed the best turn, and ran into a closed trail at one point, so we ended up getting more morning exercise than we'd bargained for! Durham Cathedral is one of our favorites in the UK (at the moment it's David's #1 pick and my #2 after Lincoln), but photography is not allowed inside for some unknown reason. That is sad and annoying and made the visit a lot less fun. But it is magnificent inside. It's one of the only pure Norman cathedrals left in England and has absolutely huge pillars carved with geometrical designs and arches carved with dramatic zigzags - I wish I could show them to you. Not being able to take photos, we didn't stay long. {img7092|Weathered zigzags on the outer doorway} Back at the hotel, we packed up, checked out, and got on the road for a long day of exploring. ## Jarrow Our first stop was only about a half-hour north of Durham, in a suburb of Newcastle (a big, industrial northern city) called Jarrow. However, we ran into an unexpected wrinkle in Newcastle when we followed our GPS instructions right into major construction, which funneled us into a tunnel underneath the Tyne River that charges a toll of £1.20. We didn't actually want to cross the river, so we had to go through the tunnel, pay the toll, go around a roundabout to turn around, back through the tunnel, pay the toll again, and find our way out of the construction to Jarrow. And after visiting Jarrow, we *did* want to go north across the river, so we paid the toll and went through the tunnel a third time! Jarrow was on the itinerary because was the home of the Venerable Bede (673-735), a Saxon monk who wrote the first history of the English people. (He has an impressive tomb in Durham Cathedral.) Part of his monastery church in Jarrow still survives in its original Saxon form, which is very rare, and that was what I mainly wanted to see. In 2000, they built a modern museum next to it called "Bede's World," which is quite lame. David took one look at that and said he'd wait in the car!
Bede's World
The church was downhill from the museum in a large park. The sky was cloudy and ugly during my visit, so I didn't get very nice photos, but I really enjoyed my visit. The people running the church were so nice and seemed to be glad I was interested and wanted to take photos. Shortly after I arrived, a soft-spoken woman around 50-ish who came up to my elbow gave me a brochure and offered her help if I wanted to know any more information. Later, a priest let me know that a service was starting soon, but rather than being annoyed with a visitor being in the way, he assured me that it would only take 10 minutes. The service turned out to be a small cremation ceremony. Before it began, one of the old men waiting for it to start noted my camera, pointed to his left cheek, and said, "This is my best side!" Good times. I love going to places that don't get many visitors.
Monastery Church of St Paul, Jarrow
From inside the Saxon part of the church (7th century), where they held the service
Priests under the Saxon arch, which still has its original dedicatory inscription from 685.
Monastery ruins next to the church
## Holy Island of Lindisfarne Then we had a long but fairly scenic drive to Lindisfarne, a tidal island off the North Sea (east) coast of northern England. It is also known as "Holy Island" (even by our GPS) because it was a major place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. It was settled around 635 by an Irish missionary monk named Saint Aidan, who converted many of the local heathens to Christianity. A later abbot of Lindisfarne Priory was Saint Cuthbert (d. 687), whose name appears all over the place in this region, from Durham to Edinburgh. In the early 700s the monastery produced one of the most famous medieval illuminated manuscripts, the Lindisfarne Gospels. The monastery was destroyed by the Vikings and is now in ruins. What makes Lindisfarne fun to visit even for non-nerds is that it is located on a tidal island surrounded by the ocean, so it is a beautiful and dramatic setting. It's also exciting to know that your car could be swept out to sea if you try to cross the causeway at the wrong time! (We happened to arrive at the perfect time, a couple hours before the low tide at 2:40pm, so the road was mostly clear of water and we had time to visit and return safely. If we hadn't made it back by the 2:40 low tide, we would have had to wait until 8:15pm!)
And there's a picturesque castle on a rock even further out into the sea, in addition to the monastery ruins. So it was an enjoyable visit for both of us. It was extremely windy - but not quite as bad as Whitby! - and the sun could have appeared a bit more through the clouds for our liking, but overall it was a successful photography trip, too.
In the village of Lindisfarne (you have to walk a good way from the parking lot so as not to disturb the sleepy village)
Ruins of Lindisfarne Priory
Ruins of the priory church
IMG_2662_1 Hard at "work" IMG_2705 Walking around the harbor to Lindisfarne Castle
Picturesque old boat, turned upside-down and used as a shed by fishermen
Castle from the beach
Castle with sheep
I ventured down to the tidepools for a different view of the castle. I like tidepools anyway, but couldn't find anything interesting in them. Above is my view from the rocks, sadly without the sunshine I was hoping might show up. I waited for quite awhile before giving up.
## Scottish Abbeys We made it back across the causeway safely, then we turned west and headed inland for Scotland. The whole route was on very rural roads with few other cars, which was fantastic. I don't think I can quite express just how much David enjoys driving the rental car, especially on roads like that. We kept our eyes peeled for the Scottish border and almost missed it - there was just a little brown sign, half hidden behind a tree, with a thistle symbol and the message, "Scotland Welcomes You." We feel welcomed. England is wonderful, but Scotland has always seemed to me to be even more beautiful and friendly. That has proven true so far on this trip as well. Our first stop in Scotland was Jedburgh Abbey, a ruined monastery built mostly in the 13th century. It is an impressive sight, perched above a river in a pretty rural village.
## Dryburgh Abbey The next stop, Dryburgh Abbey, was just 20 minutes away, but it was almost 4:30 by then and we were pretty worried it might be closed. But last entry turned out to be 5, so we were in! Hooray! This abbey was also in ruins and had an even more beautiful location, in a field with lots of different kinds of trees. There was only one other couple there so close to closing time, so it was a very peaceful place to be. We spent a long time standing around on the grass, enjoying the atmosphere while hoping for the sun to peek out from behind the clouds. And just as the owners were looking ready to close the gates and we were ready to give up, it finally did. {img9986} {img9984}
{img9982} ## Melrose And finally, it was another 20 minutes' drive to Melrose, our stop for the night. The scenery got even more breathtaking on the way, and the village of Melrose was quite attractive, with a hill rising up behind the market square.
The market square from our hotel doorway
IMG_2987 Our hotel was surprisingly chic for its rural location and very comfortable. {img10036|After checking in, we made a quick evening visit to Melrose Abbey (only a couple blocks from our hotel).} Our dinner in the hotel restaurant was the best so far on the trip. And we have pictures! IMG_3000 David had Scottish steak with garlic butter and potato wedges. He was really happy with it. IMG_2997 I had pork with apple-carrot chutney and dijon sauce over pesto crushed potatoes. Everything was SO GOOD. Seriously one of the best meals ever. IMG_3001 Dessert to share: autumn berry crumble with deadly vanilla cream sauce. After dinner we were pretty much ready for bed, but I tried to be dedicated and walked down to Melrose Abbey for some night photos. I'm glad I did. And David soon showed up, despite being rather bleary-eyed, to make sure I was OK in the dark. What a guy. Fortunately I'm getting faster with the tripod and manual settings, thanks to instruction from David earlier in the trip, so it didn't take long.
Melrose Abbey Ruins at Dusk, Melrose, Scotland
Sunday we had a slower day, stopping at only one site between Melrose and Edinburgh. I'll get to that next time! And this afternoon we're enjoying some rare downtime - David is napping while I get the photos downloaded and caught up on the blog. Tonight we're meeting my Scottish friend and former roommate Lizzie and her husband for dinner at 8. Good times! Tomorrow: more Edinburgh, including a visit to the castle, and probably a day trip to St. Andrews.

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