Though there’s a common association of summer holidays with jetting off abroad, there is also great joy in staying put on home turf. If you’re here for a semester, a year, or your entire degree, a country is opening up before you, and now is the time to take a look around (after submitting assignments, of course!). Between sleeping, reading, and spending time with family and friends, I spent my summer covering uncharted territory in Eastern England, concluding with a family mini-break to the North East. Though further afield from Bangor, the North East is an alternative to visiting the bustling cities of Britain, largely untouched by industrialisation.
Getting There: From Bangor, the North East of England is not a stone’s throw away, but British transport has got you covered. The average journey time via train from Bangor Train Station is four hours, with changes at Chester and Manchester Victoria, but if you travel in the early morning, you’ll have from midday to explore around your destination! Journey times average about the same via coach, but this just means you’ve got more time to plan your trip on the way.
Best time to visit: The summer rush will have just finished by the time you’re reading this, and the tide of tourists will have gone out again. If you’re planning to travel in reading week, or for a long weekend, Autumn is probably the perfect time due to the lack of queues and quiet spots of beauty. Also, and maybe the most important requirement for us students – everything will be cheaper!
As for where to visit, most trains pull into Durham, and this is a spot you cannot miss. A small city near the Northumbrian coastline, Durham is steeped in history, leaving to the feeling that with each bout of British rain, another layer is washed away and exposed. Rather like Bangor, Durham only takes minutes to walk through, meaning all the more time to explore the fascinating history, niche shops, and placid scenery. If, like me, you’re a Potterhead, then you must visit Durham Cathedral. The Cathedral’s Choirs were used for countless shots of corridors and Hogwarts’ quad throughout the Harry Potter film series, so feel free to shed a tear or two as you find yourself walking the corridors of Hogwarts (as if you aren’t already in Main Arts!). Religious or not, Durham Cathedral boasts some incredible Romanesque architecture and stunning stained glass windows. Frankly, no trip would be complete without a visit to this location.
Speaking of amazing locations, why not visit Lindisfarne Castle? Only an hours’ drive away from Durham, and bordering on Scotland, this secluded castle is only reached via a causeway, so be sure to check the times of the tides before crossing! The history of Lindisfarne encompasses the whole of the island (The Holy Island) it is situated on; from a priory once controlled by Henry VIII following the dissolution of monasteries, and the Castle
perched upon an extinct volcano. It’s a steep walk up to the top, but worth it for the one-of-a- kind views you’ll get across the coast towards Scotland, and further down the coast to Bamburgh Castle.
Villages scatter themselves across the North East coastline, all offering sights, history, and (on a lucky day) some beautiful weather. Bamburgh Castle may be wildly overpriced, but the village is also home to more student-friendly attractions such as the Tudor port of Budle Bay, and the Grace Darling Museum. Likewise, the nearby Seahouses, just a five-minute drive away provides easy access to the Farne islands and an extortionate number of fish and chips shops, but who can resist seaside food, really? Filled with niche shops and artistic corners, Seahouses is bustling yet peaceful within the North East landscape, and is the perfect way to finish up your trip.
But before you leave Bamburgh, a tip for where to eat: Windenwell Cafe. A mods and rockers interior completely juxtaposes the simplistic, rustic menu of homemade sandwiches, scones, and cakes and to use a cliche, it is a glorious feast for the eyes. This is food for the soul at its very best, and with their delicious range of food and excellent coffee, Windenwell is the place you’ll be craving to visit with sore feet at the end of the day. Though it is a rather long journey away, everything you do in the North East will be worth it for the unforgettable sights and the best shortbread of your life.