England Grand Tour (2021): Day 3: From Durham back to Newcastle

Farewell walk in Durham

Sunday started with another ‘Nero’ breakfast, following which we returned to the hotel for showers and packing. When ready, we headed out for a final Durham walk to (and through) the modern university campus, this being located outside the historic district, south of the peninsula. St Mary’s College appeared to be the oldest part of this campus.

After returning to the hotel, we checked out at 2pm. The walk up to the station wasn’t as bad as feared. We had around 45 minutes until time for our booked train, reservations being compulsory at this time of ongoing pandemic, so we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon beer in a return visit to The Waiting Room.

Change of city

Our LNER train to Newcastle Central took 12 minutes. We walked the short distance to the Holiday Inn Express Newcastle City Centre (located in Waterloo Square) and checked in. The public areas looked fine, but surprisingly in such a modern-looking building, the rooms were to what I call “HIX Mk I” specification, easily identified by the quirky one-door-two-apertures layout of the bathroom.

After briefly settling in, we headed back out in the direction of Grey’s Monument and were appalled by the initially skanky appearance of the neighbourhood. Thankfully, this was short-lived: the area around the Monument itself remains grand and impressive. We celebrated our relief with a second afternoon refreshment at The Alchemist, which seemed reasonably well organised in terms of Covid compliance. We then made our way down to the river, emerging beside the Swing Bridge, with the reassuringly solid Tyne Bridge towering above us. After taking in the familiar scene – my last visit had been with Bruce in September 2015 – we wandered along the riverbank to the Millennium Bridge and crossed to the separate municipality of Gateshead.

Our route back westwards took us past the impressive Sage Gateshead, home of the Royal Northern Sinfonia. I reminded myself that, nearly four years after moving to Edinburgh, I still hadn’t achieved my ambition to attend a concert at this venue. Before crossing back to the Newcastle side, we stopped for an outdoor drink and snack at the HWKR Market in the ‘container village’, just upriver of the Tyne Bridge. Unfortunately, this experience left us feeling ripped off, with sky-high prices for small drinks and poor-quality food.

Back in The Toon, we enjoyed a Ramen dinner at Nudo and then rounded the day off with a nightcap at the hotel bar.