A party from Dorking U3A headed north-east for an autumn holiday, taking in castles, cathedrals and curiosities along the way, writes Jacqueline Greenlees
Photos by Laurie von Weber
We left Dorking on a gloomy and wet Monday morning in mid-September, but this did not daunt us as we journeyed north to Teesside. The rain was intermittent all the way. Our guide from Northern Secrets was waiting in Newcastle to help us to settle into our hotel for the week.
The next day it was still raining. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a tour round Newcastle, including a visit to the impressive Sage Centre (a huge concert centre designed by Norman Foster). This was followed by a brief visit to Hadrian’s Wall and then on to Corbridge, where we explored the village and saw two pele towers.
Soon after this the rain stopped as we travelled across the Cheviots to Cragside. Over 150 years ago Lord Armstrong, a lover of all things scientific, built this visionary home. It is an amazing Victorian house, with 103 rooms, built on the side of a hill in a hotchpotch of architectural styles, but is truly impressive. In 1880 Lord Armstrong installed electric lighting, the first in the world to be powered by hydro-electricity.
On Wednesday we spent the day at Alnwick Castle – wonderful state rooms, such a treat. The castle featured as the family’s summer residence in the 2014 Christmas episode of Downton Abbey. It was also used for one of the Harry Potter films. The gardens were a pleasant surprise, with amazing fountains.
The next day we went to Lindisfarne, which was most interesting and has wonderful views. We were able to see the church, priory and castle and had the opportunity to buy fresh crab sandwiches. One’s time in Lindisfarne is always limited because of the need to beat the incoming tide. On the way back to our hotel we stopped briefly to see Bamburgh Castle and visit a mining exhibition.
Friday was a mild autumn day, perfect weather for a tour. On our way to Durham we stopped to view the Angel of the North. Durham Cathedral is beautiful: very old, and a mixture of Norman and Romanesque architecture, with enormous Norman columns. Our guide took us round the town and then we were left to our own devices. We were able to explore the town and the little streets around the cathedral and along the river. Lovely views of the river can be seen from high up by the cathedral.
Saturday, our final day, was spent at the Beamish Open Air Museum. We went back in history from 1520 to the 1900s. We were able to ride on trams, visit a farm, an old hall, a street and a railway station and to witness a demonstration of falconry. On Sunday it was into the coach and back to Dorking with a two-hour stop at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.
This was a very interesting and educational holiday. The grateful thanks of all who went go to Angela Cooke and Jim Docking for organising it.