Day 28, Aysgarth Falls and Bolton Castle, Day 29, Durham and the Cathedral

We planned another lovely walk in the Dales today. This time a circle route, which we have done years before, that starts at the beautiful Aysgarth Falls and then walks through woodland and farmers fields to Bolton Castle, returning through Carperby.

Aysgarth falls is made up of three significant sets of falls. The Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. Our walk started at the Aysgarth middle falls. The path followed the river for sometime, weaving in and out of woodland at the beginning.

The Middle Falls at Aysgarth, overflowing with the recent rains.

Parts of the woodland was filled with bluebells and other wild flowers. the recent rains and cooler temperatures have held back some of the flowers, but we are getting our first whiff of the wild garlic that s also beginning to bloom here.

Bluebells were popping up throughout the forest

We soon came to the path to the lower falls. The guide book had said the best time to visit the falls is on a sunny day following rain, and we got to see them in their full splendor.

The last of the falls, the lower falls was delightful as it cascaded over the limestone shoulders.

Along the path, I discovered a lovely bench that someone with talent had the time to carve this for the enjoyment of all!

This green man must be here to welcome the many walkers who take this path.

We soon left the woodland and started crossing pastures as we made our way east and north towards Bolton Castle.

The skies were dramatic, and kept us guessing…. And then, all of a sudden the sun would come out!
Clearly neither the skies, nor our walk past seemed to upset this sheep! I must say, there is nothing more soothing than walking through these fields of green, speckled with these animals….just watch your step!

From open fields, we then followed a bridle path that led us to another short walks in the woods before opening once again to green green pastures.

Dan and Gwen leading the way along the bridle path
Will it rain, or won’t it??
I’d say the hills to the south of us are getting some drizzle!
Just a short way through this path and then we would see the castle
At last we came to the road, and up the hill we climbed to Bolton Castle. This castle is best known for housing Mary Queen of Scots on her route to London where she had been summoned by Queen Elizabeth I. She spent 6 months here before continuing to London.
This interesting dragon carving was here on our last visit in 2019. It has weathered nicely as moss has started to give it a green coat!
The castle has a number of rooms used by Mary and her entourage during her stay, but other parts have fallen to decay over the ages.
Here’s a look at parts of the remaining tower and keep.

Well, after a quick cup of tea, it was time to begin our circle back to Carperby and the Aysgarth car park. This time our journey took us through picturesque fields, before woodlands once again.

Gwen walking along a landscape that could easily be from 100 or 200 years ago!
Lots of baby’s seen along the way!
…and I was struck by these fields of dandelions that seemed to pour sunshine on our changeable day.
We finally made it to Carperby where we enjoyed an ale at the Wheat Sheaf Inn. This is where James Herriot spent his honeymoon!
Across the road, we headed towards the woods which would lead back to the car park. There was a light mist, so I put my coat on over my backpack. Rocking a new Quasi Motto style here!
Once back at the car park, we walked the short way to see the Upper Aysgarth Falls.

Back in the car we headed for home and an early dinner. We had a friend of Glenn and Gwen’s from their last trip coming over to visit in the evening and enjoyed many stories of his travels.

Day 29, Durham Cathedral

Today, Glenn, Gwen and I headed to Durham to visit the historic Cathedral there. Dan missed out on this because of other obligations, but I’m sure he’ll catch up with the blog!

Durham Cathedral was founded in the 11th century along with many of the other monasteries in the north of England. This cathedral began as a Saxon church which was built at the resting place of St Cuthbert. As legend has it, the body was carried away from Lindisfarne in order to keep it from the marauding Norse invaders. Legend also has it that St Cuthbert’s body was dug up 11 years after his death in order to put his bones in a reliquary. To their surprise, his body was found just as it was on his deathbed….so the entire coffin was moved. It traveled to Marsk and to Chester Le Street until the monks carried it along to a hill top in Durham where the weight became so heavy, they could no longer lift the coffin. They decided that this would be his final resting place, and they were able to finally put St Cuthbert to rest.

The Cathedral features 2 great saints. St Cuthbert, as I referred to above, and the venerable Bede. Bede is recognized as an incredible scholar and wrote the first book of the history of the English. It tells the story of the establishment of Christianity in England and the development of the kingdoms within.

The cathedral and Bishop Prince’s castle sit high above the River Wear in the heart of Durham.
We wandered up the streets of the old town to get to the church.
Some streets were still festively dressed from the coronation celebrations.

We were a little early for our Cathedral tour,so we went into the visitor’s centre, located in the library of the university. And , of course, Durham University is housed in the former Prince Bishop’s castle…lots of history to be seen!

Entry way into the Bishop Prince’s castle.

After some orientation, we went in to the see the Library, first opened by Bishop Cosins in 1669. This was the first “public” library in England. Let me qualify “public” as being open to the clergy and the aristocracy. However, having said that, the concept was created for future use and expansion!

A small room by all accounts, however, with most of the books being hand written, this was an amazing feat!

Our next visit was to the cathedral itself. The entrance intrigued us right away with doors that were 10ft high and a knocker that would spook anyone! Apparently, as legend has it, if you had committed a great offense, you could touch the knocker and be granted sanctuary for 37 days, during which time you chose between trial and voluntary exile! The hideous face was to ward off evil from this place of sanctuary.

The very large door in the centre of this building profile is the main entry to the cathedral.

Upon entering the cathedral we walked by the baptismal font. This was created after the reformation, and was the first thing in which the bishop of Durham wanted to invest. It’s the first sacrament, and should be something that leads the child towards a life bound for heaven.

Stunning baptismal font and crown in the nave of the cathedral.
Looking down the nave towards the quire and alter. This was the first church to use the “pointed arch”. This is the earliest stone vault ceiling of such scale in the world. The importance of this arch is the weigh bearing capabilities, and this development was a major architectural breakthrough.
Looking into the quire through to the alter and the resplendent rose window at the end.

Looking down the nave, I was struck by how similar this cathedral was to those that we had hiked by that were destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries in northern England. Apparently this church survived because it was an “urban church” (most likely built around the pilgrimages for St Cuthbert and St Bede). Clearly this church aligned itself quickly to the Church of England and saved itself from ruin. It was an amazing place that, all but for the grace of their oppressors, could have ended up like so many other abbeys in the district.

This is a modern day window added recently. While the colours in this photo don’t do it justice, it is of Christ and the 12 apostles at the least supper, only positioned above the table looking down.
The Bishop’s chair in this cathedral actually needs stairs to get to, and is reportedly the tallest seat in England.
This is the Shrine of St Cuthbert, where he has rested for over 1000 years.

An interesting story that we were told happened during the Blitz when German bombers were sent to bomb Durham. When they arrived, miraculously a heavy fog laid across the city, and it was spared from bombs that would have destroyed the cathedral. it is the belief that St Cuthbert saved them all from destruction.

This was an interesting carving done by the same artist that carved “The Journey”, Fenwick Lawson. This statue ( the Pieta) was displayed in York Minster where it survived the fire in 1984. In the background you can see the carving entitled “The Sarcophagus”.
The rose window above the alter as seen from the outside of the church.

When our touring of the church was done, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed outside to tour the town.

Life along the River Wear. Rowers out practicing while rowboats await their charges. A very peaceful setting along this river that curls entirely around the Castle and Cathedral.

It was soon time to leave Durham and head back to Richmond. Only one full day left to explore the Dales before we head north to Scotland the the out islands. Just as things are getting quite warm at home. We are heading to even cooler weather. Summer temps on the Orkneys are reported to be 15C on average….and it’s not summer yet!!! Oh well, we’ll enjoy another day pf green dales before heading north. Until then.

Categories: Hiking in Iceland and the UK

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