I go to Durham a lot. The reason for this is that I have family there – Steph and Jerome – and friends – Vicky and Simon and baby James. And Jess the dog.
Although Jess is neither family nor friend – she is big and bossy and we don’t take much notice of each other. In fact she takes so little notice of me that she stands, whacking her big tail back and fore across my fine snout, and doesn’t even realise she’s doing it.
I like Durham. It is a city but it is small and right in the middle of the city it has walks where I am allowed off the lead. I don’t mean parks, like London – I mean proper countryside. Durham has countryside in the middle of the city – the river Wear, banked by trees and forest. This is amaze-bones multiplied by a hundred.
Durham has lots of things that humans like to tick off their I am a proper tourist and I have taken photos of the important stuff lists. It has the Cathedral, where people go to worship DOG. (Strangely, us canines aren’t allowed inside.) It has a university and lots of lead-on cobbled streets. It has shops – I know this to my cost having spent an hour outside Barks and Spencers while Jane and Steph deliberated over which Christmas cake to buy. And then it was all a huge mistake anyway because Jerome’s mum Sally had bought the Christmas cake and Jane and Steph were supposed to be buying the Christmas pudding. Oh vey – bipeds!
There is also a market on Saturdays, where there is a lady with a stall selling just amaze-bones bones. Steph always buys me a bone there to welcome me when I arrive for my Durham visits.
The best walk in Durham is along the river and then through the woods to Shincliffe village, a distance of about two miles from the city centre. Shincliffe is a village much admired by humans because it is old and quaint – in fact, it is one of those conservation area places – and much admired by me because there are woods on all sides for adventures. I also much admire Shincliffe because we walk there on a Sunday – and that means Sunday roast in the Seven Stars Inn, a traditional pub that does the BEST Sunday roasts around. Once, when I was there with Jerome and Steph, a fellow diner, tucking into lamb and mint sauce, asked why I looked sad and Jerome had to explain that I just have a sad face – sad is my appearance but not my personality. Jerome should have said: he is sad because he would like some kind stranger to share their lamb and mint sauce with him. Which was the truth – the distance between the lovely lamb and my eager tastebuds was what was making me sad.
Phileas Facts, Durham
- Seven Stars Inn, High Street North, Shincliffe, Durham, DH1 2NU. Tel: 0191 384 8454; www.sevenstarsinn.co.uk
- The Court Inn, Court Lane, Durham, DH1 3AW. Tel: 0191 384 7350; www.courtinn.co.uk. This is the pub where I first met Jess, not long after Vicky had adopted her at a rescue centre. Jess was very bossy even then and growled at me for drinking from her water bowl. I was not scared and stood my ground but Vicky said it was a shame for Jess because she had been used for breeding in her former life and there were so many dogs around her that she had to fight to eat her dinner with no one stealing it. So I suppose I am lucky – the only person who tries to steal my dinner is Dodger and he is only a cat. Anyway The Court Inn is modern inside and if it’s sunny and you sit outside there are good views of the Cathedral. It also serves steak and kidney pie – POINTS – because Jane likes pie and always gives me a few chunks of the good stuff.
- The Dun Cow, 34 Old Elvet, Durham, DH1 3HN. Tel: 0191 386 9219. This is good for real ale drinkers (Simon) and real water drinkers (me) – a proper traditional old man’s (and youthful dog’s) pub.
- The Victoria Inn, 86 Hallgarth Street, Durham, DH1 3AS. Tel: 0191 386 5269; www.victoriainn-durhamcity.co.uk This is Vicky and Jess’ recommendation and the good thing about it is that dogs are welcome to stay overnight in one of the six bedrooms (as long as their owners are well-behaved as some wag on the website has written). Jess barks that it is very characterful and friendly.
- No Bones bones are sold at Durham Market every Saturday and online at www.no-bones.co.uk
Days out in County Durham:
I am a bit wary about mentioning Eggleston Hall as, when we visited, Steph saw two terriers in the garden centre there who she said were BETTER LOOKING THAN ME! I was extremely put out by this but Jane made her take it back. I have forgiven her now because it was a very sunny day and I can only imagine she had sun stroke.
Eggleston Hall is a big old grand house (it is the mansion from a silly television programme called Ladette to Lady) and there is a café there, in the coach house. Dogs aren’t allowed inside but on sunny days it is a good place to sit on one of the outside tables because the views are amaze. Eggleston is in the middle of a whole heap of countryside – fields and forests and hills so all of County Durham was laid out before me, just waiting for me to set paw on the woodland paths.
Our walk twas supposed to be a mile but was a lot longer. We were lost. Being lost is one of my favourite hobbies because it makes the walk longer – in this case, about ten times. There were a lot of stiles that Jess had to be pushed over but I leapt right across with no help required. Attlee – one; Jess – nill. Grrrr-huzzah!
- Eggleston Hall and surrounding countryside is in the Teesdale part of County Durham. Eggleston Hall, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 OAG. Tel: 01833 650316; www.egglestonhall.co.uk
- Beamish, 12 miles from Durham, is a village from years and years ago, around the time when my great-great-great grandfather was a circus dog, performing tricks every night to great acclaim. (This is my heritage and explains why my ‘paw’ is the best anyone has ever seen.) We dogs are allowed – quite right – as we are part of history as much as people are and it is worth visiting to have a ride on the old-fashioned tram. Interesting but not as exciting as the No.12 bus in south-east London as people didn’t eat fried chicken from shops with neon signs in the olden dayes so there are no scraps to be had. Tickets are £46 for a family of four and are valid for any number of visits in a year. Dogs go free. Log on to www.beamish.org.uk
- I also like walking – and Jess comes too – at Broom House Farm and Café. Simon takes charge of the map and leads the way, although really it is me and Jess who know where we’re going and not Simon at all. Afterwards, we sit on one of the bales of hay in a field outside the farm shop and have a Sunday roast. There is a free pudding with the Sunday roast. Even if people don’t want one, they have to have one – it is part of the package. This is good for Jane because she makes a big fuss about not wanting any of the delicious apple crumble for reasons of DIET and then, because it’s the law, she has to eat it anyway. Broom House is at Witton Gilbert, County Durham, DH7 6TR. Tel: 0191 371 9697; www.broomhousedurham.co.uk