With the buzz of Freshers’ week subsiding comes the alarming realisation that university means work. And a lot of it. Whether it’s the monotonous and, let’s be honest, painful hike from Van Mildert to the Education Centre or the unchanging view of those four walls you now call home, students can begin to feel trapped in the daily routine of university life. Durham becomes a bubble as freshers slowly but surely forget that there is life beyond Billy B.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Durham is a beautiful bubble and is undoubtedly the best city in the North- there is nothing quite like walking along the river, sipping on a Starbucks and listening to the cathedral bells ring. But there comes a time when all students (yes third years, I’m talking to you too) must burst that bubble and see what else the North East has to offer.
As a local myself, I feel obliged to broaden your horizons and show you that there’s more to a night out than Klute and that Christmas shopping is not just restricted to The Gates. We all need some down time and rather than spending another Saturday sitting in Market Square, why not visit one of my top five attractions of the North East?
Beamish Open Air Museum
As a History student I may be biased, but in my opinion you cannot live in Durham without visiting the iconic Beamish Museum. With attractions like the Town, Pit Village and Farm, you can explore over one hundred years of British history all in the space of one day.
If History isn’t your thing, hop on a tram and head down to Davy’s Fried Fish Shop, where the famous ‘fish ‘n’ chips’ are cooked in coal-fired ranges with beef dripping- the traditional way, just how our grandparents liked them!
They even offer student discount and for just £13.50 you can visit the museum as many times as you like over the following year.
Don’t let the dreaded Geordie Shore put you off- a night out on ‘the Toon’ is not as scary as it looks. The city is ranked joint top in the UK for social life, according to The Student Experience Survey and offers hundreds of bars, clubs and casinos. However, the nightlife doesn’t just end there. Newcastle’s theatres, restaurants, cinemas and live music venues mean that the city is the perfect place to end a long week of lectures.
For those who would prefer to see Newcastle by day, the Quayside offers stunning views of the River Tyne and the seven bridges which currently span it. For shopaholics who feel that Durham just doesn’t quite satisfy their splurging needs, intu Eldon Square is a must!
Come December, there’s nothing that says ‘bah humbug’ more than summative deadlines, but fear not- Newcastle is the perfect place to boost your Christmas spirit. Enjoy a hot chocolate whilst shopping around the city’s annual Christmas market situated at Grey’s Monument and be sure to stroll past Fenwick’s department store on Northumberland Street to discover the magic behind their Christmas shop window.
Sorry fellow students, but you’re eight years too late- Metroland (the shopping centre’s resident theme park) closed those magical gates to the public for the very last time in 2008 and the Metrocentre just hasn’t been the same since. Despite the closure of what was once Europe’s largest indoor amusement park, intu Metrocentre still holds the title of Europe’s largest shopping centre, boasting almost 350 stores. With excellent transport links, the shopping centre can be accessed by bus and even rail, as it has its very own train station.
If you fancy giving Klute a miss, the Metrocentre offers great Friday night alternatives such as the region’s first Odeon IMAX cinema; the Namco Funscape entertainment centre (with a bowling alley, dodgems and arcades) as well as a cocktail bar and plenty of restaurants to choose from.
It’s the perfect place to buy your Mum’s Christmas present before you retreat back home- Whittard’s tea just doesn’t quite cut it! Don’t forget to grab your student discount codes before visiting!
Now I know what you’re thinking, nowhere is worth a train AND metro journey, but trust me, Tynemouth is a total gem. Pack your bucket and spade because Tynemouth’s Blue Flag Award winning Longsands Beach is one of the best in the North East. After a walk along the pier and a visit to the Priory, pick up a deal or two at Tynemouth Market (open every Saturday and Sunday). The stalls sell anything from bric-a-brac to second hand goods and quirky homemade items.
To make a day of it, why not visit Tynemouth’s Blue Reef Aquarium? For just £8, you can watch the seal show, meet the monkeys and come face to face with tropical sharks in the North East’s very own undersea safari. To finish off, visit the local’s firm favourite, Lola Jeans. I fully recommend their famous Signature Steak Platter to share between a few friends, and with the bar staying open until 1:00am, you can enjoy a couple of cocktails before catching the metro home.
On a budget? No problem! The front street boasts an array of pubs, delis and fish and chip shops- there’s even a Subway for those of us who went a bit crazy with that student loan!
As a student I am fully aware that we don’t live the most luxurious lifestyle and that after your Beamish Museum membership; a night out in Newcastle; a shopping spree at intu Metrocentre and a trip to Tynemouth, your bank account won’t be looking too promising. But fear not, my final suggestion is totally free.
Put on your walking boots (it can get pretty muddy in the winter months) and explore the beautiful surroundings of Finchale Priory, whether it be a trek through the trees or a stroll along the banks of the River Wear. The remains of the building date back to 1196 and hold a special place in the region’s local history as the Priory once functioned as a retreat for the monks of Durham Cathedral.
Hop on the 62 Arriva bus from Durham and the Priory is just a short walk from the last stop (Brasside Frankland Prison). There’s a coffee shop on site or, to keep the costs low, grab a Tesco meal deal before you go and enjoy your lunch on one of the Priory’s picnic benches, overlooking the River Wear.