Sunday, 5 September 2010

Up East

We decided, a few weeks ago, as I was not working, to take a trip to the North East.  So we did.
This shows the best way to arrive in Durham - which we didn't use.  The Viaduct is Grade II* listed and easily provides the best view of the City as a whole.  Certainly I fell in love with Durham when I first saw it from the train.

Instead the whole trip was going to be fairly long, and we had tents and stuff.  So we used the car.

One of the attractive things about Durham and other university towns out of term, is that they often run the colleges (or halls of residence I guess) as B&Bs.  So we stayed in Durham Castle; during term this is  University College although no-one ever calls it that. 

This was the view from our window:
Our room was up a spiralish staircase:
 - in one small part of the Castle:
I spent a lot of time on pictures of Durham and the Cathedral the last time we were here, just over two years ago.  So I won't duplicate that post.

This trip was intended to cover some of the universities that oldest is considering.  So we spent much of the time wandering around looking at the studenty bits.

For example, the collapsed cardboard box that is the students' union:
- as seen from Kingsgate Bridge:
The New Inn (one of many fine hostelries in the city, many of which I appear to have discussed at length - exclaiming wildly - as we first drove into the place.  Sigh.  Or so oldest says, at least).  Anyway this is the nearest pub to the science site; it has no other merit I can recall:
When I was failing to become a physicist at Durham, I developed a special place in my heart for one of our lecturers.  He was very clever indeed, and made several remarkable discoveries and went on to become the Astronomer Royal for a time.  However, back in the '70s we felt he was somewhat less gifted as a lecturer.  Imagine my surprise, therefore, to discover that a new teaching complex on the science site contains this:
Those who were there when I was will understand just how deeply those words strike...

Actually, we came across several other lecture theatres named after academics who were around 30 years or so ago.  Rosemary Cramp springs to mind.  I'm not sure if there is a strange periodicitiy (if you can stick to it for that long and are quite good at what you do then they will eventually name summat after you if the building and refurbishment cycles fit in appropriately),  or whether I was just noticing the names I recognised.

Anyway, outside the new building looks quite attractive:
We visited the CS department for the prearranged Visit Day and had chats, lectures, nibbles and coffee.  The academics had turned up in force to meet the possible applicants and promote Durham, so there was a lot to find out.  We also took ourselves off on a mini-tour of the colleges.  Trevs were very friendly despite major refurbishments.

And then we left, heading North.
We whizzed past the Angel of the North:
- and after coffee in Berwick Upon Tweed, we reached Scotland. 

One of most obvious landmarks on the A1 North of the border  is of course Torness nuclear power station:
- which didn't melt down or blow up as we went past it, thankfully.  The building is a huge blot on a beautiful coastline - uglifying the landscape in a way that windfarms don't.

The rest of Scotland was fine, if a little damp.  We spent two nights with Doug Gray and family (one in a tent in their garden, including spotting a shooting star - this was during the busy time for the Perseid shower, so perhaps unremarkable - and an overinquisitive cat, the other night much drier, crashed on the floor of their lounge) and investigated St Andrew's.

I'd never been there before, so Doug took the lead as an alumni.  The town was smaller than I had expected, with ruined cathedral and castle and a long groyne/cob stretching out into the North Sea.  I gather the university is quite small too - although everone we asked assured us it was very 'full on'.  I was surprised to discover everyone wears gowns around the place (Doug explained how you can tell the year of the student from how the gown is worn).  A really pleasant and helpful postgrad showed us around the CS department, when we turned up on spec, and we also had a quick look at the Famous Golf Place thingy.  Altogther a good day out.  The only issue was I didn't take the camera out of the car with me - so no pictures of St Andrew's.

In the car on the way back, however, we saw this:

- which famously leads to this:

The Forth Rail bridge (as seen from the Road bridge).

After a late night playing games, we headed off the next morning for York.  Again the decisions regarding what we would photograph turned out to be a little random. 

Here is the A66:
Andy & Caroline were super, putting us up in York.  Andy took us around York university and the CS department - which was in the process of packing up ready to move into their new building.  So a little chaotic, but the York campus was great - and quite close to the main city.

And finally, a long, long evening drive home...   Thanks to all who accommodated us and showed us stuff!

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