“ Rowing boats for hire in Durham / Tel: 0191 386 9525 „
What better way to while away time on a sunny afternoon in Durham than hiring out a rowing boat and messing about on the River Wear. Brown's Rowing Boats, situated under Elvet Bridge, have long been a part of the city's character, with boats available for hire between April and October each year.
The current hourly price is £5 for adults and £3 for children, with family tickets available. We paid £12 for two adults and one child. They also ask for a returnable £10 deposit. The last boat hire is one hour before dusk.
There are different sized rowing boats available, the Brown's web page website says no party is too large or too small, but obviously there will be a limit as to how many fit in a boat. The standard rowing boat such as the one I hired out has three seats in it. The middle one is for the person rowing, there is a narrow seat behind them and a larger seat with a backrest opposite. The seat with the backrest should be able to accommodate two average sized adults, or one adult and two small children.
The rowing area is limited to the third bridge each way, it would be difficult to go further anyway; in one direction there is a weir after Prebends Bridge and in the other the river becomes shallow and rocky.
Heading down river takes you towards the centre of Durham. The main views are tree lined river banks and the bridges. It's usually quite peaceful, although there will probably be a handful of other rowboats around, as well as boats from rowing clubs and a few walkers along the banks. You won't see much of the cathedral and castle from down here, other than a glimpse through the trees, the river stops you from getting close enough.
If you head up river you will go under the New Elvet road bridge and the Baths footbridge towards a sculpture by Andrew Burton called The Durham Cow, which refers to the legend of the founding of Durham. There is also a bandstand up here in front of the cricket ground. This is a straight stretch of river where you are likely to see more of the competitive rowers. Remember to keep to the right hand side and if you should want to overtake someone move to the centre. Further upriver it's very tranquil with hardly anyone around, but you'll be pushed to get that far up and back in just one hour.
An hour feels like quite a short trip. I have hired a boat out for two hours, but that was before the recent price increase. If you wanted longer it might be worth trying to negotiate a price with one of the staff; they seem quite approachable and down to earth.
I suppose you need to be reasonably fit to take a boat out for an hours rowing, but not especially, you can always take a rest and take it at your own pace. I have shared the rowing with my partner when I've been out, that way we both get a chance to sit back and do nothing for a bit, just be ferried about. Take a picnic, feed the ducks.
This part of the river tends to be quite clean and well maintained, but sadly as with almost anywhere in the UK, there are thoughtless idiots responsible for the odd bit of litter and graffiti to ruin some of the view along the way.
As mentioned, Brown's is under Elvet Bridge and there are steps down from there. It's also easily accessed via the stairs in the Prince Bishops Shopping Centre or by walking along the riverside path. Life jackets are available, we didn't bother for ourselves, as it's not very deep and we're good swimmers, but we did put one on our daughter. The River Wear was featured in the 2005 television programme, 'Seven Natural Wonders' as one of the wonders of Northern England. If you visit Durham I'd recommend a boat trip along the river as a part of your experience.