County Durham is in northeast England – and is the only English district prefixed with ‘County’ (a practice more common in Ireland). Darlington is the county’s largest settlement. But the county town is Durham city – well known as home to one of the UK’s most recognisable landmarks: majestic Durham Cathedral. Alongside Durham Castle, this Norman-era UNESCO World Heritage Site forms one of the most stunning city panoramas in Europe.
County Durham’s population is just under a million – and it shares borders with Tyne and Wear, Northumberland, Cumbria and North Yorkshire. The county is historically known for its mining and farming heritage, as well as its railway industry. Other early endeavours included lead-mining and mustard cultivation. Gateshead had a significant tanning trade and Sunderland became the largest shipbuilding town in the world.
These days, the University of Durham is the third oldest university in England – and one of its most reputable. The market towns and villages of the Durham Dales hoard hidden treasures while others enjoy the seaside tranquillity of the area’s coastline. The county hosts stunning scenery, award-winning attractions and world-class exhibitions, festivals and events.
Road: The A1 motorway provides access from the south. From the north there’s the A1 coastal route or the A68 cross-country 'holiday route'. The A66 provides a scenic cross-Pennine route from the Lake District and M6 motorway.
Rail: The main train companies serving the county are: East Coast; Cross Country;
TransPennine Express; and Northern. (Visit the National Rail Enquiries website for more information.)
Air: The northeast has two airports offering national and international flights: Durham Tees Valley Airport and Newcastle International Airport.
Bus: National coach travel is available from Bishop Auckland, Durham and Chester-le-Street bus stations. Durham City has three Park and Ride services on key routes situated at Belmont, Sniperley and Howlands.
Water: On nearby Tyneside, ferry services operate to North Shields throughout the year from Amsterdam.
Central Darlington and Middleton St George village have enjoyed strong market growth in recent years. Other villages on the outskirts of town, like Croft and Hurworth, are also especially sought-after. This is partly due to the excellent amenities, reputable schools, convenient transport links, and flourishing local communities.
This positive trend may spread to areas like Barnard Castle, Middleton Tyas, and Richmond – thanks to the expansion of the A1 road improving access to Newcastle, York and Leeds.
County Durham’s housing market will likely benefit from continuing improvement in buyer sentiment. The value of the county’s property is rising – and should be further boosted by positive employment growth. Prime property values across the north, including Darlington and its surrounds, should rise as local economies strengthen –and buyers become increasingly aware of the area’s comparative value.
From the Durham Dales to Durham city, the Vale of Durham to the Durham Coast, this atmospheric and surprising county provides plenty of retail therapy. Stroll the historic streets of Durham city with high-street favourites jostling for attention alongside independent boutiques and idiosyncratic craft shops – all in the shadow of Durham’s cathedral and castle. Bargains are also on offer at Dalton Park, the region’s largest shopping centre.
Durham’s market towns include Chester-le-Street and Bishop Auckland in the Vale of Durham; Barnard Castle and Stanhope in the Durham Dales; and Seaham on the coast. Each offers its own particular character and charms. You can browse shops selling locally made arts, crafts and delicacies – there’s also a proliferation of antique shops.
When it’s time to refuel, you can choose from a whole host of award-winning ‘Taste Durham’ eateries. The food quality mark is proudly displayed by more than 70 local food and drink businesses across the county. You can also literally get a taste of Durham by purchasing local produce – from Cotherstone Cheese to Barney Bangers or Teesdale Lamb – at one of the many farm shops or farmers’ markets.
Sport: Emirates Riverside is a world-class international venue – and home to Durham County Cricket Club. Durham City Rugby Football Club play at Hollow Drift while Durham City RFC, the second oldest club in the county, was founded in 1872. The 35 football clubs in the county include Darlington and Hartlepool United. County Durham Sport wants the area to become the most active county in England.
Family: Delve into the county's past via attractions including Beamish – ‘The Living Museum of the North’, England's largest open-air museum. There’s also a spectacular live open-air night show, Kynren, in Bishop Auckland that recreates 2,000 years of local history. Visit the giant wood-carved Gruffalo sculpture at Hamsterley Forest; it's one of 15 sculptures based at Forestry Commission sites throughout the UK.
Outdoors: Durham boasts rivers, reservoirs and coastline – perfect for fishing, sea angling, sailing, canoeing, and water-sports. Many walking and cycling routes reveal unforgettable views across the county. Explore the Durham Dales of Teesdale and Weardale plus the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (which verges Hamsterley Forest).
Cultural: No visit would be complete without witnessing the world-famous, stunning city panoramas at Durham Cathedral and the adjacent Castle. Durham University Oriental Museum is devoted to the art and archaeology of the cultures of North Africa and Asia. Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon houses over 70 vehicles. The Bowes Museum is the jewel in the heart of the historic market town of Barnard Castle; it houses collections of fine and decorative arts.
Events: Durham has a packed year-round calendar of events. There’s the annual Bishop Auckland Food Festival. Durham International Festival showcases jazz, funk, classical, ska and traditional music. Durham Book Festival annually holds literary discussions and interactive events. The annual weekend-long Bishop Auckland Food Festival brings gastronomy to life. Durham Christmas Festival lines the cobbled streets with entertainers, reindeer, carols at Durham Cathedral plus craft, gift and food stalls on Palace Green.