Where to Stay in Durham: An Expert Guide
Wondering where to stay on your trip to Durham? Then you've come to the right place
Located in the northeast of England, Durham is a ceremonial county which offers magnificent scenery and world-class attractions. Whether you’re after a city break or a country escape, there are plenty of great places worthy of being your temporary home. We’re the destination experts here at Plum Guide, with a frankly scary amount of knowledge on all things travel, so there's nobody you can trust more than us. Deciding where to stay in Durham isn't the easiest of choices, but that's where we come in, so sit back and enjoy this expert guide.
Durham (the city)
With winding cobbled streets and historical buildings, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve just stepped onto a Harry Potter set. Funnily enough, Durham Cathedral did actually double up as Hogwarts in a few of the films. The medieval cathedral and castle are highlights of Durham’s spectacular skyline, forming the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site (the ultimate seal of approval). Soak up the history and culture with first-class galleries, museums and artisan workshops, or indulge in a little retail therapy in the many independent shops and boutiques. If you need a break from the action, head down to the River Wear where you can unwind with a relaxing walk or admire the city from a calming cruise. Staying in Durham means you’ll be at the heart of the action - the city offers a fantastic artisan food and drink scene and a vibrant nightlife with endless things to keep you busy.
This historic market town takes its name from the Norman castle perched on a high rock above the River Tees. With extensive views over the Tees Gorge, this fortress is a must-see when visiting the town. For more history, visit the Bowes Museum. This elaborate French-style chateau is home to a nationally renowned collection of European fine and decorative arts. We can’t decide which is more impressive - the art, or the chateau’s architecture. If you’re a keen shopper looking for where to stay in Durham, then Barnard Castle is your playground. Cobbled streets are lined with Georgian and Victorian buildings, now home to numerous antique shops and independent retailers selling everything you could possibly need. Foodies will enjoy the monthly farmers market where you can find local produce like cheese and wine (oh go on then), homemade treats, and condiments. Pick up some goodies and take a stroll through the vibrant flowers and greenery at Eggleston Hall Gardens, or stop by the ruins of Egglestone Abbey. Ruins can always be counted on to provide a fascinating jump back in time, and these are no different.
Bishop Auckland is a bustling market town in the Vale of Durham. Once home to the Prince Bishops of Durham, the magnificent Auckland Castle is not one to miss. Explore the lavish rooms and hear stories from the castle’s past tenants. Outside, the fun continues with plenty of other attractions such as 150 acre Deer Park, the Mining Art Gallery, and the Bishop Trevor Gallery. The town has a thriving arts and culture scene, with a library, cinema, theatre and arts complex housed in the town hall. There is also an abundance of independent shops, boutiques and cosy cafes, so when we say there's something for everyone, we really mean it. If you’re visiting Bishop Auckland in August and mid September, Kynren–An Epic Tale of England is an outdoor live action spectacular which brings to life 2,000 years of history, myth and legend.
Cricket fans searching for where to stay in Durham should look no further than the market town of Chester-le-Street. It’s home to the Riverside Cricket Ground, a scenic venue which hosts over 50 days of cricket between April and September. Alternatively, if cricket doesn't quite bowl you over (we also specialise in puns, if you weren't aware), there are still numerous attractions and things to do in the town. Chester-le-Street has a fascinating heritage, with plenty of things for history lovers to get excited about. Take the heritage trail, which guides you past several historical spots through the town, including a Roman Fort site. Oh, and don't forget your camera. Want to burn calories while learning about history? Cuddy’s Course is a 7.5 mile walking trail which takes in some of the town’s historic sites such as St Mary's and St Cuthbert's church, which date back to 883AD - prepare for some comments from the kids about how they're almost as old as you. Still, not a cricket ball in sight.
If you’re looking to spend time in the outdoors, there’s no better place to stay than Stanhope. This green and peaceful market town, nestled in the centre of the Durham Dales, is a fantastic hub for outdoor activities. There are many walking and cycling trails leading to remote upland moors, some rising to over 2,000 feet (you have been warned). Grab a towel and enjoy a swim with views of the surrounding countryside at the Weardale Open Air Swimming Pool. Yes, it’s heated. Not looking to get active? The town is an ideal place for rest and relaxation. Pop into the Durham Dales Centre and check out the variety of craft shops. Pick up some treats at the tea room and take a gentle stroll along the River Wear, with its calming presence and many picnic spots. Now that’s what we call a country break.
The large market town of Darlington is a fantastic base for exploring the many sites and attractions nearby. The town was the birthplace of passenger railways, and its history is captured at the Head of Steam museum. Get up close and personal with the locomotives - step into the original 1840s railway station and explore the platform with its original footbridge and waiting room. Continuing with the historical theme, just a short drive from the town is Raby Castle, an impressively intact medieval castle. Discover the extravagant interiors and its large collection of artefacts. Back in town, browse through the stalls at the Darlington Market Hall for some locally made products. Have a picnic in South Park and talk to the parrots at the aviary (don’t encourage any foul language, please). End the day with some light entertainment at the Darlington Hippodrome. With a diverse programme of ballet, opera, theatre, comedy, musicals and pantomimes, there’s something to please everyone (besides your luxury Plum Guide home, of course).