Durham, in the north-east of England, is possibly somewhere you might have trundled through on the train to Edinburgh, or flown past as you travelled down the A1.
But the historic city and surrounding countryside have quite a tale to tell, starting as the burial place of St Cuthbert and attracting pilgrims from all over the World who built a Medieval cathedral on the site and, unbeknown to them, put down the foundations for the World Heritage Site it is today.
But we're not here to talk about the city, we want to know more about the surrounding rural areas, from dramatic coatline to darling dale, and have worked with Visit County Durham to bring you the top three places to stay, places to eat/drink and things to do in Durham and the surrounding countryside.
The Rural Travel Guide's Top Three:
Places to stay:
Headlam Hall Hotel & Spa
1) Headlam Hall Hotel and Spa
This idyllic country house hotel stands in immaculate walled gardens and is surrounded by its own rolling farmland in picturesque Teesdale.
Dating back to the mid-17th century, the Hall has a relaxed feel to it with a blend of stunning period features and subtle interior design to reflect the rural heritage of the property. There are 38 rooms and suites and extensive resident’s lounges as well as outside terraces overlooking the gardens where you can relax and enjoy the tranquil setting.
The restaurant serves modern British cuisine using fresh local ingredients including some grown in the Hall’s gardens. There are a number of private dining rooms available for special occasions.
2) Forty Winks Guest House and Residence
Forty Winks Guest House and Residence takes immense pleasure and pride in welcoming visitors to a slightly unusual home and secret interior.
It has recently undergone a sumptuous eye-grabbing renovation where classic period design playfully and niche’ly merge with an imaginative blend of the unusual, the outrageous and the intriguing, assembled on globetrotting adventures, past and present, with a nod to the slightly eccentric and plenty of theatrical flourishes creating a special atmosphere with a surprise behind every corner and something to reveal behind every door.
Seaham Hall and Serenity Spa
3) Seaham Hall and Serenity Spa
Dating back to 1791, the iconic Seaham Hall, home to the award-winning Serenity Spa, is just 30 minutes’ drive from Durham City.
Set in 37-acres of rustic and alluring countryside with views of the wild and romantic heritage coast, this five-star hotel has a fascinating past and like many Georgian country houses has a rich history and an eccentric character that belies its contemporary interior.
Byron's restaurant's focus is to celebrate British ingredients and its producers who dive, harvest, hunt, nurture and gather them.
Places to eat/drink:
1) The Cellar Door, Durham city
This restaurant is a blink and you'll miss it establishment, tucked away on the main street to the cathedral in the city, but celebrates the area's rich, rural heritage.
The daunting entrance leads down to a deceptively open space with floor to ceiling windows providing extensive views of the main river running through Durham and the restaurant's garden which grows produce for the dishes available.
Some of the original 13th century stonework is still visible throughout the building.
The food is designed to match the relaxed dining environment, with the main focus on the use of seasonal and local produce, with menus changing monthly to reflect the freshest produce available.
Rose & Crown
2) The Rose and Crown, Romaldkird
The Rose and Crown kitchen team create great tasting food that utilises the best of local produce and ingredients with excellent provenance. It creates dishes that
reflect Durham's stunning rural location, using both classical and contemporary cooking techniques with an eye for detail.
3) Claypath Deli, Durham city
Claypath Delicatessen offers a wide range of carefully sourced produce to eat in or take away for breakfast or lunch. They endeavour to source produce locally where possible and have a fantastic range of local cheese, chutneys, breads, oils and desserts from Durham, Cumbria and Northumberland.
Perfect if you want to take some local produce home with you.
Things to do:
1) High Force
From its rise as a trickle, high on the heather covered fells at the top of the North Pennines, to the top of the whin sill rock at Forest-in-Teesdale, the River Tees steadily grows and gathers pace, then it suddenly and spectacularly drops 21 metres into the plunge pool in the beautiful Durham Dales.
A gentle and pretty woodland walk leads you to view this spectacular sight at the base of the falls which has just been announced as runner-up Landmark of the Year 2018 by Countryfile Magazine.
2) Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral is a Christian Church of the Anglican Communion, the shrine of St Cuthbert, the seat of the Bishop of Durham and a focus of pilgrimage and spirituality in North East England.
Set grandly on a rocky promontory next to the Castle with the medieval city huddled below and the river sweeping round, the profile of the World Heritage Site is instantly recognisable to people travelling up and down the East Coast Main Line.
3) Beamish Museum
Step into history at Beamish Museum, which tells the story of the people of north-east England in the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s.
From town to village and farm to pit, find out what it was like to live and work through the Industrial Revolution, which transformed the area and two World Wars, which changed it again.
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