There are direct trains to Durham station from London’s King’s Cross station (3hr), York (45min) and Edinburgh (1hr 45min). Go North East buses serve most places of interest, but it’s easiest to get around by car. www.lner.co.uk; www.gonortheast.co.uk
WHERE TO STAY
Live like a local at 52 Old Elvet, restored luxury apartments in a handsome Grade-II listed Georgian townhouse in the heart of Durham. Many of the house’s original features have been preserved, from the 300-year-old staircase to the oak panelling, and the property was even once visited by HM The Queen.
Seaham Hall is a country-house hotel on the coast. The Georgian building is rich in heritage but the style of the bedrooms is full of contemporary pizzazz, with statement headboards, zingy colours and luxurious details such as wood-fired hot tubs. The vast spa, approached by a calming, dimly-lit walkway, is influenced by
Far Eastern healing rituals and staffed by a team of experts.
Further south is the destination hotel Rockliffe Hall, a magnificent Victorian hall with a modern extension overlooking rolling parkland. There are plenty of on-site diversions, from the cutting-edge spa and golf course to excellent restaurant The Orangery, whose gourmet nine-course tasting menu makes use of produce grown on the 365-acre estate. The rooms are luxurious and classically furnished, with exceedingly comfortable beds, generous bathrooms and views of the countryside and River Tees. www.52 oldelvet.com; www.seaham- hall.co.uk; www.rockliffehall.com
WHERE TO EAT
The Orangery at Rockliffe Hall (above) offers a standout fine-dining experience, as does the Raby Hunt, the county’s only restaurant with two Michelin stars; work off the 15-course tasting menu with a stroll around the Raby estate. Restaurants in Durham are generally of the cheap-and-cheerful variety, catering to the student population. Your best bet is Vennels Café, where you can have a lunch of pie, soup or salad, or an afternoon snack of homemade scones, under the beams and wonky ceilings of the café’s original 16th-century interior. vennels.com; www.rabyhuntrestaurant.co.uk