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About County Durham
Once coal mining country, County Durham has edged back to its pastoral roots over the last three decades. The green views are still dotted with the relics of coal, but they're less obvious than the pretty villages and unspoiled market towns with their medieval hubs. Beautiful Durham is one of the most visited centres, but many of the best places to stay in County Durham are old manor houses turned wonderfully warm country house hotels.
County Durham also incorporates the Teesdale hills and the North Pennines, so it has some of the UK's highest public highways - this is a spectacular spot for a drive! But to the east are stretches of long, sandy beach, so it's also a great place for windswept coastal walking.
Durham's main sight is its Anglo-Norman cathedral, a beautiful structure built in the Romanesque style with England's first stone-rib vaulted roof - it's a sight to behold. As is the Galilee Chapel, last resting place of the Venerable Bebe, the 8th Century monk and historian, and home to a series of wonderful 12th Century paintings.
Durham Castle comes a close second - depending on your tastes for architecture. Built in the 11th Century, this castle has been added to and remodelled extensively over the ages, and today is home to the University of Durham.
If you're interested in castles, you should also look up Barnard Castle, one of the UK's largest, covering almost two hectares of land overlooking the Tees, and Raby Castle, which has beautiful gardens.
County Durham also has the ruins of a Roman fort, a number of impressive churches and abbeys and numerous niche museums. One of the most interesting museums is the Beamish Open-Air Museum, a fabulous warts-and-all, living museum portraying industrial life in the north east. There's a replica of Stephenson's Locomotion 1, an opportunity to explore a mine head and actually go underground, there's a working farm and a school, and a pub, and rows of tiny pit cottages. And when you've been to Beamish you'll know another side to this peaceful and picturesque county.
There's even a draw for cricket fans. Chester Le Street is home to the County Durham team and has hosted the odd test match or two!
Our selection of the best places to stay in County Durham are ideally situated to make the most of this beautiful part of the country.
For a country escape
- Lumley Castle is a splendid, 700 year old castle with opulent rooms, four poster beds, suits of armour, stone flagged floors and delicious food. A wonderful old pile full of tradition, but also comfort.
- Rockliffe Hall is a bit younger, it was built in the Gothic style in the 18th Century, and has been lovingly restored, with the addition of a golf course, an award winning spa and three restaurants. The grounds of the estate spread for 375 acres so Rockliffe Hall doesn't just have a golf course, it has the UK's largest golf course.
- Seaham Hall and Serenity Spa has been up graded from simply: Seaham Hall Hotel, which is what it was when Lord Byron was married here. They haven't lost the romantic location or the historic, but luxurious, feel, but they have gained one of the UK's top spas and a Michelin starred restaurant.
Still not sure? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in County Durham, or contact one of our friendly Gurus for advice. Alternatively widen your search and check out our recommendations in Newcastle and Northumberland.
Best Hotels in County Durham
The Town House 11 rooms from $143Durham
Set in a Grade II listed Georgian townhouse in the heart of Durham, this hotel has 11 individually designed, luxury bedrooms. Some rooms feature a private terrace or hot tub. The hotel has a vibrant cocktail bar and a traditional restaurant serving steaks and seafood. The perfect romantic getaway.Local markets - Nearby Durham Market Hall has an impressive spread of local produce.Sights nearby - Durham Cathedral is just a ten minute walk from the property.Great walks - The Durham Dales are a great spot for a long ramble.Four poster beds - For romantics.
The Morritt Arms 27 rooms from $163Barnard Castle, County Durham
A handsome, creeper-covered coaching inn, set back from a main road and surrounded by fields. Some rooms are decorated in dark wood four posters and thick textiles, others are modern, light and airy. All are comfortable. Reviving weary travellers with its excellent restaurant and quirky spa.Sights nearby - Bowes Museum, Raby Castle and Egglestone Abbey are all within easy reach.Local markets - The market town of Barnard Castle is lined with antique shops.Great walks - The North Pennines are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.Quirky - An experience!
Lumley Castle 73 rooms from 132Chester-le-Street (County Durham)
A picture-book castle that oozes atmosphere, from the tower bedrooms to the vaulted dining room. Expect thick walls, lavish decorations, four-poster beds, plus a touch of drama with the costumed staff and evening banquets.Sights nearby - Durham Cathedral and Castle are architecturally impressive and historically interesting.Fishing - Catch a fish supper in the nearby River Wear.Full of characterFour poster beds - For romantics.
Clow Beck House 13 rooms from $176Croft-on-Tees, County Durham
Nestled in pretty Darlington this farmhouse is unquestionably unique. A labour of love, the rooms have been described as "theatrical" and include everything from chandeliers to larger than life Audrey Hepburn paintings. Much of the food is homemade with produce from their 100 acres of farmland.Back to Nature - There are some of Darlington's finest walking routes directly from your front door.Great walks - The Spa Walk is within easy reach from the hotel.Full of characterFishing - Excellent fishing nearby.Recommended by - Good Hotel Guide
Lord Crewe Arms 19 rooms from $195Durham, County Durham
Located in the picturesque village of Blanchford, hanging basket heaven and the heart of walking country. A bounty of outdoor pursuits await you on the doorstep which is reflected in the hearty, better than gastro pub menu (think locally sourced salmon and game) and the country casual room decor.Great walks - Walking maps are provided in every room. From hardcore hikes in the Pennines to perambulating the Derwent Valley.Sights nearby - Hadrian’s Wall and its surrounding Roman settlements are 20 miles from the property and well worth a visit.Back to Nature - A bounty of outdoor persuits lies on your doorstep: from walking, fishing, cycling and sailing and much more!Fishing - Rods are available at the hotel so you can catch a fish supper in the River Derwent.Recommended by - Sawdays, I Escape
Ramside Hall Hotel 130 rooms from $199County Durham
A large, family-friendly, resort-hotel with a swanky spa and fitness area, championship golf courses and a choice of dining areas to suit all pockets. Bedrooms are generous; the newest ones with a hint of bling. Scrumptious meals can be enjoyed in your choice of restaurants.Sights nearby - There is a daily shuttle service into Durham town where you can explore its sights.Swimming Pool - Indoor/outdoorSpa
The Rose & Crown 12 rooms from $219County Durham
A smart, 18th century former coaching inn that has lost none of the essentials of a good village hostelry: a warm welcome extended to dogs too, award winning good food, real ales, comfortable surrounds and quietly stylish bedrooms. All the creature comforts plus splendid walks on your doorstep.Foodies - The inn's 2 AA Rosette award winning restaurant will indulge foodies and fuel ramblersCountry Escape - Pack your walking boots - there are some great rambles direct from your doorGreat walks - Surrounded by walking and bridle paths, and beautiful countrysideSights nearby - Right next door to Romaldkirk's impressive Saxon ChurchRecommended by - Sawdays, Good Hotel Guide
Headlam Hall 40 rooms from $221Gainford, County Durham
A relaxed country house hotel with a spa, golf and tennis or just chill out with books and newspapers. Rooms are large and uncluttered with a fresh, country style, and there’s a choice of dining options.Great walks - Around the four acres of manicured grounds or the property is located between the Yorkshire Dales.Swimming Pool - Indoor/outdoorSpa
Wynyard Hall Hotel & Spa 22 rooms from $254Tees Valley, County Durham
A Georgian stately home, with everything on a grand scale, and surrounded by parkland, this is a place to indulge with woodland walks, tea on the terrace and a wallow in the spa’s hot tub. Charming rooms are decorated with floral prints are effortlessly elegant. A gourmet restaurant, too.Country Escape - Feel like Lord and Lady of the manor for a weekend in this grandiose country houseSpa breaks - Indulgent and bespoke treatments make this a top spa breakGreat walks - A walk amongst the manicured gardensSwimming Pool - Outdoor pool
Rockliffe Hotel 61 rooms from $267Darlington, County Durham
A grand 18th Century country house situated on the largest Golf Course in the UK, with an extensive luxury spa and gym. Bedrooms are large with contemporary furnishings. Guests have a choice of three restaurants and private dining can be arranged. A glamorous country break.Golf - Situated on a fine Golf CourseGreat walks - Walk in the stunning groundsViews - Golf Course ViewsRemote - Off the beaten track.Recommended by - Small Luxury Hotels
Rockliffe Hall 61 rooms from $345Darlington, County Durham
This grand country estate offers a champion golf course and award-winning spa resort, nestled in the peaceful countryside of County Durham. Rooms are contemporary and elegant, offering king-size or super king-size beds. Woodland apartments are also available - the ultimate countryside getaway.Foodies - 3 restaurants, including the flagship 3AA rosette Orangery restaurant, set in the charming 18th century Old HallCountry Escape - Luxury estate in rural County DurhamSpa breaks - Large well-equipped spa and gymGreat walks - Surrounding area offers a plethora of places to visit, from the Yorkshire Dales to Durham CathedralRecommended by - Johansens, Small Luxury Hotels
Seaham Hall and Serenity Spa 20 rooms from $397County Durham
With a modern sense of glamour, this Georgian country house knows how to spoil, from the super-large suites to the Asian-inspired spa. Plus there's parkland to wander and a choice of eating options. Receive the celebrity treatments in large suites and modern bathrooms. A stylish stay.Swimming Pool - Indoor PoolRemote - Off the beaten track.Romantic - Good for couples.SpaRecommended by - Kiwi Collection