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Barnard Castle is a town in County Durham situated about 25 miles south/west of the City of Durham, 16 miles to the west of Darlington and about 50 miles from the heart of the Lake District. You can reach it from the north via the A688, from the south via the A1 and from the east and west via the A66. It lies beside the River Tees and is ranked amongst one of the top 50 most historically and architecturally important towns in Britain with its unique and colourful history that dates back to the Roman era and beyond. The town is named after the 12 th century castle, which was built on a high bank overlooking the River Tees this was home to many famous people from history such as Richard III and Henry VII.

The town is and has been for many years a market town with one held every Wednesday in Market Place, an old cobbled area headed by an octagonal building called Market Cross. This building has had many uses over the years from a butter mart, a fire station, a court house to the means of settling a bet between two snipers, the story is that two men, Taylor (a local) and Cruddas (a game keeper for the Earl of Strathmore) bet each other that they were a better marksman. They fired at the weather vane on Markets Cross each leaving a bullet hole so therefore proving that they were as good as each other, the holes are still there today.

Bernard Castle has four main streets, or gates, these are Galgate, Bridgegate, Newgate and Thorngate each lined with beautiful stone built houses giving it a typical Dale's town appearance. It is home to the famous Bowes Museum, a French chateau style building that opened in 1892 and houses an art collection that comprises of a fine collection of art works from 1400 to 1875. The collection consists of mainly French artists but also some Spanish, Italian and Northern European artists. Along with its fine antique shops and famous restaurants it is also an administrative centre for this area.

 

Beamish is four miles west of Chester-le-Street and near to the town of Stanley in County Durham. It is the home to one of the biggest tourist attractions in Britain, The North of England Open Air Museum. This was opened in 1970 and was set up and ran by a joint committee of the counties and boroughs of the North East of England, today however it is mainly self funding. The idea of the museum was to replicate the lives of people in a Northern town and the main features are a colliery, a drift mine, pit cottages, a railway station with a signal box and steam engines, a working farm and an old fashioned town. In the town there is a stationers, print works, dentist, co-operative store, public house and brewery stables, this seems to be the most popular attraction. The different aspects of the museum are linked together by electric tram cars and an open topped bus, which is of course necessary as the museum is spread over 200 acres.

Not far from the museum is the 14 th century Beamish Hall, bought by the Craggs family in 2004, it has been extensively restored to its former glory and is now a well established luxury Hotel catering for everyone's needs. The history of the hall goes back to the Norman Conquest and has housed several prominent families with several areas of the hotel reflecting this.

Beamish town has lots of facilities for visitors from ample accommodation to pubs and bars, shops and restaurants.

 

Bishop Auckland is a market town 12 miles southwest of Durham City and 12 miles northwest of Darlington you can access the town via the A689 and A688 and close by is the A1 which can give you easy access to the north and south of England.

The main street, Dere Street, is of Roman origin and passes straight through the middle of the town with the main shopping streets of Newgate Street, Cockton Hill Road and Watling Road following this route.

Bishop Auckland has a spectacular Via Duct which spans the river Wear originally built for the railways but with the decline of its use it was abandoned, the people of the town rallied together and it has been converted for road use.

The Bishops Palace (also known as Auckland Castle) situated here is the official residence of the Bishop of Durham and has been since the 19 th century as the bishop of that time gave Durham Castle over to the University of Durham for its college rooms.

With the start of the industrial revolution in the 1800s many changes came to the area, there was the opening of the Railways, with a network of seven lines running through the town making Bishop Auckland a hub and the opening of many mines, creating much needed employment. With this growth in the town came a growth in local facilities, providing a wealth of shops and services for everyone, one of the very first Co-operative societies started here in 1860 which then spread throughout the county.

When the coal reserves began to dwindle in the early 1900s, unemployment rose hitting 27% coupled with the Great Depression of 1932 it rose even higher to 60%. The start of the Second World War did offer a temporary reprieve but again after the war the decline in the demand for coal continued, the last deep colliery to close was in 1968, although surface mining did continue. With this decline there became less use for the railways that supported the industry so they were scaled back. The closing of Shildon's Wagon works in 1984 resulted in thousands of job losses. Today people commute to jobs in the surrounding towns but local facilities still remain for the villagers.

The most famous person to be associated with the town is Arthur Stanley Jefferson who attended the King James the 1 st Grammar School and whose parents ran the local theatre. He later changed his name to Stan Laurel, the comedian and actor, when he moved to America.

 

Brandon is just a south west of Durham in County Durham and north of Brancepeth and you can access the village via the A690.

It was originally part of the Parish of Brancepeth until the increase in the population in the 1800s it then became its own parish. The increase in the population was due to the opening of the colliery's making this a very desirable place to live and work. The mining industry stayed open here for more than 100 years, with the last mine closing in 1968.

Brandon has two schools, an infants and juniors along with many pubs, restaurants, some local shops and local facilities.

 

Castleside is situated in the parish of Lanchester just two miles south west of Consett, it is located on the main A68 road that runs between Darlington and Edinburgh. There is also easy access to the North Pennines and Stanhope via the cross roads in the village.

The old houses here are all stone built but with the rapid growth of the village since the end of WWII there has been an increase in the building of newer housing that has spread the boundaries of the village making it closer to Consett.

Castleside has a school, local pubs, bars and restaurants and other local facilities along with ample accommodation for visitors wishing to see the surrounding areas.

 

Crook more commonly known as Crook Market Town is situated along the A690 in the county of Durham about 10 miles south west of Durham City and north of Bishop Auckland and is the administrative centre for the Wear Valley District Council.

Until the mid 1800s it was a small hamlet that was mainly rural but with the industrial revolution and the opening of the first pit by Messrs Pease and Partners this all changed. In total 26 mines were opened in this area, this was due to the coal being close to the surface, making the mining of it easier. The population grew rapidly from a mere 193 in 1801 to 11,471 in 1901. Along with mining other industries grew such as local services, shopkeepers, innkeepers, teachers etc. The railways were also developed as a means of transporting the coal and coke to other parts of the country thus helping to develop Crook further. Crook continued to prosper in the early 20 th century but as with the rest of the world it was affected by the depression in the 1930s. There was a revival during and after WWII but again by the 1960s all remaining pits were closed.

Crook today, is a small market town with local facilities for the residence and visitors.

 

Darlington is a busy market town in county Durham that is on the East Coast mainline train line with easy access to London, Edinburgh, York and other cities and other parts of the country. It is situated along the A167 and close to the A1 with the Durham Tees Valley Airport just 6 miles away, operating both national and international flights daily. The Lake District, North Yorkshire Moors, Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland are all easy to get to and provide a large range of sporting and leisure facilities.

The town centre caters for all with a range of excellent local facilities, from modern shops in the Cornmill Shopping Centre, offering all the famous high street brands to small boutiques with their designer wear for more individual tastes.

There are award winning restaurants, stylish bars, cafes and more traditional pubs as well as a theatre that hosts west end shows, a local arts centre, street theatre, a cinema and live music along with great pubs and bars for fun evening entertainment.

There is a twice weekly open air market, a monthly Farmer's market as well as a seasonal Christmas and speciality French Markets.

The accommodation for visitors range from historic castles, country houses to guest houses, self catering and award winning B&B's making this a great place to explore the surrounding areas.

 

Durham is regarded as the historical capital of North East England, an area of great natural beauty and an important centre for learning and culture. It is situated north east of Bishop Auckland and south west of Chester-le-
Street along the A181 and close to the A1. As well as being easily accessible by road it has good rail and air links making it an ideal place to explore the surrounding areas. Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral are now acknowledged as a World Heritage Site making them a much sort after place to visit.

The history of Durham dates back to the late 10 th century when monks came and settled here after fleeing from Lindisfarne and the invasion of the Vikings. The castle was built in the 11 th century by the Normans to keep the villagers in check. The cathedral was completed in the 12 th century as a place of worship and to house the shrine of St Cuthbert bringing many pilgrims from all over the country. A prison was built in 1820, gas lighting came to Durham in 1824, the first police force was formed in 1836 and towards the end of the 19 th century the piped water supply began and sewers were dug. Durham University was founded in 1832 and was known as Britain's third university. In 1837 the bishop of that time gave Durham Castle to the university, for their use. By 1844 the railway came to Durham and a viaduct was built, in the early 20 th century the many slums that had formed in the city were cleared and the people were re housed in new estates and by the mid 1900s the university expanded forming a further 7 colleges.

The atmosphere of the city is that of a busy market town, with its monthly Farmers Market and cobbled market place that is often full of entertainment during July and August, then in comparison to this is the Millburngate Shopping Centre, closed off to traffic, with a large range of high street retailers catering for all needs. There is a great choice of restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes as well as accommodation ranging from 5 star hotels to a top notch caravan park.

 

Easington is a former mining district located in the East of Durham and comprises of Easington village and Easington Colliery. Accessed via the junction of the A19 and only two miles from the coast, Easington is also ideally situated for travelling to Sunderland, Newcastle, Durham and Hartlepool, all about a twenty minute drive away. The coastal cliffs at Easington are made of magnesium limestone and attract many visitors' especially fossil hunters. Castle Eden Dene, the largest area of semi natural woodland in the north east of England is also found in the district. There are many walks and rambles to be enjoyed here and a wealth of fauna and flora are to be seen including the rare Durham Argus butterfly which makes its home here.

Easington, believed to be Saxon for House of Esa, is also believed to be one of the earliest settlements and has been dated as far back as 900 AD in records. Evidence of the villages Anglo Saxon history can still be seen in its churches some dating back to the start of Christianity in the area.

 

Hartlepool was originally two towns; there was the old Hartlepool, known locally as the Headland and West Hartlepool. They were joined in 1967 and are now known as Hartlepool. It is located of the A689 near the North Sea coast; south East of Durham just 17 miles away and east of Bishop Auckland.

It has a natural harbour and was a small fishing town for hundreds of years. In the 13 th century it became a chief sea port and with the importance of its location defensive walls were built around the town to protect the people of the town from invaders. Throughout the Middle Ages Hartlepool's port was one of the busiest on the east coast, but this had declined by the 18 th century and the harbour went into disrepair. A railway was built in the 1830s which connected Hartlepool to the collieries of the South Durham Coalfield, so the harbour was modernised to handle the increase in traffic of ships, leading to the exporting of coal and importing of timber. Rival docks were built in 1844 to the south west of the Old Town; opening to traffic in 1847, around this a new town grew quickly overshadowing the old town. With its vast docks complex it became home to the ship building industry this was helped by the marine engine works and steel works that were in the town. In both world wars, Hartlepool was a keen target for the Germans, being bombed even before London! With the decline in heavy manufacturing in this country during the mid 1900s, Hartlepool suffered more than most with very high unemployment. The resilience of the town's people has pulled Hartlepool through and there has been a revival of the town with a new marina complex being built on the old docks site and the port now has a busy trade that includes importing new cars from manufacturers abroad. Other jobs have been created, in the service industry, tourism and light manufacturing making Hartlepool a pleasant place to live.


Lanchester is a large, well established village on the A691 located eight miles to the East of Durham and set in the picturesque River Browney Valley. Named after the local Roman fort of Longovicium, which is sited less than half of a mile away, the village has also been historically linked with the Saxons and Vikings.

The thriving village community is well served by its varied local shops and pubs and with the cathedral city of Durham only a fifteen minute drive away it is ideally situated for shopping and socialising on a grander scale.

Lanchester village is well known for its walks and pathways accessed via the disused railway tracks. Known as the Lanchester Valley Walk cyclists and walkers can enjoy pleasant scenery and views as they trek or ride to either Durham or Consett where the track connects with a network of other disused railway lines.

 

Newton Aycliffe was founded in 1947 under the New Towns Act of 1946 after the moors between Aycliffe and Middridge in County Durham were deemed the perfect position for a New Town, hence the name Newton Aycliffe. The town is the oldest New Town' in the North of England and was designed to be the flagship of the New Welfare State system introduced in Britain after the 2 nd World War. Council Housing was introduced here and the council continued building up until 1980 when private housing and associations took over.

Today the Newton Aycliffe has a population of over 25,000 and is mainly an industrial town located thirteen miles from the City of Durham. There are no streets' in Newton Aycliffe but many avenues, roads, closes and walks, most of these are named after local families who were active in establishing the town.

Access to the town is via the A167 which runs between Durham and Newcastle, the latter being thirty miles away. On the outskirts of the town is the Bishop Auckland to Darlington Railway. George Stephenson's Locomotion No.1 historically used the tracks near to Newton Aycliffe.

The town is twinned with Perstorp in Sweden.

 

Peterlee can be found ten miles east of Durham City and is accessed by two main roads. To the west of Peterlee is the A19 which runs north to Sunderland and south to Teeside. To the east of the town is the A1086 which runs north to Easington and south to Hartlepool.

Named after the renowned miner's leader and trade unionist, Peter Lee, the town is a New Town founded in 1948 on the site of a medieval village called Yoden. It was primarily created to house the ever growing populations from other mining villages in the area and to give the local people a better quality of life as Peter Lee had intended.

Today a section of the town called the Yoden Village Quarry is an area of national importance in geographical conservation. The town also boasts many acres of grassed areas and to the south of the town is Castle Eden Dene, one of the largest nature reserves in the North East of England. Recently the town centre has undergone a £24million redevelopment and now has a wide range of shops within its Castle Dene shopping Centre. There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes and pubs to suit all tastes. The town hosts an annual event at the end of August which is aptly named the Peterlee show. The show features stage events, a dog show, funfair and children's entertainers and attracts thousands of people to the area.

 

Rushyford is a very small village surrounded by fields situated on the Old Great North Road a short drive from the historical City of Durham. Located in the borough of Sedgefield Rushyford is best known for its wild deer and other game. Much of this can be sampled locally at hotels and restaurants in the area.

Rushyford means Ford where the rushes grow' in Middle English and is thought to have been given this name as it is situated near a stream now known as Rushyford Beck.

An interesting feature of the village is The Swallow Eden Arms Hotel, a beautiful former coaching inn which has now been modernised with all the facilities and amenities associated with luxury hotels.

 

Seaham is a coastal town on the B1404 just off of the A19. Only six miles from Sunderland and twelve miles from the City of Durham Seaham is one of the North East's success stories. Major regeneration has seen the former mining town receive environmental awards for its efforts to restore its beautiful coastline. The promenade is five kilometres long and overlooks sandy beaches and the newly built 3,700 feet long seawall built to protect the cliffs and the endangered coast road.

Historically Seaham is famous for the marriage that took place between the poet Lord Byron and Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke at Seaham Hall in 1815. The17 th century Hall has now been beautifully restored and reopened as a luxury boutique hotel and spa.

Located in the north of Seaham is one of the twenty oldest churches in the whole of the country. St Mary the Virgin church is an Anglo Saxon church that dates back to the 7 th century and is still used for church services and weddings today.

Seaham also has many modern amenities including restaurants, pubs and the Dalton Park shopping centre which is the largest in the North East of England. Another extensive selection of shops can be found in Church Street.

 

Sedgefield is a small town and civil parish located on the A689 about fifteen miles from Durham and twelve miles from Middlesbrough. The town was originally a small settlement on a Roman Road but records show in Norman times it was a village. Nowadays it has become a small Market town but has managed to keep its village charm and appeal. Many properties and buildings in the town dating back to the 17 th century have been carefully restored and the centre of Sedgefield has now become a conservation area. Sedgefield is also the only town in County Durham to have its own racecourse.

St Edmunds church in Sedgefield dates back to the 13 th century and overlooks the town. The Rectory attached to the church was added in the 18 th century and after being converted into a community centre is now called Ceddesfield Hall and is reputed to have its own ghost, the Pickled Parson.

Another building of interest in the town is Hardwick Hall built in 1748 by John Burden as his personal home complete with extensive grounds. The Hall has been used as many things over the years including a maternity home before falling into a state of disrepair. It has now been restored and converted into a 4 star hotel. The grounds of the house are now called Hardwick Park and have been restored by the council to their former glory and have been opened as a public park.

Tony Blair was MP for the Constituency of Sedgefield and the town attracted the attention of the British public and media when he was elected as the Prime Minister.

 

Shildon known as the cradle of the railways is a town located two miles from Bishop Auckland and fourteen miles from Durham and is accessed via the B6282 off of the A688.

The town's history mainly lies with the railway and is home to the Shildon Locomotion Museum part of the National Railway Museum. The museum attracts thousands of visitors each year to the area to view the vast collection and exhibits. The town was home to Timothy Hackworth a steam locomotive engineer who was an assistant of George Stephenson, his old house, Soho Cottage, has now been opened to the public as a museum. Shildon town was where George Stephenson's Locomotive No.1 started its first journey to Darlington to open the world's first public railway.

The town has a varied selection of small shops situated in Church Street and its own large modern leisure centre.

 

Stanley is a former mining town in the north of County Durham. It is located just off of the A693 eight miles from Gateshead and thirteen miles from Durham. Its neighbouring towns are Consett to the West and Chester le Street to the East. It is sadly associated with one of the worst disasters in British history when over 160 people lost their lives at The West Stanley colliery in 1909

Once three separate areas, Stanley is now one town and has a selection of shops situated mainly in the High Street, it also boasts its own arts centre and leisure centre. On the southern boundary of Stanley is the Sustrans Coast to Coast Cycle Route which is a 140 mile route connecting Whitehaven in the west of Cumbria with Sunderland on the north east coast.


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