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Darlington sometimes feels a little unsung, however, it does have a lot deal to shout about. The world's first passenger railway began in Darlington and the trains have been rolling in ever since. Not least to sample some of the fantastic events, attractions and shopping that are to be had here. Thanks to those rail links this Tees Valley market town is also handy to get to, at just under an hour from Leeds and 1 hour 50 minutes from Manchester Piccadilly.
Onward travel from Darlington station is straightforward. There’s a taxi rank directly outside the station – or if you want to book in advance you can call Station Taxis on 01325 468 888. To plan your onward bus journey go to the Local Motion site or buy a PlusBus ticket for £3.50.
Tommy Cooper, Vera Lynn and Mickey Rooney have all travelled to Darlington and they all came to star in shows at the Edwardian gem that is the Darlington Civic Theatre. To catch local arts and music events, you should head to The Bridge for arts and for music to The Forum Music Centre. If nature is your bag then you should definitely get to Thornton Hall Gardens where you’ll find a beautiful Grade 1 listed building set in 3 distinct and spectacular walled gardens.
People travel to Darlington just for The Raby Hunt Restaurant, which has 2 Michelin stars and serves up incredible modern British food using seasonal produce. For Turkish and Mediterranean dishes that are a match for any appetite, Meze is a real hit with locals and visitors alike – there are only 4 tables though so get there early. For more authentic tasty bites to share, head to The Old Yard Tapas Bar, which has a great atmosphere and a bar that’s in the CAMRA (the real ale aficionados) guide.
A short walk from the station you’ll find the Bannatyne Hotel where guests can enjoy complimentary use of the health club and spa, which is on a different site 20-minute’s walk away. The Hall Garth Hotel & Country Club has its own golf course, swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, gymnasium and three beauty treatment rooms all set in an impressive period property. A 6-minute drive from the station is the Blackwell Grange Hotel that, they say themselves, is a “stunning 18th-century mansion”. The thing is, they’re right.
The words ‘Brick Train’ really don’t do justice to this 185,000-brick sculpture of The Mallard steam train. It’s heavily signposted across the city and free to view and wander around. If you want free concerts, flowerbeds and feathered friends, then visit South Park – a beautiful Victorian park. The Head of Steam (Darlington Railway Museum) houses a remarkable collection of locomotives, carriages, models, signs, interactive displays and other exhibits.
Darlington’s Victorian Covered Market has been open and serving since 1863 and is a brilliant way to get essentials as well as foodie treats and jewellery. For your high street fix head to Cornmill Shopping Centre where there are more than 50 stores to choose from, as well as food stops along the way. Finally, if the sun is shining and you want to wander the town centre then do it on a Monday or Saturday and you can combine it with the Outdoor Market while browsing the household wares.
For more ideas on what to do in Darlington, see Visit Darlington.