Step back in time with a visit to Raby Castle, one of the best preserved medieval fortresses...Raby Castle
The historic market town in the Tees Valley was major player in the creation of British railroads, and was a change stop on the first ever passenger journey by rail. Visit Darlington today, and you’ll still see evidence of the roots of rail in the Darlington Railway Centre and Museum, located in the Grade II Listed station building at the old North Road station.
Between the coming of rail and the turn of the 21st century, there’d been little to recommend Darlington as a place to visit. However, large amounts of investment have turned the riverside town from a waypoint on a rail route into a destination in its own right. The town centre in particular has been completely revitalised, with much of the shopping area pedestrianised and given over to independent and boutique stores.Read more
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For a reasonably small town, Darlington has plenty going on year-round, thanks to a thriving independent music and festival scene.
Highlights include the Rhythm n Brews festival, which combines the local’s love of hard rockin blues music and real ale to great effect; and the regular gigs at the Forum club and music venue, which attracts bands from all over – and which, in addition to its thriving gig scene, puts on a comedy club. Then you’ve got the Carmel Rhythm Club (part of the college building), which again focuses on classic rhythm and blues.
Architecturally, Darlington blends beautiful Victorian and Edwardian buildings (you’ll find the best in and around the town centre. Built on the Quaker model, the focal point of Darlington is the no pedestrianised Market area, which includes the Market Hall with its prepossessing tower. The Darlington Library, a gift to the town by the Quaker Edward Pease, is a Grade II Listed building now housing a centre for Local Studies as well as the reference library and lending library.
Sports fans get a double dose in Darlington: there’s a football team and an increasingly successful rugby team. The former, known as the Quakers thanks to the town’s heritage, plays at Heritage Park in nearby Bishop Auckland. The latter’s home fixtures take place at Blackwell Meadows.
Legendary comedian Vic Reeves (real name Jim Moir) moved to Darlington when he was five, and attended both junior and secondary schools in the area. The Dragon Duncan Bannatyne has a house in the town.
Darlington has great cultural significance for the north of England – not just for its contribution to the railways and industry but for its long running and popular newspaper The Northern Echo. The Echo, while a regional newspaper, also reports on national and international matters, and has been a staple part of life in the north east since its inception in 1870.
Darlington’s more than just a legendary name in the history of the railways. Its small-town feel, artistic soul and fun nightlife combine to make it a great spot for a quick getaway. Book your train tickets and hotels with redspottedhanky.com for the best deals.
Obviously the traditional way to get into Darlington is by train – a journey that will take you to the new Darlington station, a key hub for trains running north from London, Manchester and Leeds. By car, Darlington is approached on the A1(M), the A66 and the A19. The A1(M) is the main arterial road between the south of England and the Scottish border.
As befits one of the most important towns in the history of rail travel, Darlington still plays a pivotal role in national rail routes. Darlington station is an interchange station: the confluence of a number of major and minor lines running through the country and the Teesside region. As well as being the main interchange station for Middlesbrough, Darlington is connected to the East Coast Main Line and the Tees Valley Line. From London, Darlington is accessed out of King’s Cross. From Manchester, Darlington is served by Manchester Piccadilly.
Like many provincial towns close to major commuter roads, Darlington becomes nearly impassable in the morning and evening rush hours. The town centre is mainly pedestrianised, and is best accessed on foot or by bus.
The local council’s Local Motion initiative paid off for Darlington, which has an excellent bus service (run by Arriva and Red Band). The bus service is part of a concerted marketing plan aimed at promoting sustainable travel. So successful is the Local Motion brand that Darlington has been awarded the status of National Sustainable Travel Demonstration Town: an honour it shares with Peterborough and Worcester. The same Local Motion initiative was used to link the town’s cycle path network with the National Cycle Routes.
The nearest airport, Durham Tees Valley Airport, is just five miles away from Darlington, to the east. Durham Tees Valley Airport operates limited internal UK flights, and some European flights.
Visit Darlington and you’ll be met by two obvious pieces of recent history: the arrival of the railways, and the Quaker influence in Victorian England. The town itself merits a much closer look at a much longer-ago period of history. It was first settled in Anglo-Saxon times, when it was known as Dearthington.
St Cuthbert’s Church
St Cuthbert’s Church, which was erected in 1183, is an extraordinary example of an early English church, and is thought to be one of the most significant in the northern half of the country.
Those of an evolutionary bent will appreciate the significance of Darlington for a completely different reason: it was the birthplace of the legendary Durham Ox, an animal bred for imposing size and meatiness at a time when the principles of selective breeding were just coming to light. At his death, the Durham Ox us said to have weighed more than 1,000 kg.
The 19th century brought industrialism to the quaint little market town, and with it families of rich Quakers. Established and influential, these big-name Quakers provided plenty of investment in the town, and are responsible for much of the surviving architecture. The Market Hall, for instance, was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, who also designed the Natural History Museum.
Railway manufacturing became a staple of the Darlington economy, with three major firms supplying track and engines to the burgeoning industry. The Hopetown Carriage Works were first, with Darlington Works and the legendary Robert Stephenson and Co following shortly after. As the 19th century turned to the 20th, and Stephenson’s company moved off to Newcastle, the Faverdale Wagon Works opened. For the last 12 years of its life (prior to closure in the early part of the 1960s), Faverdale became famous for applying mass industrialised techniques to the production of goods carriages.
Darlington’s other claim to historical fame is its prowess at building bridges. There are bridges manufactured by Darlington’s premier engineering firm (the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company) spanning the Amazon River and the Nile. The Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company also designed and built the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
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