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When you think of Darlington, the railway first springs to mind. The Stockton and Darlington Railway was the world’s first public railway to use steam locomotives. Its first line connected collieries near Shildon with Darlington and Stockton-on-Tees, and was officially opened on 27th September 1825. You can find out more about the town’s rich railway heritage with a visit to Darlington’s Head of Steam Museum, which provides a great day-out for all the family.
However, this County Durham market town has more to offer than a trip down memory lane. It’s a fantastic base for exploring this beautiful part of the country, with a wonderful selection of hotels to choose from including Duncan Bannatyne’s signature hotel, Bannatyne Hotel, the Blackwell Grange Hotel or nearby Rockliffe Hall, which is home to one of the most gorgeous spas in the region.
The Hippodrome theatre in town recently underwent a complete refurbishment – a popular venue for musicals, dramas, plays and pantomimes – while The Forum hosts regular live music events and also runs a comedy club. Darlington was the first town in England to allow same-sex civil ceremonies and its annual Gay Pride Festival attracts visitors in their droves.
Although the town has suffered in recent years with the demise of the UK High Street, it has built a strong focus on independent shopping, offering a more varied experience than many other towns and cities. Grange Road has a number of designer stores, while Duke Street houses contemporary art galleries and gift shops galore. For sports lovers, The Dolphin Centre provides a wide range of facilities. It was opened in 1982 by Roger Bannister before undergoing a revamp in 2006 when it was officially re-opened by local athlete, Tanni Grey-Thompson.
EE are the largest private sector employer in Darlington, hiring around 2,500 people, while the English division of the Students Loans Company, Student Finance England, employ over 1,000 people. There are a number of engineering companies headquartered in the town including Cleveland Bridge and the industrial arm of AMEC, and Cummins has a large engine building facility in the Morton Park area. UK retail company, Argos, also has a warehouse distribution centre in Darlington – the largest in the north of England – while other big companies with offices in the town include Darlington Building Society, Bannatyne Fitness Ltd, Infoserve Ltd, and Northgate (vehicle rentals).
Darlington has excellent road transport links – the North East’s major trunk route, the A1(M), bypasses the town to the west, and the A66 transpennine route connects Darlington to Stockton and the A19. Unsurprisingly, Darlington railway station is an important interchange stop on the East Coast Main Line and has regular services to London Kings Cross, Leeds City, Edinburgh Waverley, Manchester Piccadilly and Newcastle. And what’s more, the town even has its own airport! Durham Tees Valley Airport is five miles to the east of the town centre, with flights to domestic locations across the UK, as well as international flights to Europe.
There are many primary, secondary and alternative schools in the region including independent schools, Meadholme, Pear Tree School and Priory Hurworth House. The former grammar school, Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, offers further education courses, along with Darlington College, which opened in 2006. Teesside University also has a campus in the town, making higher education more accessible to local students.
As for house prices, you will get more for your money in the north than you would in many southern areas. The overall average house price for Darlington is around £147,709 – semi-detached properties sell for around £143,188, terraced properties for £103,215, and detached properties for around £252,379... Buying in Darlington could be a sound investment!