County Durham, United Kingdom
Home to some of England’s most impressive landmarks, County Durham is a must-visit if you can’t bear a country retreat without a dash of city life, too. Hills-for-miles and the postcard-worthy Pennines hold buzzing Durham, a lively city full of history, architecture and culture. The Unesco-listed cathedral – recognisable to eagle-eyed Harry Potter fans as the film-set for Hogwarts – isn’t the only draw: visit 13th-century Crook Hall for its romantic walled gardens, trailing ivy and twisting maze. Bamburgh’s windswept coast is perfect for seaside lunches, and its castle is more than a match for Durham’s imposing buildings.
When to go
Northern England isn’t exactly known for its sunny climes. County Durham is chilly during the winter months, but this is when the mountains and forests look their best. Wrap up warm, and bring a hot toddy in a flask for brisk beach strolls.
PlanesNewcastle’s airport – around a half-hour drive from Durham – is the closest. It’s well served by budget airlines EasyJet and Vueling.
TrainsThe closest train station is in Newcastle, which is just over twenty minutes’ drive from Durham. Both Great Northern and Virgin Trains arrive here from cities across the UK, including Edinburgh, Durham, York, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and London.
AutomobilesIf you're driving up from London, you'll be on the A1 for most of your five-hour journey; from Edinburgh, you'll follow the A68 south.