The next stop on my tour-de-North was Darlington.
I’ve stayed in a few places a little or quite a long way out of town recently so, in the name of change, this time I went right to and stayed right in the hub of the city. The hotel really is the epicentre of Darlington, so you needn’t get back in the car until you’re ready to leave town. The hotel backs right on the main shopping centre, overlooks the Pease statue and the town square and is within two minutes’ walk of everything. Mercure King’s Hotel Darlington puts the ‘location’ in ‘location, location, location’.
Northern hospitality was on display as soon as I walked in. The staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful during my stay and the restaurant – the Kings grill – served up a steak befitting the name.
After a drink at the rather ritzy bar on the second floor I was ready to turn in. The room was comfortable and relaxed and, as with all Mercure hotels, a large comfortable double bed ensured I had a good night’s sleep.
There’s plenty to do in and around Darlington. Just outside the city, the Locomotion museum and Walworth Castle’s birds of prey experience are both worth a day out, especially if you have a young family with you. With fewer killer birds but more impressive architecture, Raby castle is a classic of its kind; one of England’s best preserved medieval castles. Dating back to the 14th century it still feels ready to live in today.
But, of course, you really don’t need to leave town, especially if you’re staying at the King’s Hotel. You don’t even need to start up your car.
Last, but not least (if fact for me, more like the most), if you’re a fellow art & fashion lover, then a leisurely half hour drive from Darlington is Bowes museum, an enormous French chateau perched incongruously in the middle of the Durham countryside. If you’re an art lover of any kind and are anywhere near county Durham it’s my local pick as a compulsory visit.