52 Old Elvet
Three-storey Georgian townhouse, once a private gentlemen’s club, remodelled in recent years into 12 luxury apartments a few hundred yards from historic Elvet Bridge and costing in the region of £150 per night. Suites are contemporary (grey carpets, modern wood flooring, white walls and bed linen, abstract artworks), with pops of colour and original features. If you want a modern, immaculately presented and upmarket place to base yourself in the city, this one’s for you.
Durham Riverside Apartments
Two luxury, neutrally decorated apartments, Elvet and Kinsgate, each with two rooms and balconies overlooking the river and their respective bridges. For bath robes, fancy toiletries, the central location and pristine rooms, expect to pay around £200 per night.
Woodland Barn Holiday Cottage
Something a little different for your stay in Durham is this high-end two-bedroomed self-contained barn conversion set in peaceful countryside on the southern outskirts of Durham (five minutes by car or 30 minutes on foot through woodland). Both ground-floor rooms boast super king beds, quality furnishings, doors to an outside terrace and luxury bathrooms with copper baths. Upstairs, the modern living space is open plan and warmed by a log burner but the best feature is a picture window that draws in the surrounding fields and wooded landscape. This really is a special find. A three-night minimum stay starts from around £500.
Vale of Durham
Enclosed by undulating farmland in the foothills of the Durham Dales is this special farm with two glamping huts (adults only) set back from a country road between Bishop Auckland and Weardale. Both wooden huts (£80 a night) sleep two under wonderfully dark night skies and come with verandas, wood-fired hot tubs, kitchenettes and direct access to the leafy banks of the River Gaunless. You may want to sample the offerings in the little café run by the cheese farmers or pre-order a cheese and meat platter or BBQ pack (includes sausages and burgers made from the farm’s rare breed pigs). Dairy tours available on request (for an additional fee). A great find, perfect for walkers or couples looking for a romantic break.
There are few large holiday lets available in Weardale for family gatherings but this collection of four mid-range stone cottages (prices vary depending on the cottage) and two larger houses set on a farm not far from the market town of Wolsingham ticks many boxes and is dog friendly. As well as accommodating large groups (the farmhouse cottage sleeps 19 and the smallest six) there’s a shared pool, sauna and snooker room, as well as a hot tub with every cottage. Some of the cottages have wheelchair access but check they are suitable for your needs before booking. While the décor is not particularly plush, the cottages are modern and comfortable, and the views outstanding: all hay meadows and pastures with a fishing lake in the grounds of the farm. Hamsterley Forest is six miles away and offers many miles of footpaths and cycle routes.
Low Cornriggs Holiday Cottages
These two holiday cottages caught my eye while travelling through Weardale for their wonderful views of the hilly countryside around Cowshill with hay meadows criss-crossed by drystone walls and livestock grazing in pastures. The upper reaches of the dale are beautiful with plenty of walking trails within easy reach of the cottages to reservoirs and old lead mines. The two single-storey cottages, sleeping six and eight, sit side by side allowing two family groups to stay close together, and share a communal outdoor space. While not swish, both bungalows are comfortable, fairly spacious and are well adapted for those in wheelchairs with fully accessible bathrooms. For a week’s stay, you’ll pay between £400 and £600 – one of the lowest rates you’ll find in the North Pennines.
You’ll either love the playful medieval styling (heraldic wallpaper, armoury, decorative gilded furniture) in these eight self-catering cottages converted from the walls of Stanhope Castle, or find the modern décor lacking in authenticity – even a bit hit and miss. Certainly, there are more homely places to stay in this pleasant stone market town but these are undeniably some of the most well-equipped and comfortable cottages locally with fancy extras thrown in including hot tubs and bath robes (for which you will pay above-average prices). The enclosing walls of the castle, open patio areas and close proximity of all the cottages to each other lend themselves well to family groups.
The ‘castle’ itself is really a fortified mansion rebuilt on the site of a medieval fortress at the end of the 18th century and converted into apartments in the 1980s which were then remodelled into self-catering holiday lets in recent times. Embattled walls and a gatehouse give a sense of the castle’s roots, and its location in the centre of Stanhope could not be more convenient.
The Weardale Way long-distance footpath runs through this livestock hill farm set between the market towns of Stanhope and Frosterley. Fields and woods surround the two inexpensive detached stone holiday cottages (Yeka Byre sleeps four and The Beeches, seven) which both enjoy private, enclosed gardens and plenty of outdoor space for children. Internally, while not swish, they are clean and comfortable with weekly rates starting at £600.
Three modern glamping cabins, each with one double and one sofa bed, occupy a private enclosed grassy area on the farm with prices starting at just under £300 for a three-night stay. Depending on the season, there’s plenty of action on the farm, especially when the lambing season is in full swing. Very close by is the Weardale Railway with heritage rides operating in the summer and various other times through the year.
East Briscoe Farm Cottages
Surrounded by fine barn, hay meadow and river scenery, this row of five inexpensive one- and two-bed cottages at East Briscoe are perfect for larger groups and extended family gatherings (though you can just hire one cottage) with shared use of a games room, large hot tub and swimming pool (check out the current generator for a workout), a grassy lawn for games and a field where children can run freely. You can also wander down to the wooded riverbank or collect hens’ eggs for breakfast. For the price (just over £400 for a three-night break), don’t expect high-end furnishings – just simple, unpretentious rooms with pine furniture.
Baldersdale is a stunning minor Dales’ valley with scenic Hury reservoir and the famous Hannah Hauxwell nature reserve closeby. Cotherstone, a delightful stone village known for its namesake cheese, good pubs and riverside rambles, is just three miles away.
Hill Top Huts
A glamping ‘village’ in open grassland above the quaint village of Eggleston, these 12 pine pods are modern and compact with simple furnishings and a few kitchen appliances (a fridge, microwave, toaster and kettle) and work well for families owing to the enclosed site with a playground. Unlike similar glamping sites, Hill Top Huts takes one-night bookings (£55 for two people). Four nights in a four-birth cabin will cost £230 which is considerably less than other timber pods in Durham but don’t expect hot tubs and fancy interiors. A few huts are wheelchair accessible but are not spacious inside.
Low Way Farm
Within walking distance of Teesdale’s famous waterfalls is this fabulously situated farm on the edge of a stone hamlet and nestled below towering dolerite cliffs known as the Holwick Scars. The hamlet as a whole sits at the end of a very quiet lane and is surrounded by undulating flower-filled meadows that tell of glacial movement thousands of years ago and medieval farming. A more peaceful setting is hard to find and you’ll experience skies filled with lapwings during the day and stars at night.
Two modestly furnished, unpretentious cottages have one or two bedrooms simply decorated with pine furniture, decent kitchens and lounge areas with log burners. The larger of the two, Shepherd’s Cottage, a converted barn, stands alone in a stunning hay meadow within very close proximity to the Pennine Way and is the more cosy of the two. It gets booked up months in advance during the high season. For the setting, expect to pay above average prices during peak season. Low Force is reached across a few fields; High Force – one of England’s most impressive falls – is located a little further upstream by following the Pennine Way.
For hikers stopping overnight, there are two camping barns, one large sleeping 20 in bunkbeds, and a smaller barn for eight. All visitors should take note of the host’s Farmhouse Kitchen café – a welcome sight for Pennine and waterfall walkers.
Mellwaters Barn Cottages
The interiors of these four humble stone cottages (sleeping two or four) on a sheep farm in the Greta Valley have been reconfigured to be wheelchair accessible. Adaptations include an internal lift, ramps, wetrooms and hoists but there are differences in the level of accessibility inside each cottage so check with the owners before booking. The décor may be plain and not particularly up-to-date but there’s everything you need here for a comfortable break.
The location couldn’t be better for walkers with the Pennine Way running past the farm and miles of trails (some paths are wheelchair accessible) along the River Greta and Sleightholme Beck. Peaceful grasslands, moors and river scenery surround the farm, despite the close proximity to the A66. God’s Bridge – a scenic beauty spot on the Pennine Way – and Bowes village are easily reached by way of footpaths. Minimum bookings are for three nights and cost in the region of £400.
For more information, see Gemma Hall’s guide to Durham: