County Durham is the true birthplace of the railway. In 1825, the Stockton to Darlington Railway's 25 mile line opened. Originally built for coal traffic, it would later form part of today's national rail network.
Into the 21st century, George Stephenson's pioneering route is part of two services into Middlesbrough and Bishop Auckland. Close to the latter place, in Shildon, a more permanent reminder of that era is seen at the Locomotion Museum, An outstation of the National Railway Museum based in York, it has permanent displays and a number of changing exhibitions.
At a more northerly point of County Durham, is the Beamish Open Air Museum. Take a trip back in time aboard a open top tram, visit an old school or take tea in a period tea room. Its actual exhibits are formed from and inspired by buildings in North East England. In just ten minutes, you could go from 2014 to 1924! Not only that, you can also visit a drift mine and board a train hauled by a replica of George Stephenson's Locomotion No.1 - as seen on the Stockton and Darlington line in 1825. Plus the museum's available for hire as a conference venue, whether you wish to host a modest meeting or a caravan rally.
The city which gives County Durham its name is a joy to visit. Its picturesque setting is dominated by the castle and its cathedral which sits on the banks of the River Wear. The city's narrow streets, with an open market and a number of High Street names makes for pleasurable shopping. On the second Saturday in July, tens of thousands of people descend on the historic city for the Durham Miners' Gala. It also has a world renowned university campus, the third oldest university in England.
The above features make the city of Durham a first rate conference venue. It is well connected by road and rail with the A1(M) nearby. Transpennine Express services to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Manchester Piccadilly call at Durham station along with direct trains to Edinburgh Waverley, Doncaster, Peterborough and London King's Cross. A few miles east of Darlington is Durham Tees Valley Airport, which has scheduled flights to Aberdeen and Amsterdam, with seasonal flights to Jersey.
As well as its industrial past, rural tranquil is only an hour away. Towards the western extremity of County Durham is the High Force and Low Force waterfalls on the River Tees. Then there's Barnard Castle, a picturesque market town with the Bowes Museum, and the castle which gave its name. A few miles along the A688 is Raby Castle, one of the finest medieval castles in England.
Culturally, brass bands are a main part of County Durham, owing to the number of collieries which served the area. Many brass band players may associate this county with Shildon born composer George Allan. Though his most famous pieces are Knight Templar and The Wizard, Raby and Barnard Castle would also be immortalised as brass band form. The Gala in Durham and the Darlington Civic Theatre offer top class live entertainment.
Sports fans will be enamoured with the Durham Regatta and its cricket ground. A number of County Durham teams play semi-professional football in the Northern League, whereas its sole Football League constituent is Hartlepool United. Sedgefield Racecourse, besides being a National Hunt racing venue, has a wealth of indoor and outdoor events. As a conference venue, suites can hold between 30 to 300 delegates. Outdoor function rooms, can hold any number from 4 to 400 delegates. There is also a number of golf courses, with clubs in Consett, Crook and Beamish Park.
For a delightful and inspiring conference venue, County Durham offers a real alternative to the main city centre venues, whilst being accessible from major centres like Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sunderland and York. By train, it is within easy reach of Manchester, Leeds and London.