Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Darlington, England

  • Published 2022/08/10

Darlington is located on the banks of river Skerne in the northeastern part of London, with its nearest airport being Teesside International Airport.

The town is renowned for its market, which it has housed for over 800 years.

Locals and tourists love walking along Darlington’s busy streets, all of which offer a wide variety of restaurants and high street shops.

Known for its railroads, the town is home to the world’s first locomotive passenger railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

For those on the lookout for a traditional and sophisticated weekend away, look no further than Darlington.

These are the best things to do in Darlington, England:

Shop till You Drop at Darlington Market

Exterior of Darlington Market Square

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Darlington Market is one of the oldest markets in town.

This open-air market takes place in Market Hall, which has a beautiful entryway with a clock tower and seating areas for visitors to rest.

Shops at Darlington Market Square

Darlington market square by Richard Croft, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For food lovers, this is the perfect place to pick up ingredients as it is filled with shops selling fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, meat, and cheese.

Additionally, many come to Darlington Market to browse the fine selection of clothes and jewelry stalls.

They also have small cafes and restaurants where you can relax and unwind.

Get Some Well-Deserved Retail Therapy at Darlington Covered Market

Exterior of Darlington Covered Market

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Darlington Covered Market is located near Horse Market.

It is one of the great destinations for shopaholics.

As the name suggests, it is an indoor shopping area.

It has a variety of shops like the outdoor Darlington Market but also provides other services like salons, a spa, and more.

It is closed on Sundays, and it is open until 5:00 p.m. the rest of the week.

Level up Your Wardrobe at Queen Street Shopping Centre

Queen Street Shopping Centre is a shopping mall in Darlington.

It is one of the United Kingdom’s shopping hotspots for high-end fashion.

The mall offers a wide variety of stores that sell things like clothes, jewelry, accessories, souvenirs, and decorations.

Apart from being a go-to place for shopping, Queen Street Shopping Centre also hosts several events throughout the year.

The mall also houses a number of cafes and restaurants that serve some of the most exquisite food.

Look Back on Darlington’s Railway History at Head of Steam

Street view of Head of Steam

Head of Steam Railway Museum, Darlington by David Dixon, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since Darlington is known for its rich railway heritage, Head of Steam (also known as the Darlington Railway Museum) is a must-see.

It showcases the history of railways from the early 19th century onwards.

Display of an old engine at Head of Steam

Gillett’s Crossing from Bristol, United Kingdom, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The museum showcases a rare collection of unique railway engines.

This place will definitely help you to gain knowledge about the evolution of railways from the early days to modern times.

Railway track at Head of Steam

Gillett’s Crossing from Bristol, United Kingdom, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They also have activities to entertain kids, making it an all-inclusive attraction in Darlington.

Head of Steam houses an old platform ticket machine that remains to be in working condition; you can collect a ticket as a unique souvenir from the birthplace of railways.

Fall in Love with the Breathtaking Thornton Hall Gardens

Thornton Hall Gardens surrounded by plants and trees at Darlington

Peter is Shaw 1991 /

Thornton Hall Gardens is a vast garden with a large variety of shrubs, trees, vegetable plots, and colorful flowers.

It is a well-maintained garden with plenty of seats and open space.

The gardens also serve refreshments like tea, sandwich, and cakes.

They also sell a wide range of plants.

The best time to visit Thornton Hall Gardens is during the spring or summer.

However, it is only open for a limited number of days.

You can refer to Thornton Hall Gardens’ official website to see their schedule.

Go Back to Medieval Times at Raby Castle

Marvellous view of Raby Castle

Shaun Dodds /

Raby Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in the United Kingdom.

The interior is a sight to behold, as the castle houses an extensive collection of paintings, furniture, textiles, and more remarkable items from different parts of the world.

Lake outside the Raby Castle

Peter is Shaw 1991 /

There is also a lake outside the castle, which offers the perfect photo opportunity.

The coach house has well-preserved old carriages, chariots, and coaches used by the members of the royal family in the 18th century.

Some of these carriages have been converted into cafes where the visitors can sit and sip teas and other beverages.

Pay Your Respects at St. Andrew’s Church

St. Andrew’s Church was built in Darlington in 1125.

It is the oldest church in town.

Though the building is quite old, it is still very well-maintained.

It is one of the best places to relax and walk around.

Visitors praise the church for its calm and serene atmosphere.

You will also find a war memorial display on the grass outside the church.

Spot Wildlife at Drinkfield Marsh Local Nature Reserve

Vibrant sunset at Drinkfield Marsh Nature Reserve

DNTaylor Photography /

Drinkfield Marsh Nature Reserve has a lake, grassland, and plenty of places to walk.

The lake is fenced by naturally grown reeds.

Beautiful swan swimmng at Drinkfield Marsh Nature Reserve

DNTaylor Photography /

There are narrow paths that visitors navigate while enjoying the reserve’s variety of wildlife, including ducks, swans, moorhens, and kingfishers.

Grab a Bite to Eat at Medieval Ulnaby Farm Shop Cafe

Medieval Ulnaby Farm Shop Cafe serves delicious, high-quality homemade food like cakes, tea, coffee, snacks, and ice creams.

There is a farm shop that sells fresh meat, along with a gift shop offering many different items.

There is a play area outside, and they allow children to visit and feed the donkeys, goats, pony, and llamas with animal food in the nearby field.

Near the field, you can also find ruins of the abandoned village of Ulnaby.

Pay a Visit to the Piercebridge Roman Fort and Bridge

Bird's eye view of the ruins of Piercebridge Roman Fort and Bridge

Nicola Pulham /

The Piercebridge Roman Fort and Bridge are Roman remains in the village of Piercebridge.

This site is well-maintained.

There are information boards on the sides that will definitely enable you to imagine the walls, fort, and bridge.

Remains of the Piercebridge Roman Fort

Chris Heaton / Part of the Roman Fort at Piercebridge

You can stroll along the riverside.

Those who frequent the area recommend visiting in time to admire the bridge’s beautiful sunrise and sunset views.

Have a Relaxing Time at the Lovely South Park

Benches overlooking the pond at South Park

redaries /

South Park is one of the best places in Darlington that you can visit alone, with your significant other, or with a group.

It is one of the cleanest and most well-maintained parks in the United Kingdom.

River Skerne runs through this park.

River Skerne running through South Park

River Skerne in South Park by Chris Heaton, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can walk along the river banks with a view of the water, trees, and flower beds.

The park has a clock tower, bandstand, fountain, Polam Lane Bridge over the river, play area, skate park, bowling, gym, and cafe.

At South Park, there is plenty for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

Snap Photos with the Brick Train

View of the Brick Train on a sunny day

Kev Gregory /

The Brick Train is a massive sculpture, and as its name suggests, it is a model of a train that was created using bricks.

Closeup of the brick alignment at Brick Train

Peter is Shaw 1991 /

It was built by David Mach and is located on the outskirts of Darlington.

It was made with 185,000 bricks and is an attraction that reflects Darlington’s rich railway heritage,

Go Fishing at Maidendale Nature Reserve

Maidendale Nature Reserve is a site with many ponds, and one of the best ways to explore nature is by visiting this place.

You can spot a wide range of wildlife like house sparrows, reed buntings, kestrels, butterflies, frogs, and many more.

There are wooden walkways and a lot of space for fishing and pond dipping.

Maidendale Nature Reserve is the perfect place to go for a family day out in the summer months.

Witness the Historical Tees Cottage Pumping Station

Tees Cottage Pumping Station used to be the place where water was pumped from the River Tees before it was supplied to the town.

This heritage site is still well-maintained today.

You can still watch them pump water from the River Tees, but it is no longer supplied to the town.

They have a blacksmith shop, a miniature train, and a tea room.

Admire the Flora at Paddock Farm Nursery & Water Gardens

Paddock Farm Nursery & Water Gardens comprises nine water gardens, each one with a different theme that offers several experiences.

They also have a pond, a tea room, and a tropical fish center.

Children will definitely have fun watching fish and tasting the delicious homemade snacks and meals at the cafe.

Paddock Farm Nursery & Water Gardens is open on all days of the week, and entry is free.

Have a Scenic Picnic at Broken Scar Picnic Area

Broken Scar Picnic Area is a large open area with a river running alongside it.

It is an ideal spot for a picnic.

They also have benches so you can relax and watch the river’s slow movement and the birds that often flock to the area.

You can also stroll along the river bank, which many visitors like to do in the summer months.

There is a little play area for kids to enjoy, as well as an on-site ice cream van.

Catch a Live Performance at Darlington Hippodrome

Exterior of the Darlington Civic Theatre

Ian S / The Civic Theatre on Victoria Road, Darlington

Formerly known as Darlington Civic Theatre, Darlington Hippodrome was built in 1907.

This theater hosts plays, comedies, opera, music, and dance performances.

It has two-floored seating, an upper circle, and a lower circle.

The place looks grand with its interiors and comfortable red chairs with a lot of legroom.

There is also a cafe area with a lot of seating.

For those who love theater and culture, a visit to this venue is a must.

Even when there are no shows running, the establishment offers visits to their art gallery.

Satisfy Your Sweet Cravings at Kaspa’s Desserts

One of the most popular dessert chains in Darlington, Kaspa’s Desserts offers a variety of the most delicious treats that will satisfy any sweet tooth.

With seating options of both booths or smaller tables, this establishment offers a casual yet exquisite dining experience.

They offer everything from sundaes and milkshakes to brownies, cookies, and waffles.

Have a Taste of Authentic Indian Cuisine at Viraj Restaurant

In the heart of Darlington, you will find an elegant Indian restaurant called Viraj Restaurant.

Boasting the highest level of gourmet dining, this restaurant showcases the perfect authenticity of South Asian cuisine.

Lal Maas and King Viraj are two of the Viraj Chef Specials.

Lal Maas is lamb tikka cubes cooked in a medium curry made in the Rajasthani way, with real spices plus fresh yogurt.

Meanwhile, King Viraj is a moderately hot house specialty dish made with Tandoori King Prawns, Lamb Tikka, and Chicken Tikka.

When you’re in Darlington, dining in Viraj Restaurant is the ideal way to spend time with friends and family over excellent meals.

Snap Photos of Darlington’s Iconic Clock Tower

Street view of the Clock Tower in Darlington

Peter is Shaw 1991 /

The neo-Gothic Clock Tower, which towers over Market Square, is Darlington’s most notable structure.

It is an imposing seven-stage building with bartizans and a four-face clock.

The Clock Tower was built in 1864 as a gift to the community by Joseph Pease and is inspired by Italian Gothic architecture.

Fun fact: John Warner & Sons’ foundry in Stockton produced the first bells for the tower, while Cooke’s of York produced the clock face.

Visit the Clock Tower, take pictures, and take in the building’s historical significance.

Savor Delectable Dishes at Bombay Gate

If you enjoy Indian cuisine, you shouldn’t miss dining at Bombay Gate in Darlington.

With all of these unique flavors from the most varied sub-continent in the world, Bombay Gate hopes to delight, enchant, and satisfy you.

This restaurant offers a customized vegan cuisine in addition to an exclusive Indian menu that accommodates all dietary needs.

In addition to using fresh ingredients, Bombay Gate hires well-known chefs from throughout the country to guarantee that the cuisine is prepared well and is appetizing.

At Bombay Gate, you may order anything from appetizers to grills to chef’s specials to classic curries to sides and the renowned Biryani.

Say a Prayer at St. Cuthbert’s Church

Exterior of St. Cuthbert's Church

dagma /

For centuries, St. Cuthbert’s Church has been located in the center of Darlington, a charming and ancient market town in the northeast.

The early 12th century is when the church was built.

The elegant buildings of the “Lady of the North,” however, do more than just beautify the market square.

Stained glasses at St. Cuthbert's Church

dagma /

Its existence has served as a testament to the good news of Jesus Christ to every age.

It is a place of prayer and tranquility in the midst of the bustling town life, and its regular services invite people to partake in the joyous worship and love of God.

Tourists from different places in the world look forward to seeing this magnificent building.

View the Joseph Pease Statue

Statue of Joseph Pease at Darlington

Hugh Mortimer, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the year 1875, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway’s inauguration, the statue of Joseph Pease was officially unveiled.

Political, educational, train travel, and anti-slavery concerns, among others, are depicted in the ornate etchings on the plinth.

The figure is made of bronze and sits atop a polished Scotch granite pedestal.

The posture in which Joseph Pease frequently stood is portrayed, with one arm lying on his chest and the other hanging by his side.

Stop by and snap pictures of the Joseph Pease Statue in Darlington.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Catch a Glimpse of the Stanwick Iron Age Fortifications

Located 20 minutes outside Darlington, the Stanwick Iron Age Fortifications are the remains of an Iron Age fort.

Also known as Stanwick Camp, the place is filled with ramparts, ditches, trees, and a lot of greenery.

You can stroll around this place, which may at times feel like walking in the woods.

It has very beautiful scenery and is a perfect location for photos.

Final Thoughts

Darlington has a wealth of attractions, including the magnificent Raby Castle, which is home to a significant art collection, and the surrounding landscape, which is dotted with Iron Age, Roman, and Medieval ruins.

The best things to do in Darlington include historical landmarks, cutting-edge restaurants, natural attractions, and several more tourist hotspots.

So, why wait when now is the perfect time to start planning your visit?

Come along with family and friends who enjoy traveling to new tourist destinations.

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