County Durham  is a largely rural county in North East England with a population of 510, 800. The biggest urban area is the town of Darlington to the extreme south of the county which has a population of 100 000 people. The west is characterised by high hills and low mountains and contains the highest ski centre in England.
County Durham is the only county in England to contain the word "county", and as one can guess, it is named after the historic city of Durham which is situated in the centre of the county.
It is an extremely varied county in terms of its geography. It posses some of the highest public roads in the United Kingdom to the west in the largely hilly interior. There are locations here which often get cut off for snow in winter. It also poses miles of sandy beaches to the east.
Like the north east of England in general, County Durham is overwhelmingly white and British with ethnic minorities being few and far between. This being said, it is one of the friendliest counties of Britain with locals often being known to go well out their way to help visitors.
County Durham used to be an industrial county, especially with regards the coal mines, however these shut down in the 1980s and 1990s leaving many people unemployed. Today, County Durham's main employment sector is the service industry.
The two major population centres with the ceremonial county are Darlington and Durham which both contain very affluent and very under-privileged areas within them.
County Durham has a largely regular English accent however to the north of the county it has a "Geordie" twang and to the south it is quite common to hear a slight Yorkshire twang in the words spoken. English is by far the biggest language used in the community, however the largest minority language by far is the Polish language with around 1% of the county being proficient.
AIR There is a small regional airport located to the southern edge of the county in between the North Yorkshire town of Middlesbrough and Darlington. The airport is called Durham Tees Valley airport (formerly Teesside) and serves Amsterdam, Aberdeen, Southampton and Dublin. It no longer offers a service to London.
Further north in Northumberland is the much bigger Newcastle airport which offers direct flights to London, Paris and Dubai. It primarily serves the city of Newcastle but is within easy reach of County Durham.
RAIL County Durham is located on the main east coast railway line from London to Edinburgh. Rail is the cheapest and most convenient way to access the county as it takes you to Darlington centre from London King's Cross in 2hrs 30 minutes, and to Edinburgh Waverley in a similar time. It is also much better for the environment this way.
ROAD The county is served by the A1 Great North Road which runs from London to Edinburgh. It is motorway through all of County Durham and thus becomes the A1(M) for this leg. From the west the county is connected to the M6 motorway and Cumbria by the A66 trans-Pennine route. Take care in winter and read traffic warnings as this road has snow gates and often closes for both snow and wind.
Car The county is extremely well connected by an excellent road system containing three major trunk roads including the A1(M), A19 and the A66.
Train Darlington and Durham are connected by high speed intercity rail travel from London. They are also connected by TransPennine Express.
Bus The towns are well connected by buses from the Arriva network and several other, smaller networks. The larger towns also have extensive internal bus systems linking various neighbourhoods to the town centre. Visit the traveline website for details on all services available across all providers and to plan your journey.
Based on three to four days
Day 1 Take the train to Darlington. Check into a hotel in town and explore the industrial railway heritage of the town by visiting the railway museum on North Road and by visiting the brick train. Enjoy the thriving market in the square in the town before moving on tomorrow.
Day 2 Head west and check into a youth hostel or B&B in the Pennines. Get out the walking boots and take an afternoon stroll in any one of dozens of paths across the beautiful rugged uplands.
Day 3 Check into a luxury hotel in Durham and explore the stunning cathedral, the old town and the castle. Don't forget to take a stroll along the river which meanders around the cathedral. Sample the city's wine and cocktail bars on the evening.
Day 4 (Optional) Head to a coastal town such as Seaham to sample some northern seaside traditions before heading north to Tyneside along the coast. Or skip the coast and take the train directly from Durham to your next destination, be that the north or back to London.
A tremendously popular take-away dish in the county is the Chicken Parmesan (Parmo). The Parmo derives from the nearby town of Middlesbrough which is located in the neighbouring ceremonial county of North Yorkshire. It is popular in Darlington and Durham as well the coastal towns.
A parmo consists of a flat (often pizza shaped) base which comprises chicken squashed to around 1cm in thickness. The chicken base is breaded and covered in a thick gooey white cheese. It is tremendously popular in take-away shops as a snack or meal after a night out and is claimed to be one of the few places in Britain where the more famous Doner Kebab is outsold.
Darlington and Durham offer many drinking opportunities and cater for a wide variety of clientèle. Darlington notably has the chick Seen and Harvey's bars to the west of the town centre where the vast majority of customers are middle class students. Most people head to the nearby club "Inside Out" which on popular nights opens all three rooms and opens until 4am. There is also an 80s bar / small nightclub on Skinnergate and there are countless thriving bars and pubs around the town centre.
There are large selections of youth hostels in the rural areas to the west, as well as luxury B&Bs and hotels. The towns feature hotels and B&B's. Notably the Bannatyne hotel in Darlington which is a luxury hotel serving the region, and Rockliffe Hall in the very affluent village of Hurworth-on-Tees to the south of Darlington on the North Yorkshire border.
County Durham does not possess any major cities and is largely calm and tranquil in its nature. The large town of Darlington to the south does have minor anti-social behavioural problems, especially at night. Keep your wits about you in Darlington town centre on a Friday and Saturday night and you'll have no problems. It is a much safer county than urbanised counties from the south and the west midland regions of England.
The neighbouring counties of North Yorkshire(to the south), Northumberland(to the north) and Cumbria (to the west) are all famed for their immense natural beauty and their friendly cultures. North Yorkshire is often debated as being the unofficial Garden of England due to its immense beauty. However the "official" Garden of England remains to be the much more urbanised county of Kent in the extreme south east.