The Pennines run to the west of Durham, rising to 2,000ft. Known as Weardale, this high moorland area is the source of the Tees, Wear and Derwent, Durham’s main rivers. In the east are gentler, agricultural lowlands running to the coast, which is characterised by sandy beaches and low limestone cliffs.

Durham was often raided by the Scottish in medieval times: the unsettled conditions resulted in little in the way of late-medieval architecture. However, there are some rugged Regency houses and a fine castle in Durham itself; the city had its origins as a palatinate of the Bishops of Durham.

In the north and west, stone is the main building material. In the south and east, brick predominates. Many commuters to Durham, Darlington and Teesside live in the surrounding countryside: the most popular areas are round Barnard Castle, Staindrop and Gainford.

Cleveland, to the south of Durham, is a small county with a coastline of cliffs. The central region is moorland, and on the Yorkshire border to the south are the Cleveland Hills. In the north, the scenery is gentler and the farmland fertile. The county has three major towns: Middlesborough, Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool.

Major towns

Durham, Darlington, Consett, Bishop Auckland, Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Middlesborough.

Transport links

Train: King’s Cross to Durham 2hr 43min; King’s Cross to Middlesborough (via Darlington) 2hr55min.

Car: Durham is 266 miles from London, via the M1, A1 and A1(M); Middlesborough is 248 miles, via the M1, A1 and A19.

Public schools

Barnard Castle School (01833 690222). Co-educational, age range 7-18, day and boarding. www.barneyschool.org.uk

Polam Hall, Darlington (01325 463383). Girls only, age range 3-18, day and boarding. www.polamhall.com

Durham High School (0191-384 3226). Girls only, age range 4-18, day. www.dhsfg.org

Durham School (0191-384 7977). Co- educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.durhamschool.co.uk

Teeside High School (01642 782095). Girls only, age range 3-18, day. www.teessidehigh.co.uk

Yarm School, Cleveland (01642 786023). Co- educational, age range 5-18, day. www.yarmschool.org

Wymondham College (01953 605566). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.wymondhamcollege.co.uk

Leisure

Sights:Barnard Castle (01833 638355); Bishop Auckland (01388 602198); Castle Eden and Peterlee, Hartlepool (01429 836220); Seaton Carew, Hartlepool (01429 266249).

Hunts: the South Durham, the Braes of Derwent.

Yachting clubs: Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club, Hartlepool and Sunderland Yacht Clubs.

Fishing: rivers Wear and Tees; Derwent Reservoir.