7 Things to do in Darlington UK on a Budget

Darlington Budget Guide


Darlington is County Durham’s best-kept secret. It’s not the largest city in the north-east but you’ll enjoy a cordial welcome from friendly locals whether you’re visiting for the day or the weekend.

There is plenty to see and do – just take a look at our guide to 7 things to do in Darlington on a budget.

1. Save on travel


There’s no point to cheap attractions if you’re paying an arm and a leg to reach the city. Darlington played a major role in the development of the rail system in England during the 19th century and you can reach the town easily by train from almost anywhere in the country.

Book in advance for budget friendly fares and you’ll enjoy discounts of up to 80%. Train travel is never cheaper if you leave it to the last minute. Buy your tickets up to three months before you plan to visit for the best possible deals.

If you are making a last minute trip it may be cheaper to purchase a day ticket. Hang on to your train ticket, it will often save you money on local attractions or even get you free entry to museums or venues.

Train travel on tracks

2. Find cheap accommodation


Stay for more than a day and you’ll need a room for the night. Unlike rail travel, hotels often have great last minute deals. Early bird offers can be equally attractive whether you’re looking for an upscale hotel or a simple bed and breakfast.

You can stay at some of the best hotels in England for less by checking our best offers for accommodation. Alternatively, look in local papers as people sometimes rent rooms to visitors for short periods – ideal if you’re on a strict budget.

You can also opt to stay out of the town for example at the popular Wandworth Castle hotel.

Best Western Walworth Castle Hotel

3. Discover the local entertainment scene


Now that you’ve arrived in Darlington and got a roof over your head for the night, you can get down to the more important business of finding cheap or free things to do. The city’s live music scene is one of the best in the north of England and you’ll be able to catch great acts on almost any night of the week. Listings magazines, websites and tourist information offices will have details of what’s on.

It’s also worth checking whether the venue of your choice has a happy hour or a pitcher deal – perfect if you’re going out with a larger group. The Quakerhouse, the Railway Tavern, and the Hole in the Wall are all popular with locals and drinks are cheap in comparison with venues in London or Manchester.

Traditional English Pub interior

4. Eat well for less


Buy food in supermarkets to avoid paying restaurant prices or keep an eye open for cheap offers.

Pick up a tastecard online and you will save up to half price on the cost of food over the weekend. Look for cafes where locals eat as they often let children dine for free or have special deals for students or seniors.

5. Cheap local attractions


The Darlington Railway Centre and Museum may not be free but it’s one of the town’s most popular attractions and is ideal for a family day out.

Buy a Family pass and save on the cost of your visit. You can see some of the oldest steam locomotives in the world here – visit on an event day and catch these magnificent old trains in action.

6. Enjoy the region’s historical buildings


The Darlington region is filled with manors and castles that allow visitors to use the grounds or picnic areas for free. Visit the nearby town of Barnard Castle to the west of the city. It takes its name from the castle that sits high above the River Tees. The castle is partly in ruins but it’s still a beautiful place for a walk or picnic.

Alternatively, visit Bowes Museum which is close to the castle. The museum entry fee won’t break your budget and notable exhibits include the famous 18th-century automaton of a silver swan. Act as your own guide and save as you explore the museum’s art collection – it features works by masters like Goya, Canaletto, and El Greco.

7. Learn about the city’s past


Visit Darlington during the summer months and take a free walking tour of its most popular haunts and attractions. Your guide will tell you all about the town’s history, its unique dialect and its local traditions. Walk half a mile from the centre of the city to Ulnaby, a medieval burial site that’s free to access or spend the day in the park – it’s a cheap way to keep the kids busy. Try the splendid Victorian South Park or explore the town’s many nature reserves. Not only is admission free, you’ll find it a refreshing change from the sounds and clamour of the city.

Free Walking tour UK

Be inspired by our guide to budget- friendly attractions and plan your stay in one of the friendliest parts of England. Darlington welcomes visitors all year round and it’s easy to reach by rail or road.