Feel Good

Why summer staycations are better at Park Head Hotel, Bishop Auckland

When it comes to countryside locations with nearby attractions, stylish drinking and dining, and dog friendly hotels, Bishop Auckland’s newest establishment is well worth a visit.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 17.06.2023

advertisement feature

Dreaming about a summer breakaway?

With holiday season fast approaching, you won’t be the only ones starting to plan how you’re going to fill those long summer days and warm summer nights.

And let’s be honest, we’re spoiled for choice here in the North East. From beachside boltholes to rural retreats, cosy shepherd huts to city centre hotels, we’re home to it all.

Which can sometimes make it harder to choose, right?

At the end of the day, it comes down to what you want from your staycation. Do you want ultimate relaxation or a base from which to explore? Dog friendly hotels, a stylish foodie favourite, or a quaint home-from-home?

What about a little bit of everything?

When it comes to hotels Bishop Auckland or indeed Country Durham-wide that have a homely, rural appeal, a sophisticated drinking and dining offering and plenty of nearby attractions to explore, there are few better than Park Head Hotel.




One of the most impressive hotels Bishop Auckland lays claim to, Park Head Hotel sits in New Coundon, just a five-minute drive from the town centre and just a short turn off the A688.

If, like us, you’re heading down from Newcastle, this means you’ll only need to sit tight for around a 50-minute drive straight down the A1. Easy.

Our first impressions of Park Head Hotel were that of a large, well-cared for farmhouse. Having driven through rolling green countryside, the smart, white stone walls of Park Head Hotel emerged like the cliffs of Dover: signalling both the comfort of the familiar and the excitement of the unknown.

As we walked up to the reception, our eyes were immediately drawn to a peaceful, cobbled courtyard decorated with outdoor tables and chairs, colourful beds of tulips and terracotta pots sprouting Mediterranean-looking trees.

We knew where we’d be having a drink in the sunshine later.


If cleanliness is close to godliness, then we must’ve been no less than a couple of clouds from the Big Man, because Park Head Hotel’s interiors were exceptional.

Having been welcomed warmly by their front-of-house staff, we were shown our room – a very spacious Queen-sized bedroom with a desk, TV, small seating area and large walk-in bathroom.

Accustomed to feeling somewhat cramped in hotel quarters, the room was a godsend – we really felt we could spread out and relax.

Better yet, if the terraced courtyard had given us our first rush of rural endorphins, then the view from our room out onto the South Terrace, which also has a children’s play area, and Resident’s Garden kept our spirits high throughout our stay. While we could see the gardeners were still hard at work here, the early signs of cultivation we spotted and the space they had to work with told us this is sure to be something special very soon.

All this, coupled with the vibrant, arty colour-scheme that brightened the hallways of the hotel and splashed into our room, meant we were never far from our next dopamine hit.

A dog-friendly hotel

We’d not brought our four-legged friend along with us this time, but once we found Park Head Hotel to be one of the most welcoming and immaculate dog-friendly hotels we’ve stayed in, we wished we had.

As we chatted to the reception staff, we discovered that you could upgrade your stay for just £20 to book one of their designated dog-friendly hotel rooms in the Courtyard.

Within the cost of this PAW Package, dogs receive a bag of treats and a toy, while food and water bowls and beds are all available to hire from reception if you forget yours.

And really, you couldn’t be better positioned for miles of walkies; Park Head Hotel’s claim to being one of the most welcoming dog friendly hotels in County Durham helps by being just opposite The Auckland Way – a trail along a former railway line which passes through countryside that once belonged to Bishop’s Park, where you can let your dog stretch their legs off lead.


We found Park Head Hotel to be proactive to any accessibility requirements we may have needed.

All their ground floor rooms in the main building (where we stayed) are accessible, including all public areas.

Two ground floor rooms have been specifically adapted to accommodate guests with accessibility requirements; one of these can also interconnect with another bedroom if assistance is needed during your stay.

We also found everyone in the Park Head Hotel team to be friendly and helpful, so are confident in expecting that, should you need any more specific requirements, they’d be happy to help wherever they can.

Food & Drink

As we’d arrived early afternoon, we thought we’d save our exploring for day two – meaning the only real thing on our agenda as we arrived was to suss out Park Head Hotel’s food and drink offering.

And we weren’t disappointed.

Park Head Hotel’s bar was a bright, spacious lounge area culminating with the centrepiece of a large, exposed-stone fireplace. Rustic, farmyard accoutrements were peppered throughout – think fresh flowers on the tables and wrought-iron light fixtures – whilst a stylish sense of modernity pervaded.

Plus, there was every drink imaginable behind the bar.

We kept our promise and enjoyed a few drinks out in the Courtyard among the tulips while the sun shone. But when it did disappear behind some clouds, we found the cosiness of the hotel’s bar to be just the vibe we were after.

All open plan, once we arrived at the time of our dinner reservation, we were led through the bar into the restaurant behind, which enjoyed the same contemporary décor. Next to the Restaurant is the Laurel Room, another beautifully decorated space perfect for small gatherings and family celebrations.

We took our time to browse the menu of timeless British classics with a twist – think beer-battered cod and chips, roasted spiced cauliflower with red lentil dhal and flatbread, or slow-braised blade of beef with roasted garlic mash and a mushroom bourguignon sauce – later finding out that the kitchen here makes the most of local produce, sourcing most of their ingredients from the Walled Garden at Auckland Castle just a couple of minutes up the road.

To start, we ordered:

  • Tiger prawn cocktail – fresh, flavoursome, classic.
  • Beef brisket and shiitake spring roll – one of the best spring rolls we’ve ever had. The pineapple and sweet chilli jam combo was a delight.

For our mains, we ordered:

  • Park Head Burger – which did all the simple stuff exceedingly well.
  • Rump of lamb – the epitome of English comfort food with panache. Served with gratin potatoes, honey roasted carrots and red wine jus.

And for dessert, we shared a:

  • Milk chocolate torte with Bailey’s milkshake and honeycomb ice cream – aka, heaven in a bowl.

Although we visited through the week, Park Head Hotel’s weekend dining is something of an institution in these parts.

Fancy a bottomless brunch? Their Saturday brunch offering – a menu of proper brunch classics made for the ultimate lazy start to your weekend – can be upgraded for just £25 per person to include unlimited fizz, mimosas or lager for 90 minutes.

More of a Sunday lunch kinda group? Park Head Hotel’s generous two- and three-course roasts (complete with lashings of traditional gravy) have diners coming from miles around.

Our advice? Book ahead.


The second day of our visit meant exploring everything Bishop Auckland has to offer – or so we thought.

See, it seems there aren’t enough hours in just one day to make it through all the countryside charm, historical attractions and hospitality outlets in this neck of the woods. So, our advice would be to give yourselves more time than you think you’ll need – we promise you’ll not want to miss out.

Auckland Tower

There’s no better place to begin your day’s exploring than by climbing the 29-metre-high Auckland Tower, which offers panoramic views across the Deer Park, the town and the rural landscape beyond from its viewing platform. You can also buy all your tickets for the nearby attractions here, as well as maps and guidebooks.

Find Out More

Auckland Castle

The country home of the original ‘King of the North’, (step aside, John Snow). Auckland Castle is one of the best-preserved bishops’ palaces in the whole of Europe and tells a story spanning nearly 1,000 years of the Prince Bishops – the kings’ right-hand men, who were given unique power to rule the North of England and raise armies to defend its borders.

Find Out More

The Spanish Gallery

Thirteen life-sized paintings have hung on the walls of Auckland Castle for over 300 years, painted by Francisco de Zurbarán – a master of the Spanish Golden Age of art. Inspired, The Auckland Project began collecting what is now one of the UK’s largest collections of 16th and 17thcentury Spanish artworks outside of London, including works by El Greco, Murillo and Velázquez.

Find Out More

Deer Park

Auckland Castle sits at the heart of 150 acres of historic parkland, created more than 800 years ago by the Prince Bishops of Durham as their own private hunting grounds. Today, you can explore this gorgeous stretch of countryside for free, discovering 18th century features such as the Clock Tower, ice house and pyramid, and keeping your eyes peeled to spot the wildlife that make this woodland their home.

Find Out More

Weardale Railway

Take a ride on this heritage passenger service – along the same line that offered the first passenger rail service in the world – and enjoy extraordinary views of Weardale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Explore the historic market towns of Wolsingham and Stanhope, too.

Find Out More

The Mining Art Gallery

Culture, life and community sprung out from the coal mines that once dominated the North East landscape. Our history and identity have been shaped by the industry. Now, this inspiring collection of artworks created by those who lived and worked in the mines brings to life their resilience, courage, and fortitude, and proves how creativity and spirit can shine in even the darkest places.

Find Out More

Walled Garden

The gardens surrounding Auckland Castle are currently being restored to their former glory. The lower part of the 17th century Walled Garden is now blooming and is well worth a visit. You can also sample any of the fresh produce growing here by popping into the Auckland Project’s cafés and restaurants.

Find Out More

Hamsterley Forest

Just a 40-minute drive from Bishop Auckland lies the 2,000-hectare oasis that is Hamsterley Forest – a network of peaceful trails through County Durham’s largest woodland. From wildlife watching to stargazing, Gruffalo-themed adventure play trails and daring mountain biking, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Find Out More

Binchester Roman Fort

These Roman remains are famous for allowing visitors to explore some of the best-preserved remains of two ancient bath houses in the world. Find out why taking a bath as a Roman warrior was about more than just getting clean, walk in the footsteps of Roman soldiers and become Commanding Officer of the fort for a day.

Find Out More


Performed by a 1,000-strong cast on a 7.5-acre outdoor stage, this multi award-winning live action spectacular tells the epic tale of England through 2,000 years of history – with a mix of hand-to-hand combat, daring stunts, incredible horsemanship, pyrotechnics and special effects. Runs from 29th July – 9th September.

Find Out More

To find out more about Park Head Hotel and to book your stay, visit their website

You can also follow Park Head Hotel on Facebook and Instagram

Park Head Hotel, New Coundon, Bishop Auckland, County Durham DL14 8QB

Other stories by Becky Hardy

A look back at Sycamore Gap…

Becky Hardy

An astrologer explains how the Autumn Equinox will affect your star sign

Becky Hardy
Diet to prevent dementia and Alzheimers

Dementia is preventable – and can be spotted from as young as 35

Becky Hardy

Chaos awaits as Mercury retrograde spins into Venus, astrologers reveal

Becky Hardy

September’s walk of the month: the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Becky Hardy

10 easy ways to make your home a self-care sanctuary

Becky Hardy