Durham isn’t a cheap night, even at it’s decently placed Travelodge, but Stockton is a bargain. Granted, many folks wouldn’t consider a 2 mile walk along the Teeside industrial landscape from a £27 Metro Inn (ex-Formule 1) in the less glamorous bit of Middlesbrough as desirable, but they’re wrong.
The walk through Portrack Marsh, with its exciting boardwalks, takes you to the whitewater rafting place at the Tees Barrage,where the emergency services were doing their test manoeuvres. It’s certainly a contrast.
The next mile you get views of Roseberry Topping, and the smell of wild flowers all to yourself, safe in the knowledge you’re mere minutes from Stockton Bearings and Transmissions if you’re missing the real world.
Toward the centre you get Teeside’s own Millenium bridge, and a series of underutilised little waterways home to the University, banks and public sector offices. Not the Docklands, and devoid of pubs, but worth a wander. Nice boat too.
Lancashire’s Bury get coachloads to visit it’s market, but Stockton is the place for cheap food. The deli in Castlegate made me one of the more singular baguettes in recent years for a couple of quid, but it was the universe of scotch eggs and pies that you should visit for.
Compared to some of the shops, Heron Foods looked overpriced. If you get bored of all that, there is or course the chicken parmo (not advised at 9.30am in the morning).
Stockton has always been a hard place to judge. The central area and immediate suburbs felt like a string of cheap takeaways and neglected builldings, contrasting with the smart village atmosphere of Norton and Preston Park.
I’ve always liked the High Street, the widest in the country, but it’s the little alleyways that now stand out. Stockton’s first micro is down one of several tiny streets that have spruced up well, making a good companion piece to what looks like a Babycham Bar.
I visited the Golden Smog at Easter and reckoned it one of the best micro-pubs, with a feel closer to Ancoats than Herne, and exceptional beer.
The Reindeer looks both the most inviting and terrifying pub in town. A total absence of internet information leads me to assume it’s a, ahem, “young person’s venue”. Confirmation would be appreciated. It’s not in the Beer guide Simon.
But what really jumped out was the collection of buildings around Green Dragon Square, including the eponymous Sam Smiths (gorgeous but keg). You can’t beat warrens of little lanes, and there’s room for further development.
Just like the ever evolving centre, the Green Dragon is handsome and inviting. But like the even more wondrous Sun, a 10am visit is too early even for me.