An arty weekend in … Barnard Castle, County Durham

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Barnard Castle, a well-preserved marketplace municipality successful Teesdale, County Durham, grew up astir the 12th-century castle aft which it is named – and was immortalised during the pandemic arsenic the tract of Dominic Cummings’ oculus test. But its different assertion to fame is the Bowes Museum, a magnificent French chateau-like edifice, built by John and Joséphine Bowes. The mates founded the depository to stock their immense creation postulation with the radical of Teesdale. Sadly, neither lived to spot it unfastened to the nationalist successful 1892, but their imaginativeness lives on.

The Silver Swan.
The Silver Swan. Photograph: The Bowes Museum

The museum’s astir celebrated grounds is the Silver Swan, an astonishingly lifelike 250-year-old automaton. Exhibitions to observe its day see Modern Makers (until 18 June), featuring artists from the Northern School of Art, and The Magic of the Silver Swan (until 7 January).

Bowes museum
The imperishable postulation spans the 14th to the 19th centuries. Photograph: James Basire

The imperishable creation postulation spans the 14th to the 19th centuries, with paintings by El Greco, Goya and Gustave Courbet, and 2 tremendous Canalettos. The depository besides has a mind-boggling array of ceramics, sculpture, furnishings and manner – regular guided tours by volunteers assistance visitors location successful connected the highlights (tours astatine 11am, included successful the £17.50 entranceway price, under-18s free).

What now?

Raby Castle.
Raby Castle. Photograph: Raby Estates

Elsewhere, the castle ruins are unfastened to the public, though these are astir apt champion seen from viewing points connected the confederate slope of the Tees (entry from £7.50). A way leads from the castle to the 14th-century County Bridge – truthful called due to the fact that it utilized to signifier a bound betwixt County Durham and Yorkshire – and riverside walks.

By contrast, Raby Castle, six miles away, is an impressively intact medieval fortress: monolithic towers linked by curtain walls are acceptable successful 200 acres of parkland with ornamental lakes and herds of reddish and fallow deer. Its creation postulation includes spiritual paintings by Luca Giordano and sporting scenes by Alfred Munnings (entry £13).

Both castles were painted by Turner, arsenic were different section landmarks, including Egglestone Abbey, a ruined monastery astir a mile south-east of the town.

In addition, the myriad creation attractions of Bishop Auckland are conscionable a 30-minute thrust away.

Market time  astatine  Barnard Castle.
Market time astatine Barnard Castle. Photograph: David Dixon/Alamy

There are tons of autarkic shops connected Horse Market and Market Place, selling antiques, secondhand books, handmade jewellery and more. Small galleries see Mouncey Fine Art and the Sandra Parker Studio. Markets person been held connected the cobbles for centuries; the Market Cross, oregon Buttermarket, was built successful 1747 to structure farmers’ wives selling their wares, and it has besides been a municipality hall, situation and occurrence station. Today, determination is simply a Wednesday wide marketplace and a farmers’ marketplace connected the archetypal Saturday of each month.

The Witham, built successful 1846 with a Victorian euphony hallway added successful 1860, is present a Grade II-listed assemblage arts centre hosting theatre and drama shows, movie screenings, gigs and exhibitions. It besides holds a monthly Northern Crafts fair, showcasing enactment by section makers (free, adjacent just 3 June).

When to go

The Durham Dales and North Pennines person 16 dark entity find sites with debased levels of airy pollution, perfect for stargazing. Dozens of after-dark events instrumentality spot crossed the portion successful autumn during the yearly North Pennines Stargazing festival, specified arsenic nighttime photography workshops astatine Raby Castle (next festival 20 October to 5 November).

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Get outside

High Force.
High Force. Photograph: kodachrome25/Getty Images

High Force, a thundering waterfall 15 miles distant successful the tranquil Durham Dales, is different show that was captured by Turner. Visitors tin travel successful the painter’s footsteps connected a five-mile circular walk past Low Force (a bid of much gentle waterfalls), to High Force and into Upper Teesdale.

Drinks and dinner

Cafe Bowes astatine the Bowes Museum is unfastened for breakfast, lunch, day beverage and Sunday roasts – luncheon mightiness beryllium seafood chowder with smoked North Sea fish, mussels and clams (£10.95).

The Old Well Inn is thought to day backmost to the 12th century, and the castle walls tally on its brew garden. Five-hundred-year-old Blagraves reopened past twelvemonth arsenic an interiors store and informal restaurant, serving snacks and meze-style tiny plates (from £2 to £10).

The Rose and Crown, an 18th-century coaching inn successful the adjacent colony of Romaldkirk, serves platters (veg, food oregon meat), posh pub grub (cider-battered bream with triple-cooked chips) and much refined mains (baked cod with crab veloute and asparagus; each mains £17-20).


Record Shot of High Force Hotel
Photograph: David Forster

High Force hotel, which is reached aft an exhilarating half-hour thrust on a rollercoaster road, has 10 precocious refurbished rooms. As the sanction suggests, this cosy 19th-century erstwhile hunting lodge is simply a abbreviated locomotion from the waterfall (doubles from £168 DB&B).

Closer to town, Runa Farm is simply a state retreat with a Balearic vibe – rooms and suites are inspired by Ibiza, and galore person their ain terrace oregon plot and a blistery tub (doubles from £165 B&B).

Getting there

Barnard Castle bid presumption closed successful the 1960s, truthful those travelling by nationalist transport person a 40-50-minute autobus travel from Darlington presumption (more accusation astatine A autobus runs from the municipality to High Force connected Wednesdays lone (