Barnard Castle is a small market town in County Durham in North East England. It has a picturesque ruined castle and the over-the-top Bowes Museum. Dickens, Wordsworth, JMW Turner, Defoe and Sir Walter Scott were all inspired here. A more infamous admirer of the view was Dominic Cummings the chief advisor to the prime minister, who in May 2020 drove some distance to Barnard Castle during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. He said it was to test his eyesight.
Barnard Castle is just north of the A66 trans-Pennine trunk road. The A688 runs northeast to Durham, and A67 runs west to join A66 towards Penrith and the Lake District.
At the south edge of town, there is a narrow bridge on A67 with a sharp turn. Heavy vehicles are not permitted (it's enforced by traffic camera) and cars with caravans or trailers must take great care not to strike the bridge walls.
There is a large "pay and display" car park at Morrisons supermarket. You can park free on the cobbles in the town centre, but not on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings which are market days. Parking is seldom a problem.
There's no railway here - the nearest is Darlington on the London-York-Newcastle main line. Arriva North East Bus X75 runs from Darlington Mon-Sat hourly, Sun every 2 hours. It takes 50 min via A67 through High Coniscliffe, Piercebridge, Gainford, Winston and Staindrop.
Bus 85 runs every couple of hours M-Sa between Barnard Castle, Staindrop, West Auckland and Bishop Auckland.
Bus 95 / 96 runs four or five times M-Sa up the Tees Valley from Barnard Castle to Lartington, Cotherstone, Romaldkirk, Mickleton and Middleton-in-Teesdale.
There are no buses further west along A67 towards Bowes village on A66. The main bus stand is outside the Commercial Hotel on Galgate, the main thoroughfare.
Walk. Bus 71 trundles around town every couple of hours, but you're unlikely to use it.
- 1 Barnard Castle, Scar Top DL12 8PR, ☏ . Daily 10:00-18:00. Was it really worth so many fights between the Scots, Normans and Prince Bishops over this? The setting is grand, overlooking the river and bridge, and many authors have been inspired by its prospect and turbulent history. But it's hard to disagree with the 17th-century new owner, awarded it by the Crown for not being treasonous like the previous owner, who took one look and decamped to Raby Castle 8 miles east in Bishop Auckland. Adults £7.60, child £4.60, conc £6.90.
- The bridge over River Tees dates to 1771. It's often busy with traffic so the best views are from the river bank below.
- The Market Cross (or "Butter Market") dates from 1747.
- 2 Bowes Museum, Newgate DL12 8NP, ☏ . Daily 10:00-17:00. This grandiose late 19th C concoction, County Durham's best attempt at recreating the Louvre, holds blingy fine art by the metric tonne: El Greco, Goya, ceramics, tapestries, Canaletto, jewels, and on and on it goes. Be there for 14:00, when a mechanical silver swan whirrs into life, craning and preening its feathers then trying to catch a fish. Adult £14, child £5, conc £12.
- 3 Deepdale Wood is an ancient woodland along the stream that joins the Tees. Deepdale itself and its footpath go west, while Ray Gill is a little to the north, with a link path so you can make a circular walk.
- 4 Egglestone Abbey, Abbey Lane DL12 9TH. Daily 10:00-18:00. This was a Premonstratensian abbey built in the late 12th century, knocked about by visiting armies, and after Dissolution much of its masonry was re-used elsewhere. What's left is a picturesque ruin on the river bank. Free, but parking £2.
- 5 Rokeby Park is a grand neo-Palladian villa built in 1735, but it's only open by arrangement to group tours. It was from 1813 the home of the Velasquez painting now known as "The Rokeby Venus". In 1906 the original painting was acquired by the National Gallery (and in 1914 slashed by a suffragette) while Rokeby Hall holds a copy.
- 1 Barnard Castle Golf Club, Harmire Rd DL12 8QN, ☏ . 18-hole round £15.
- Teesdale Leisure Centre, Strathmore Rd DL12 8DS (off Harmire Rd), ☏ . M-F 08:00-22:00, Sa Su 10:00-17:00. Gym, pool, sports hall, climbing wall, various drop-in fitness classes.
- Walk, cycle or horse-ride along the old railway track up the Tees valley. From Barnard Castle follow B6277 or the Ray Gill path northwest to Lartington to pick up the trail, which takes you through Cotherstone, Romaldkirk and Mickleton to Middleton.
- Walk the Pennine Way which passes some miles west of town, see Middleton-in-Teesdale for trail notes.
- Manufacture live-saving medicines at GSK, who have a large development and production facility at the north edge of town. The site was used to make penicillin back in the 1940s. This complex was built in 2016, and among its many products are an antibody treatment for lupus, a muscle relaxant to aid endotracheal intubation, a treatment for anthrax lesions, and a long-acting suspension against HIV.
- The Farmers Market is on the first Saturday of the month 09:00-15:00 on Horsemarket. Feb and March it's inside the Witham, Apr-Dec it's outdoors, none in Jan.
- Morrison's Supermarket is at 23 Galgate, open M-Sa 07:00-22:00, Su 10:00-16:00.
- Eating places include Blagraves House, Capri, Bengal Merchant and Babul's, plus a sprinkling of takeaways.
- Pubs along main drag are The Bluebell, The Old Well Inn, Golden Lion and Firkin Alley, with Cricketers' Arms a little further north.
- 1 Teesdale Barnard Castle Caravan Site, Lartington Lane DL12 9BD, ☏ . Open Feb-Oct with 76 tourer pitches but no campsite. Pitch £16.
- 2 Barnard Castle Camp Site, Dockenflatts Lane DL12 9DG, ☏ . Open Mar-Oct with 90 pitches, but no toilet or shower facilities throughout 2020. Pitch £12, hook-up £18.
- Coach and Horses, 22 Galgate DL12 8BH, ☏ . Marston's pub with rooms. B&B double £55.
- 3 Three Horseshoes Hotel, 7 Galgate DL12 8EQ, ☏ . Hotel in old coaching inn. Two suites, The Stables and The Carriage House, are a little distance away, as is the free car park. B&B double from £90.
- B&Bs are strung along A67 Galgate going northeast out of town.
As of June 2020, Barnard Castle town has good outdoor mobile and 4G coverage from all providers. Indoors is good with O2 and scratchy with EE, Vodafone and Three. Away from town the signal is okay along A67 / A688 but even the trunk road A66 has lots of dead spots. 5G has not reached this area.
The B-road up the Tees valley northwest passes Middleton-in-Teesdale, High Force waterfall, then crosses the moors towards Hadrian's Wall.