Where to Visit in the Quirky Market Towns of Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle
Surrounded by stunning countryside, these market towns boast boutique shops, castles and culture, plus plenty of places to eat, making them well worth exploring
Knead a Slice is Bishop Auckland’s newest contemporary, Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant and Manzo is a new steak, pasta and pizza restaurant. Refuel on award-winning coffee at The Fox’s Tale, take a trip back in time in the Fifteas Vintage Tea Room or take your pick from Bishop Auckland’s taprooms, Caps Off and McColl’s. In Barnard Castle, Blagraves, formerly a popular restaurant, is undergoing a transformation into an antiques shop with Lounge Café and Bar. Valentines Restaurant is a good neighbourhood bistro and Capri is the Italian to head to here. Slightly further afield in Romaldkirk, The Rose & Crown is a welcoming and hugely popular 18th century coaching inn.
Every member of your family is welcome at The Manor House Hotel in West Auckland – including your four-legged friends (make the most of their Health Club). Fancy glamping? High Farm Holiday Park offers an idyllic setting for a relaxing break surrounded by nature. A little further out, Plum Tree Cottage is a delightful barn conversion near Low Barns nature reserve (one of the region’s most important wildlife sites). For truly stunning views, head further into Teesdale to check out the charming and dog-friendly High Force Hotel (it has a great restaurant too) near the waterfall of the same name.
Treat yourself to a beautiful bouquet from Bella’s Blooms in Bishop Auckland, and find more gifts in Tinkers Treasures (a real treasure trove). Revival restore unique reclaimed antique, vintage and retro furnishings. Holberries is a great little shop for ladieswear and accessories, The Pear Tree is a good gift shop, and Andalucia is a lovely deli-cum-coffee shop. If you have a sweet tooth, Chocolate Fayre is packed to the rafters with sumptuous Belgian chocolates, or cool off with an ice cream at Gelato Lusso. Foodies won’t want to miss Cross Lanes Organic Farm Shop – the go-to place for local produce, which has the added bonus of a new Shake Shack offering refreshments.
There’s so much to discover within The Auckland Project, from Auckland Castle (once the private home of the Prince Bishops of Durham) to the Mining Art Gallery (where you can discover life underground) – and you can get a bird’s eye view across the town from Auckland Tower. Don’t miss The Spanish Gallery (the UK’s first gallery dedicated to the art, history and culture of Spain, currently home to Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross), and 11Arches, home of Kynren: An Epic Tale of England. In Barnard Castle, head to the iconic Bowes Museum – the vision of a pioneering woman, Joséphine Bowes and her husband John, and of course you mustn’t miss a visit to the town’s now ruined castle – don’t forget your camera!
Around the Corner
Raby Castle is surrounded by 200 acres of green parkland which herds of red and fallow deer call home. It’s a beautiful place to wander, but step inside the castle and there’s plenty of history to discover too. They always have trails and fun family activities to keep the whole family entertained, and don’t miss the new adventure playground the Plotters’ Forest. Elsewhere you can escape the hustle and bustle at County Durham’s largest forest, Hamsterley. From wildlife watching to stargazing, there’s plenty to see and do.