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Local attractions to discover this summer

26 May 2023

Local attractions to discover this summer

Located as it is in the rolling countryside of lower Teesdale, Headlam Hall is of course ideally situated for exploring this very beautiful and accessible area of the Durham Dales, including the lovely market town of Barnard Castle.  The river Tees runs by the town, under the watchful gaze of the castle’s imposing ramparts.

It’s also the case that within half an hour of Headlam, there are a number of must-see attractions which throughout the year have a growing number of events and exhibitions which our guests find surprising and enjoyable. 

The gold medal must of course go to the stunning Bowes Museum (main photo). Located just on the outskirts of Barnard Castle, this huge French chateau was created by John and Josephine Bowes in 1892 and boasts a world class collection of art, sculpture and the “piece-de-resistance”, the majestic Silver Swan automaton at the entrance to the Museum, which celebrates its 250th anniversary this year.

Exhibitions in 2023 at The Bowes Museum include a ground-breaking exhibition on sustainability in design and crafts manufacture, curated with the help of the Northern School of Art, which is on from 11th March to 18th June, and, capitalising on the Silver Swan anniversary, exhibitions celebrating a year of “Movement” which run from 8th July 2023 to 7th January 2024.

Just 15 minutes from Barnard Castle is Raby Castle, family seat of Lord Barnard, and one of the finest medieval castles in England.  Raby Castle is famous for its events throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn, and also for its superb Christmas activities in December.  With upgraded and extended food and retail areas, and its popular deer park too, Raby shouldn’t be missed during your visit to the area.

Another wonderful place to visit is the National Railway Museum’s northern outpost – Locomotion – in Shildon near Bishop Auckland.  Being part of the Science Museum Group, and with free entrance to visitors, Locomotion, with its 200,000 visitors a year, is definitely not just for kids!  County Durham is known as the cradle of the railways, and offers visitors the chance to see highlights of the national collection of railway vehicles here in Shildon, the world’s first railway town.

Remaining in the Bishop Auckland area, the town itself is enjoying a renaissance thanks mainly to one man, Jonathan Ruffer, who has not only restored Auckland Castle and opened it to visitors, but has also opened a Spanish Art Gallery in the town, and a “lookout tower” which gives visitors the chance to see the town as a whole from “up above”.  Bishop Auckland is of course also home to Kynren, the amazing outdoor show themed as “An Epic Tale of 2,000 years of England” which takes place on a number of weekends through Summer 2023, and will be performed by a 1,000-strong cast and crew on a 7 acre outdoor stage.

The Durham Dales are famous for their Dark Skies (the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which includes the Dales has many Dark Skies Discovery Sites and is home to the Grassholme Observatory) and there’s probably no darker area at night than High Force and Low Force, the twin waterfalls high up the river Tees.  By day, however, High Force (England’s tallest waterfall) is a delight, and many walks – both easy and more challenging - can be enjoyed from the car park there.


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