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Things to do in the area

30 October 2012

Things to do in the area

Local attractions and events this winter, by Martin Evans (The Tourism Business)

For those who are looking for a destination for a winter getaway or day out this year, Teesdale and the wider County Durham area certainly fits the bill.  Of course, many guests at Headlam Hall want nothing more than fine food, lovely grounds and the chance to relax in the Spa or play a round of golf.  But for those who do want to venture further afield, there’s something different to do every day, from bustling market towns to amazing visitor attractions.  Here are some of our “winter favourites”.


The Bowes Museum continues to surpass expectations, and this winter has some excellent exhibitions and events.  This amazing French Chateau  is known by some as “the Versailles of the north” and houses probably the greatest private collection of fine and decorative arts in the north of England, including works by artists such as Canaletto, El Greco, Courbet and Turner.  Until 25th November, the Museum plays host to the exhibition “Josephine Bowes & the Costumier”, in which internationally celebrated theatrical and historical costumier Luca Costigliolo has recreated, in front of visitors to the Museum, and ball gown worn by the Museum’s founder, Josephine Bowes.


Running from the beginning of October to 6th January is the exhibition “Feast your Eyes:  The Fashion of Food in Art”.  This exhibition is a celebration of five centuries of fashion in food and drink throughout Europe, and includes loans from galleries across Britain.  Food and drink are also on the menu at the Museum’s popular Christmas Festival, taking place on 15th and 16th December, and with over 5,000 visitors expected to enjoy the magical atmosphere and over 100 stalls selling the best in local food and crafts.  Not only is Santa expected, but  his reindeer are also expected to make an appearance, and there will be festive music from local bands and choirs.


The Bowes Museum is, of course, located in perhaps our finest local market town, Barnard Castle.  Famed for its “speciality shopping” and farmers markets on the first Saturday of every month, “Barney” is home to English Heritage’s Castle itself, home to the Balliol family, and whose 14th century great hall, three-storey keep and circular round tower overlook the river Tees and inspired the great Sir Walter Scott.  Unsuccessfully besieged by the Scots in 1216, the castle was confiscated when John de Balliol, briefly King of Scotland, was deposed by Edward I.  Throughout the winter, the Castle can be visited at weekends, from 10.00am to 4.00pm.


The Castle was partly dismantled in 1630 to furnish materials for Sir Henry Vane’s new Raby Castle, now also one of Teesdale’s top visitor attractions, and, although not open generally through the winter, Raby Castle is the venue for a lovely Christmas shop with one of the largest selections of Christmas trees to buy in the area, from early November until Christmas week.


A little further, but still within striking distance of Headlam Hall is Locomotion, the “northern outpost” of the National Railway Museum, located at Shildon.  Locomotion was the first national museum to be built in the North East, and opened in 2004.  It is sited at Shildon, the home of the first ever steam hauled passenger train which operated during the opening ceremony of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825.   Part of the Science Museum and an outpost of York’s National Railway Museum, Locomotion is now home to over 70 vehicles from the National Collection.  And continuing the railway theme is Darlington’s Head of Steam Railway Museum, featuring a restored 1842 passenger station on the original route of the world’s first steam-worked public railway, and also one of the most famous trains in history - Stephenson’s Locomotion.


So, there really are lots of other reasons to enjoy a relaxing Autumn or Winter Break or meal out at Headlam Hall over the coming months.  You may want to enjoy a Christmas Shopping trip with a difference, a visit to Darlington’s Christingle market, or time at the January Sales in Darlington, Durham City or at the Metrocentre.   Or take in a show, or the pantomime, at Darlington Civic Theatre.  And, of course, not too far away are Richmond, the lovely Dales market town which is home to the Georgian Theatre Royal and a host of other attractions.

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