Best Things to Do in Barnard Castle – Gateway to Teesdale



The picturesque market town of Barnard Castle sits high above the River Tees and is named after the castle of the same name.  The name originally came from her 12th-century founder, Bernard de Balliol.   It’s easy to get to and the perfect place to spend a weekend or longer exploring the town and the surrounding villages of the Durham Dales.    There are traditional pubs, acclaimed restaurants and a world-famous museum to visit.   Famous visitors to the town include author Charles Dickens and landscape painter JMW Turner.  The renowned independent Barnard Castle School, located on the outskirts of the town educated alumni who include the English rugby internationals Rory and Tony Underwood and Rob Andrew.

Where is Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle is in the Durham Dales, in the North East of England on the edges of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.    Known locally as ‘Barney”, the town is a few miles from the cross Pennine A66 and is known as the gateway to Teesdale.

How to Get to Barnard Castle

It’s easy to reach Barnard Castle from the A1M, taking the exit at Scotch Corner from the South and then the A66.  The route is well signposted.  From the North, take the A1M exit 61 at Bowburn and then the A688 and A67.

The closest train station to Barnard Castle is Darlington, on the mainline between London and Edinburgh.  Buses operated by Arriva North East run hourly from Darlington until early evening, with a weekend service.   Although there is public transport from Barnard Castle to villages in Teesdale, it’s recommended to have a car to explore the area further.


Barnard Castle Map


Barnard Castle Map courtesy This is Durham


Top Things to Do in Barnard Castle

It’s easy to spend a weekend in Barnard Castle, with a plethora of activities, shops, history and places to eat.  Spending more time in the town will allow you to explore further afield – perhaps walking part of the Teesdale Way, discovering more of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and nearby attractions.  While you’re in Barnard Castle things to do are varied – and we’ve grouped them into the activities within the town and further afield.

Visit Barnard Castle Castle

The castle is easily spotted when approaching the town from the river, high on a rocky outcrop above the River Tees.  Named after its founder Bernard de Balliol it passed through the hands of the Beauchamp family and was even owned by Richard III at one point.  You can see Richard’s boar emblem carved into a window inside the castle.    The castle is maintained and managed by English Heritage.  There are stunning views over the River, great picnic areas and a sensory garden of plants and tactile objects to explore.

Barnard Castle Opening Hours;  10:00 – 18:00 Monday – Sunday (shorter times during the winter).

You can visit Barnard Castle with the English Heritage Annual Pass – from just £46 which allows access to more than 400 properties in England.  Overseas visitors can buy passes valid for 9 or 16 days from £33. > Buy your pass now!

The Bowes Museum Barnard Castle

This 19th-century museum in the style of a French Chateau was purpose built by John and Josephine Bowes to house their collection of decorative arts.  It’s viewed as one of the most significant museums outside London and is surrounded by formal gardens and woodland.  The foundation stone was laid in 1869 and the museum opened in 1892 some years after the death of the couple.  Their final resting place is in the Church abutting the grounds of the museum.

There is a diverse and changing collection at the museum – paintings by Canaletto and Goya and Sevres porcelain, however, the most iconic piece is the Bowes Museum’s, Silver Swan.  It’s 240 years old and was bought by the Bowes in 1872.  The Silver Swan is a life-sized model of English silver automation.  The hand wound clockwork mechanism is used daily and enthrals visitors.

The museum is open daily, the Silver Swan automation happens at 14:00.

English Heritage member get 10% off admission prices to the Bowes Museum

Explore the Market Cross

Built by Thomas Breaks in 1747 to replace the old toll booth, the Market Cross is an octagonal shaped building with a covered veranda.  On top is a bell tower and a weather vane.  The Market Cross is located at the junction of the Market Place, Newgate and the Bank.  In previous times the veranda was used as the market for butter and dairy products, hence the alternative name,” the Butter Mart”.  The upper part of the structure was used as a jail and a store for town records.

The weather vane contains two bullet holes, remnants of an 1804 challenge, when two local marksmen competed from the Turks Head, 100 metres away.

The main use of the Market Cross is now as a roundabout and it makes a pretty feature in photographs and postcards.

Barnard Castle Market

The town has been a market town for many years.  Barnard Castle Market Day is Wednesday when the cobbled area in the centre of Horsemarket is set up with stalls.  There’s a fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, local delicacies, clothing and also bric a brac stalls.

Barnard Castle Farmers Market

The first Saturday of each month see’s the town hosting a local farmers market.  It’s held on the cobbles during the better weather and inside the Witham Hall during winter.    There’s a wide range of artisan foods – handmade cheese, hand-reared meat, free range eggs and homemade jams, fudges and wines.

Explore Barnard Castle Walks

Barnard Castle is surrounded by great walking countryside.  The long-distance Teesdale Way passes through the town and hikers often use Barney as a base for heading further up the dale to explore the fells.  Walks near Barnard Castle incorporate the banks of the River Tees, great round walks to the Meeting of the Waters, up the river to Cotherstone and further afield.   The Barnard Castle Ramblers Association has an active membership and regularly holds hosted walks in the area.   You can buy their booklet of walks from Bowlees Visitor Centre, The Conduit Cafe in Middleton-in-Teesdale, The Witham in Barnard Castle, 54 Degrees North in Barnard Castle and The Teesdale Mercury in Barnard Castle

Enjoy the Witham Barnard Castle

Located right in the centre of the town, the Witham is a community arts centre, art gallery, cinema, theatre and café.   There are workshops and classes held weekly and there’s a regular schedule of entertainment and ongoing exhibitions here.  Check out their schedule and head on down!

Barnard Castle Golf Course

The golf course at Barnard Castle is a par 73 course with numerous natural hazards such as streams and ponds with a pleasant outlook over woods and farmland.  Visitors are welcome, with daily green fees starting at £27.    Buggies are available for hire to visitors and you’ll also get access to the full clubhouse facilities.

Barnard Castle Mini Golf

If 18 holes are too many for you, you can always take in the 9 hole mini golf on the Scar Top near the castle and the children’s playground area.

Pubs in Barnard Castle

The town is well served with 12 pubs catering to a variety of tastes.  CAMRA members will enjoy the Old Well, found on the Bank with a garden backing onto the Castle walls.  Real ale (and Gin) fans flock also to the Firkin Alley, hidden away in Bakery Mews, off Horsemarket.

Many pubs also serve food, or at the least will let you bring in a bag of award-winning fish and chips from one of the town’s chip shops.

Whet your whistle and get a drink in Barney at

  • The Bluebell, Bridgegate
  • The Old Well, the Bank
  • The Black Horse, Newgate
  • The Raby Arms, Horsemarket
  • The Turks Head, Horsemarket
  • The Golden Lion, Horsemarket
  • Firkin Alley, Bakery Mew, Horse Market
  • The Three Horseshoes, Galgate
  • The Coach and Horses, Galgate
  • The Commercial, Galgate
  • The Cricketers, Galgate
  • The Red Well, Harmire Road

Shopping in Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle shops are primarily independent retailers.  The town is well catered for with two independent butchers, greengrocers and several bakeries as well as two national supermarkets.    There are home furnishing stores, a pet store, hardware store, florists and clothing stores.

A plethora of antique shops can be found primarily on the Bank

Salons and Spas in Barnard Castle

Take time to relax in one of Barnard Castle’s spas and salons.  There are many hairdressers offering additional services, and three dedicated spas in the town.

  • Mon Petit Spa on the Bank is a tranquil oasis of calm, with a variety of treatments to relax you during your stay in Barnard Castle.
  • The Beauty Therapy Clinic on Newgate offers treatments with Decleor, Jessica and Delilah.
  • Accent Beauty Salon on Horsemarket is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a variety of treatments.

Barnard Castle Accommodation

Barney has some great pubs and places to eat, so you’ll want to stay somewhere within the town and walking distance if you want a brew.  Here are our recommendations for places to stay in Barnard Castle.

The Three Horsehoes Hotel, Galgate, Barnard Castle

Excellent location, and a good pub here with decent food options and well-appointed rooms. >   Check prices and book your room now.

  • Flat screen Tv
  • En suite Bathrooms
  • Free wifi access
  • Buffet Breakfast included
  • Free off street parking
  • Bar

The Old Well, the Bank, Barnard Castle

17th century hotel and pub that backs onto the ancient castle wall in the antiques quarter of the town.  Lovely rooms and ensuites, with two cosy bars with cask ales, a fab beer garden and gorgeous conservatory to relax in.

  • Free parking
  • Free wifi
  • En suite bathrooms
  • Great bar
  • Full English breakfast included

Reserve your room now!

Baliol House, Galgate, Barnard Castle

Welcoming hosts and a great location with free parking and a garden to relax in.  Really comfy beds.  This is a B&B rather than a hotel, but a lovely one!

  • Free parking
  • Full English breakfast
  • En suite rooms
  • Free wifi
  • Private garden to relax in

Lock in a great price, this isn’t often available!

Find other Barnard Castle hotels


Barnard Castle


Barnard Castle from the Scar Top


Mortham Tower (left) and the Round Tower


Oriel Window with The Silver Bridge and River Tees


Round Tower and Oriel Window


From Startforth – across the river


The Sensory Garden


Town Ward, looking to Round Tower


River Tees and County Bridge


The Inner Ditch




Inner Ditch


The County Bridge, Built in 1769


Remains of the Mortham and Round Towers


Visiting in Spring?  Why not check out everything you need to know about Bluebells in Spring in England.

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About Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is an avid reader, writer and traveller. She loves hiking, sailing, skiing and exploring the world through food. She left a successful career in IT security and compliance in both the UK and US to travel the world with husband and partner in adventure, Nigel.

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