Vast estates, smart Edwardians, chic cottages and on-trend terraces. Something for all budgets in this lively market town and the areas around the edge. Easy enough to find a creaky character cottage if you yearn for a doer-upper or even a weekend bolthole. The land around Barnard Castle delves into the loveliest dales where you can snap up a remote renovation project to satisfy those ‘place in the country’ dreams.
The A66 can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Most of the time it offers easy access to the A1 at Scotch Corner (which is of course getting its own upmarket designer outlet in the not-too-distant future). And the A66 takes you west on a dramatic if not so commuter-friendly route.
But of course when the snow comes, life’s a challenge. For travel further afield, trains from Darlington and Northallerton and planes from Durham Tees Valley or Leeds Bradford are good.
This is the land of the lovely farm shop. Heading along the A66 stop off at Mainsgill Farm Shop. Believe your eyes when you see camels, llama and even wallaby in the fields. Thorpe Farm Peel House offers an abundance of locally-sourced produce and deli goods.
Cross Lanes Organic Farm Shop and Café specialises in organic local produce and its lovely café serves a range of homemade organic delights. Helpful in-store signs allow you to track every food mile and discover local producers.
Barnard Castle holds its Farmers Market on the first Saturday of every month, the stalls are set up on the main cobbled area running through the town centre. The Market normally is open from the morning until early afternoon. Market day in Barnard Castle is every Wednesday.
You can enjoy afternoon tea at a wide variety of places in the area, including The Bowes Museum Café, The Coach House at Eggleston Hall, The Morritt Arms and Headlam Hall Hotel. Search out the local traditional lead miners pasty at Café 1618 in Middleton in Teesdale or at their café set in the visitor centre at Bowlees.
In Barnard Castle, McFarlane’s butcher is a family operation which really looks the business, black pudding and sausages a speciality. Cotherstone Cheese Company is one of Rick Stein’s food heroes. You can buy the distinctive, sharp cheese from a number of delis and shops in Barnard Castle. A distinctive, sharp cheese.
Culture stop >>
Within walking distance of the high street, Bowes Museum is a great place to linger. It looks like a French Chateau and is filled with stunning art and exhibits, from Turner’s paintings to the famous clockwork swan. An impressive textile and costume wing is where you can watch tapestries and clothing being restored as well as getting up close to gorgeous period costume reflecting the ages. There are regular exhibitions featuring the works of renowned contemporary artists and lots of family-friendly activities. The coffee shop and restaurant is certainly worth a detour too. Local produce in abundance, from snacks to home-made cakes, pastries, cheeses and ice-cream.
Don’t miss the castle itself. A spectacular fortress set on a high rock above the market town, Barnard Castle takes you back to the 12th century. Spot Richard III’s boar emblem carving, enjoy the sensory garden and stunning views of this riverside location.
Barnard Castle is renowned for its excellent range of antiques shops, many of which are located on ‘The Bank’, a steep street leading downhill from the Market Cross, lined with early 16th and 17th century buildings. Together the shops can offer antiques hunters a tremendous selection of furniture, books, decorative items, clocks, cutlery, silver and jewellery.
Alongside the antiques shops there is a wide array of independent shops, including beautiful contemporary home and gift shops, vintage home and clothing stores, a traditional sweet shop, a chocolate shop, countrywear shops, stationers and delicatessens.
Kieran Goldsborough is MD at Narrative Communications in Sunderland. He lives in Cotherstone village near Barnard Castle with wife Rachel, daughter Kitty, eight and twin boys Finley and Oliver, five.
Three good things about living here >>
• Stunning countryside
• The mix of people who create a good sense of community
• Lovely food on the doorstep
Three places to take visitors >>