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Monday, 23 February 2015

The Bowes Museum

We are slowly but surely making our way around all of the museum's in the North East. A visit to a museum is something my 8 year old will always ask to do and my younger two are usually happy to go with the flow. This week, it was the turn of The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, somewhere none of us have been before and we didn't really know what to expect. I had read a few reviews online warning of us about a certain piece of modern art in the foyer, but other than that, we were visiting with no expectations.


Here is said piece of modern art. I expected to hate it and agree with those who had said it has no place in such a historic building but I actually found it rather amusing and the kids LOVED it! Anything that gets the kids interested in art gets my vote. At the end of every exhibit the kids would ask if they could 'see the wee'ing man again' HAHA! I'm sure they weren't the only ones. Unfortunately this particular exhibit closed at the weekend but I am sure it will be replaced with something equally as stimulating.

Entry to The Bowes Museum is £9.50 for adult and children under 16 are free. It is better value to buy a 6 month's pass for £14 as you will be able to visit again at no extra cost when the exhibit's change in the Spring/Summer (look out for YSL:Style is Eternal which opens on 11th July).

Ground Floor

The Ground floor of the museum is very child friendly. We enjoyed looking at the historic toys (and trying a few), the beautiful dolls houses and the various activities that were laid out on the table. There is also a dressing up zone where you can dress up as a Victorian child.


Free Craft: Make a Victorian Paper Doll

Daddy and Heidi trying out some Victorian toys

Learning about various joints

Identifying bugs under a microscope that can destroy museum artefacts

Floor One

Floor One is home to the beautiful Fashion and Textile Gallery which at the moment is focused around birds. I loved looking at all of the beautiful dresses as did my daughter (the boys not so much).



There are also various art galleries on this floor including some modern art. I think you can be interested in art at any age and our children never seem bored looking at pictures and always seem to find them interesting.


You can learn about the history of The Bowes Museum on this floor too and wander around the rooms which are set up as were in times gone by.


Floor Two

Floor Two is home to The Silver Gallery which contains lots of shiny objects. We loved what we called treasure chests and the large goblets on display. There is a beautiful silver swan in the centre of the room and the crowds gathered at 2pm to watch it play.


We waited in anticipation when a museum guide popped up out of the blue to start the swan. He was rather humorous and warned us that the swan only 'performed' for 32 seconds so we had better not blink or we'd miss it (Cue my daughter holding her eyes open). At over 200 years old I think the swan performed beautifully and I'm pleased we stayed to watch. The guide was available to answer questions afterwards.

There are some traditional picture galleries on this floor too which you might think children may find boring but I can hand on heart say my children really enjoyed looking around. We always ask them to pick their favourite and least favourite pictures in the room and to think of a reason why. I love that at even 4 years old, our children are starting to discuss art.

This 'cow' was a favourite painting

Cafe Bowes


Half way through our visit our children needed re-fuelling and we joined the queue for Cafe Bowes at about 1pm. Table service is provided and we were recommended to try the Jaffa Cake Ice Cream which was on special that day (we loved it). Children's meals were £4.50 for a sandwich, chips, fruit and a glass of juice or £5.95 for a hot meal and juice. Service was very friendly and if you are lucky enough to grab a window seat you will enjoy beautiful views of the gardens and grounds.




You can also order afternoon tea after 2pm. Click here for a full menu.

Park and Gardens

It was a freezing cold day and stupidly I had forgotten my coat so we didn't explore too much of the outdoor space. There is a newly refurbished play park for children, landscaped gardens and an accessible woodland walk. I imagine it would be a lovely place to spend a few hours breaking up your day in the warmer months.





Family Friendly

My overall impression is that The Bowes Museum was extremely welcoming towards families. I really liked the fact that there were craft tables dotted around the building with interesting and various activities - these could be making your own paper man with moveable joints, designing a mask and completing jigsaw puzzles. The activities complimented the room they were in and were enjoyed by lots of families during our visit. 

All of the staff were lovely with our children and you don't feel like you are on edge when you are walking around - the atmosphere is very relaxed. There are various family trails, backpacks and quizzes available at reception too which will involve your children even more.

We spent a good three-four hours in the museum but could have easily spent more, especially if we had explored more of the grounds. If you want to introduce your children to art, design and history, The Bowes Museum is a very good place to start.

We received complimentary tickets to the museum in return for our honest review. 



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25 comments

  1. What a lovely review. I'm pleased the kids liked it. I'll be disappointed when the Julian Opie exhibit closes as it really is fascinating how it divides opinion, but the YSL one will be a hit as well I'm sure x

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    1. The Julian Opie exhibit closed on Sunday :-( Booo! I am excited for YSL though - planning to visit after Summer hols when it will hopefully be a little quieter x

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  2. wow it looks like a lot of fun, and what a great review x

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  3. Looks like you all had an amazing day out. Those dresses are amazing. I've been to Barnard Castle a couple of times now yet never been to the Bowes Museum yet, thanks for highlighting it. x

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    1. The dresses were fabulous. Imagine wearing something like that! It is a lovely museum with lots to see - would definitely recommend.

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  4. It looks like a lovely place to go, we like to go to museums as well we have done every thing in York and been to majority around us in Wakefield. My favourite place is Temple Newsam it is a great place to visit.

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    1. Oh I will look up Temple Newsam - never heard of it. Thanks for the suggestion :D

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  5. I've been before to see Vivienne Westwood's shoe exhibition and I'm going to see the Birds one on March 8th, then YSL in July. I love the Bowes, it's like a little hidden gem! Lovely post about it!

    Kay xx
    Idreamofcoco.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Oh no I'm gutted I missed the Vivienne Westwood shoe exhibition! Sounds wonderful. Can't wait for YSL though. I agree, it is a little hidden gem x

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  6. I have never been here. I love visiting museums and it looks like you can spend a full day here exploring

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    1. It is lovely - I like that they have a nice outdoor area too to break up the day x

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  7. That looks like a wonderful place to visit....
    hehehe! I do like the modern art, such fun and those dresses are just stunning x

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    1. They really are Kim - can't wait for the YSL exhibition in Summer

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  8. I remember visiting the Bowes Museum as a child - that swan has stayed with me!
    Thanks for linking up with #TriedTested this week :) x

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    1. The swan was definitely one of our highlights x

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  9. It's been years and years since we visited Bowes Museum, I really like Barnard Castle in general, infact pre-kids, we used to book some lovely little pubs/b&b's in the town and had some lovely weekends away. Will need to take the kids one day, the swan is something that my hubby remembered from going with his parents as a little boy so I would love to show our kids

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    1. Ah remember weekend breaks pre-kids! LOL! I agree it is lovely to pass the memories you remember onto your children. It was fairly busy but all of the kids could sit on the floor at the front so they could all see. Heidi was so funny holding her eyes open so she didn't miss anything!

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  10. It's been years and years since we visited Bowes Museum, I really like Barnard Castle in general, infact pre-kids, we used to book some lovely little pubs/b&b's in the town and had some lovely weekends away. Will need to take the kids one day, the swan is something that my hubby remembered from going with his parents as a little boy so I would love to show our kids

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  11. What a fabulous place - I would be in awe of the fashion section, and the weeing man would certainly amuse my little boy.

    #Tried/Tested

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    1. The fashion section was wonderful - so many beautiful outfits x

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  12. I was due to have gone to the Bowes Museum a couple of weeks ago but we had to reschedule for this weekend - very sad that I've missed out on the "modern art" but looking forward to the Birds of Paradise (and the Silver Swan which no visit is complete without) :-D

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    1. You will love it - there is so much to see. Don't miss the Swan performing at 2pm x

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  13. I've not been to this museum, but I've heard of it and I'll certainly put it on the list next time we are in the north-east. H would love that modern art sculpture.

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  14. Fab place! I would love to see all the costumes! As for the modern art piece, I bet my little man would find it hilarious.

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I always love reading your thoughts and comments - Sam x

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