16 Things to do at Barnard Castle

Ad - This post includes a press stay with Cummins and Goings in June 2023. All other aspects were paid for by ourselves. 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle is a charming market town in County Durham. Sitting on the bank of the River Tees, it's a lovely place to visit for a day trip and is equally a fantastic base for a short break with lots to see in the area. It's known for its medieval castle ruin, cobbled streets and perhaps more recently, the place to go if you'd like an eye test. 

Barnard Castle - Need to Know 

  • Where to Stay - We stayed at Cummins and Goings Cottage in the heart of Barnard Castle. It's dog-friendly and sleeps 4 across two bedrooms and is super central with a view of the river and castle from the end of the drive. I will share a full review at the bottom of this post. 
  • Where to Park - Galgate Car Park (DL12 8EJ) has 169 spaces & Queen Street (DL12 8GB) has 65 spaces. Both are in central locations. 
  • Public Transport - The closest train station is Bishop Auckland (buses connect with Barnard Castle from Bishop Auckland Bus Station). A number of buses serve Barnard Castle including Arriva 75 & 76, Hodgson Services 70, 71, 72, 73, 79 and 79X, Cumbria Classic 572 and Scarlet Band Services 83, 84, 95 and 96. Always check with operators direct for the most up to date info and timetables when planning your journey. 
  • Accessibility - Many attractions within Barnard Castle are accessible and I did spot a few wheelchair users during our visit. There is a hill up to the main town centre. Check out Euan's Guide here for more information.
  • Public Toilets - Available in Morrisons Car Park and Market Place 

Barnard Castle Map 

You can download a FREE Google Map to your phone here featuring all of the locations & postcodes of the places mentioned in this post including postcodes. Alternatively, scroll to the bottom of this post to see an interactive map as part of this post. 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle 

Visit the Castle 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle

With a history dating back to the 11th century, Barnard Castle is set in a prime location overlooking the River Tees. Admission is free for English Heritage members (or admission fee applies) and dogs on leads are welcome. 

You can walk around the castle ruins and read the information boards which we found to be interesting, enjoy the magnificent views across the River Tees, enjoy a picnic in the grounds, play garden games in the orchard and find Richard III's boar emblem carved in the inner ward. 

There's loads of green space to run around and cold drinks / ice creams are available to purchase from the admissions hut. I would set aside around 45 minutes - 1 hour for a good walk around. 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - View from barnard Castle

Barnard Castle Playground

Just beside the Castle entrance is a lovely enclosed playground with swings and slides. It's next door to the golf course and there is seating nearby. 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Barnard Castle Playground

The Bowes Museum 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle - The Silver Swan at Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum is a fantastic child-friendly museum in Barnard Castle. Expect interactive exhibitions, a picnic and play area in the gardens and lots of events and activities running across the year. 

It's a nice museum to visit as an adult too with a fantastic collection of art, fashion and design. Cafe Bowes is said to offer one of the best afternoon teas in the area.  The Silver Swan pictured is currently not performing. 

Try a Local Restaurant 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Babuls Takeaway

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to independent restaurants in Barnard Castle. The ones which were recommend to us to most were:
  • Babuls - amazing Indian food with lots of Vegan options & a cocktail lounge
  • Moments Cafe - a lovely dog-friendly cafe with homemade food 
  • Valentines - a fantastic restaurant with popular outdoor terrace in the summer months (dogs welcome outside)
  • Capri Italian - a family friendly Italian restaurant 
  • Runa Farm - a cracking sunday lunch 
We decided to opt for takeaway from Babuls which was really easy to order online to collect later in the day through their website. We chose a few Vegan small plates and starters to share between us all and wow it was all incredible! Especially the Tandoori King Prawns and Spiced Broccoli. 10/10 from us. 

Shop for Antiques 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - antiques shops

There are loads of antiques shops in Barnard Castle, especially running down the bank. Even if you're not in the position to buy, having a look through the windows as you walk past is interesting. 

Teesdale Alpacas

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Alpaca walks

Teesdale Alpacas are a small Alpaca breeder in Barnard Castle who also offer Alpaca walks and treks. An Alpaca Walk here is one of the best activities we've ever done as a family together - Alpacas are so quirky! 

Pre-booking is essential and prices are super reasonable (farm visits from £5 and Alpaca walks are between £15-£25 per person). 

The owners here are so knowledgable, patient and passionate about their animals and you really learn a lot. 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Alpaca Trek with Teesdale Alpacas

Mini Golf 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Mini Golf at Barnard Castle

The mini golf is just next to Barnard Castle Playground. No need to book - just turn up. There are 9 holes based around Teesdale landmarks. 

At the moment it's cash only (£3 per player of £9 for a goup of 4). It's open from 10am-6pm in high season and 10:30am-4:30pm in low season 7 days a week but it can close in bad weather. 

River Walk to Eggleston Abbey 

This is a lovely circular walk (3 miles in total) to try along the river. It should take around 1.5 miles in total. You can read a guide to this walk here: Eggleston Abbey Walk 

Enjoy Ice Creams in the Secret Garden at Chocolate Fayre 

So many people recommended Chocolate Fayre to us and I'm so pleased we visited. Known for their luxury chocolates, hot chocolates and ice cream parlour, we popped in for an ice cream to enjoy in their secret garden to the rear (which really feels like a secret as we were the only ones there).

Alternatively, Gelato Tutti received numerous recommendations too and I reckon will also be worth a visit. 

Enjoy Sangria in the Sun 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - crobar entrance and location

Barnard Castle has it's own Sangria Bar! Crobar is a luxury beer garden specialising in Sangria (it was 2 for £10 when we visited). They're dog friendly, have tables in the sun or shade and kids are welcome too. Oh and I loved their summer playlist! 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Dog friendly beer garden

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Sangria Bar

Bowlees Visitor Centre (+ Low Force / Gibson's Cave) 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Bowlees Visitor Centre

The Bowlees Visitor Centre is a short drive from the town of Barnard Castle or you can take the 73 bus (Mon-Fri) which stops outside. 

It's a lovely place with a free car park (donations appreciated), a dog-friendly cafe, maps, toilets and friendly staff. They also have an all terrain vehicle for hire. 

From here you can walk to Low Force Waterfall which is stunning! It's only a 600m walk and is accessible (make sure you keep dogs on leads and don't enter the water). Or you can walk around 600m in the opposite direction and visit Gibson's Cave - another natural beauty spot (although there are steps to navigate on this route). 

Or if you fancy a longer walk, you could continue onto High Force Waterfall. 

Bring a picnic or buy cakes and ice cream from the cafe and enjoy the scenery. It's a beautiful part of the world. 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Low Force Waterfall

Demesnes Playground & Picnic Spot 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - The Demesnes Playground

The Demesnes is a lovely green space just a 2 minute walk from the main high street and shops. There is lots of green space to run around, picnic tables overlooking the river and a playground too. We brought Fozzy here for a nice walk with a takeaway coffee, it's a lovely spot. 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - The Demesnes Playground

Flatts Wood 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Flatts Wood Map

We followed the path down from the mini golf to get to Flatts Wood, it was only a short walk away. The woods are known for their bluebells but are also just a lovely peaceful place for a walk. 

You can access the water here for a supervised paddle and there are picnic tables and a bandstand. We visited on a sunny saturday in the summer and it was pretty quiet so feels like a bit of a hidden gem (although I'm sure locals will say otherwise). 

Euan's Guide has written about access to Flatts Wood here.  

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Access the river to paddle

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Flatt's Wood

Shirl's Shakes 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - milkshake from shirl's shakes

Shirl's Shakes is a fab little milkshake / treat bar in the centre of Barnard Castle. They're often open until 8pm too. They had SO many shake flavours that it took the kids a while to choose. They were very happy with their final choices though and this is a fab place to pop into (they settled on fresh banana and snickers flavours). 

Eggleston Hall Gardens 

Eggleston Hall Gardens are a 10 minute drive from Barnard Castle twon centre and definitely worth popping by. The gardens have their own Coach House Cafe  which is a fantastic breakfast spot. 

Dogs are welcome inside and out and well looked after with a dog water station, complimentary dog treats and dog ice cream available to purchase. 

The staff are lush and the food even better. Kids will love the pancake platters and their breakfast sandwiches with locally sourced produce also hit the spot. 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle - Pancake platter at The Coach House Eggleston Hall

Known as the 'Secret Garden of the North', Eggleston Hall Gardens are a real treat. Admission is £2.50 per adult (kids are free) - bring £ for the honesty box on arrival. Here you can pick up a trail map which I'd recommend as you don't want to miss anything or only walk amongst the plants for sale / nursery - the more mature sections of the garden are a real treat. 

Dogs are welcome on leads (but check signs on arrival as you may need to let staff know if you're bringing a dog inside - sometimes their Jack Russels are on 'rabbit control' and the gardens are mostly accessible and there is some seating and a craft/gift shop. 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Eggleston Hall Trail

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - eggleston hall gardens

Scar Top 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle  - Bacon sandwich on Scar Top

Scar Top is only really a piece of grass between the castle and the playground yet we found ourselves here a few times over our recent visit. It's got plenty of seating and is a fab spot to enjoy a takeaway bite to eat with river views, plenty of rabbits and squirrels. We ordered a Greggs click+collect breakfast and enjoyed it here on check out day. 

I enjoyed researching some of the history here - you can still see the layout of the Roman Road and it's worth a quick google when sitting here to read about the 'Rising of the North' which took place here with over 5000 rebels trying to displace Elizabeth I in favour of Mary Queen of Scots.

You can really picture people jumping off castle walls. Apparantly 226 men leapt over the walls in just one day and the castle was completely surrounded. The siege lasted 11 days. 

I just also wanted to mention The Witham. It's not somewhere I have visited but I think it's worth checking out. This Community Arts Centre hosts workshops and classes (everything from painting and yoga to youth theatre and meditation) as well as hosting theatrical performances and live music events. Check out what's on here: The Witham Website 

Cummins & Goings Cottage Review 

Cummins and Goings is a lovely cottage in the heart of Barnard Castle. You can leave your car here and easily reach the town centre on foot in a few minutes. The River Tees and walks are literally across the road and you have a great view of Barnard Castle (the actual castle) from the end of the drive. 

Cummins and Goings Review - Living Room

Key points: 
  • 2 bedrooms (sleeps up to 4 across a double and twin bedroom) 

  • Dog friendly (dogs need to stay downstairs) 

  • Small but pretty rear yard with seating for 4 

  • Kitchen/diner with washing machine, dishwasher and everything you could need - definitely a real home from home 

  • A HUGE welcome hamper packed with cakes, bread, cereal, flapjacks, biscuits, scones, chocolate and more 

  • Dog bowls, ball and poo bags provided 

  • Free parking for one car outside - it is tight but we managed fine in our estate car 

  • Super spacious bedrooms 

  • Family bathroom with bath and shower upstairs
  • Super comfortable living room with a wood burning stove, SMART TV and sound system plus magazines and a desk filled with local attraction leaflets 

  • Self check in and check out 

  • Prices are available from £342 for 3 nights and school holiday breaks are very reasonably priced (3 nights in August over the Bank Holiday are available for under £400). 

  • Find out more and book: https://cumminsandgoingscottage.co.uk/

Cummins and Goings Review - Kitchen

Cummins and Goings Review - Welcome Hamper

Cummins and Goings Review - Dining Room

Cummins and Goings Review - Double Bedroom

Cummins and Goings Review - Twin Bedroom

We had a really comfortable stay here and loved that we could easily walk to lots of places to eat and shop (or restaurants/cafes) from our door. I also really liked that we were just across the road from the river and two playgrounds were within a 10 minute walk. Super convenient for dog walks! 

Our bed was lovely and comfy and all of the little touches such as milk & butter in the fridge, chocolates on the bed and fresh flowers on the table really made the difference. 

Cummins and Goings Review - Utility Room

Cummins and Goings Review - Bathroom

Cummins and Goings Cottage Garden

And I can't not mention the cottage name, they definitely don't take themselves too seriously. They even have an eye test on the wall. 

If you wish to stay a little longer, there are loads of attractions to enjoy in the wider area including Raby Castle, Plotters Forest and Deer Park, Locomotion Museum Shildon, Kynren or Auckland Castle. 

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle

1 - Visit Barnard Castle (dog friendly and free for English Heritage members) 
2 - Visit Barnard Castle Playground 
3 - Visit The Bowes Museum 
4 - Try a Local Restuarant (we recommend Babuls) 
5 - Shop for Antiques 
6 - Take an Alpaca for a Walk with Teesdale Alpacas 
7 - Play Mini Golf 
8 - Circular River Walk to Eggleston Abbey (dog friendly)
9 - Enjoy Ice Creams from Chocolate Fayre in their Secret Garden 
10 - Sip Sangria in the Sun at Barnard Castle's Sangria Bar (dog friendly)
11 - Visit Bowlees Visitor Centre & Walk to Low Force / Gibson's Cave / High Force (dog friendy) 
12 - Enjoy a Picnic and the Playground at the Demesnes (dog friendly)
13 - Walk through Flatts Wood & Paddle in the River (dog friendly)
14 - Choose a Shake from Shirl's Shakes 
15 - Visit Eggleston Hall Gardens & Tea Room (dog friendly)
16 - Admire the View & Soak in the History at Scar Top (dog friendly)

16 Things to do at Barnard Castle

Interactive Google Map 


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