In Barnard Castle you can take a walk through over a thousand years of English history, in one rather gorgeous market town. In our opinion the best place to begin is the ruins of the eponymous castle itself, which has been keeping watch over the place since 1125.
As well as surviving centuries of sieges and North East weather, there are cracking views of the gorge from up here, with the River Tees drifting past, below. Why not take a stroll into the town after this; it’s like an architectural history lesson – awash with gorgeous buildings from Medieval, to Georgian to Victorian times. Head to The Bank, for example, and you’ll find a bunch of antique shops tucked away in beautiful 16th- and 17th-century buildings, which are great for a browse – even if you’re not buying. One of our favourites is White’s Antiques, which is crammed full of porcelain, glass and silver treasures.
One place you definitely shouldn’t miss, though, is the Bowes Museum. Surrounded by landscaped gardens, just a short stroll from the town centre, the house itself is a work of art: four storeys of French-style loveliness. Inside, its floors are packed with paintings by the likes of Goya, Canaletto, El Greco and others – not to mention a whole bunch of textiles, tapestries, clocks and costumes. History at its most beautiful.