A sight for sore eyes

After ten days in Scotland, it was time to make our way back down south.

Events having brought a certain historic market town in county Durham to our attention, we decided we had to pay a visit to Barnard Castle.    As a medievalist, I was keen to visit the castle itself, with its links to the Balliol, Beauchamp and Neville families, as well as King Richard III. We duly booked our timed tickets as soon as we learned that English Heritage was re-opening the site. That is what you need to do, now.  Spontaneity is out, everything needs to be pre-booked.

So it was a bit annoying to realise, as we neared Barnard Castle, that Raby (the ancestral home of the Neville family) was so close.  After conferring in Richard III’s private apartments, we decided to check whether there was any chance of a visit that afternoon. We were in luck. The castle was open until 4.00 p.m.  We had a booking for another of Barnard Castle’s attractions, the Bowes Museum, at 2.00 p.m., but we might just do it. My husband had booked the Bowes Museum, and had I realised that it was a purpose-built treasure house with an internationally significant collection of fine and decorative arts, rather than the local history museum I had envisaged, I would never have attempted the two in one afternoon.  Still, we had time to see the famous silver swan automaton and some very fine furniture before dashing back to the car. 

We just made it to Raby in time. Unlike Barnard Castle which is a ruin, Raby today is a very grand stately home.  The entrance hall was remodelled so that for carriages could be driven in one side and out the other. Guests would then be shown into the Octagon room, with a stunning golden ceiling. Even the kitchens were impressive with rows of shining copper moulds.

I’m so glad we made the effort.  If it hadn’t been for a certain government adviser, we would probably not have gone to Barnard Castle at all. As it is, we will need to return some time to see the town properly.

We paid a flying visit to Barnard Castle in September 2020

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