This attractive old market town, in Teesdale (County Durham), takes its name from Bernard de Bailleul (Balliol). A son of Guy de Bailleul, who fought with William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

Barnard Castle Ruins
Barnard Castle Ruins (Image Credit: George Hodan)

The Balliol family constructed a basic wooden fortification here in the 12th-c. to guard a crossing point on the River Tees. It was rebuilt in stone around 1150, with massive buttresses. The round keep was added later in the 14th-c. The Balliol family gained great power during the 13th-c. when John de Balliol was crowned king of Scotland. Balliol college in Oxford was established in 1263, as an act of charity, following a dispute between John de Balliol and the Bishop of Durham.

The castle remained a royal fortification until the 17th-c. when buildings were then dismantled by Sir Henry Vane to add to his own castle at Raby. The extensive castle ruins and grounds are currently managed by English Heritage and open to the public. Read more...

A market was established below the castle in the 13th-c. and the town quickly grew up around it. The impressive octagonal stone pavilion of the Market Cross (shown below) was built in 1747. The arcade surrounding its base once sheltered busy market traders and the upper floor served as a lockup, town hall and a courtroom.

Barnard Castle Market Cross (Image Credit: George Hodan)

The town boasts a fine architectural heritage with many attractive stone dwellings, shops and characterful weavers cottages, dating from the 16th to 18th centuries. Including the 16th-c. Blagraves House with fine stone-mullioned windows and several old inns, including the King's Head, where the writers Charles Dickens and Walter Scott once stayed.

Georgian Thorngate was once the most fashionable residential part of the town with many handsome 18th-c. houses. Many of these have long top-floor windows, originally used to light weaving looms. Along the river sit several old sandstone factories, recalling the days when Barnard was and important textile and carpet manufacturing centre. In particular, Thorngate Mill, built to facilitate local woollen industry, was producing fine cloth here right up until the 1970s.

The town is host to one of the finest museums in the UK, the Bowes Museum. A grandiose French style chateau set high on a terrace, above ornamental gardens with towers and lavish ornamentation. It was built for John Bowes, a wealthy coal owner and local MP, during the 19th-c. Read more...

The town is a useful touring base for Teesdale and the upper dales of west Durham. The ruins of Egglestone Abbey can be found a few miles to the south, along Abbey Lane. A little further south is a popular beauty spot at Rokeby Park, where the River Creta joins the Tees. This Palladian style country pile, was built as part of an estate acquired by the Robinson family in the 17th-c. The house is open to the public in the summer months. See website for details.

Map of Barnard Castle

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Towns and Villages in County Durham

Barnard Castle, Bishop Auckland, Darlington, Durham, Hartlepool, Middleton-in-Teesdale, Stockton-on-Tees,

Attractions in County Durham


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