Summer of fun at The Bowes Museum

Summer of fun at The Bowes Museum

There's something for everyone to enjoy during the summer holiday.

Enjoy a summer of fun filled activities at The Bowes Museum this year.


With a super summer school, fabulous exhibitions and lots of family activities both inside the Museum and outside in the grounds there’s something to please people of all ages in the coming months.


The Museum’s summer school kicks off for youngsters aged 7 to 12 who can join Bright Woods Forest School CIC on Monday 26th July and Monday 2nd August, from 9.30 until 4.00.  For £25.00, they’ll have a brilliant time in the morning building a den before toasting marshmallows on a hand built fire and then having a scrumptious packed lunch and enjoying an afternoon taking part in different crafts and exploring the adventures of Clara exhibition.


The summer school continues with Magic Workshops on Monday 9th and Monday 16th of August from 9.30 until 4.00, where youngsters will be able to learn amazing magic tricks to wow their friends and family with from the Museum’s favourite Magic Andrew. They can then enjoy a yummy packed lunch followed by an afternoon of crafts and exploring the adventures of Clara exhibition.


Children can embrace their inner divas on the final day of the Museum’s summer school on Monday 23rd August.  From 9.30 until 4.00 they’ll be able to follow in the footsteps of Museum founder Joséphine Bowes by learning theatrical skills! After enjoying some scrummy packed lunches they’ll don stage make up and put on a show!


Visitors can follow the fantastic adventures of Clara exhibition trails until October 31st to hear, see and even smell what life was like for the most famous rhinoceros of the 18th century, who travelled from her home in India to become a celebrity in Europe. She toured cities meeting kings and noblemen and was greeted by cheering crowds wherever she went; inspiring poems, paintings and sculptures like the Museum’s own white marble one to be created.  Visitors can follow fun rhino fact packed trails both inside the Museum and in the grounds to discover more about this amazing rhinoceros as well as find out how to save the species for the future as the Museum has teamed up with the charity Helping Rhinos.


Come and join Clara’s escapades around the Museum on Saturday 24th July and Saturday 25th September from 11.00 until 3.00 with our Clara family fun days, with loads of crafts and trails for people of all ages to enjoy during these magical days, with lots of free activities in the grounds and others, free with admission, inside the Museum.


Every week throughout the holiday season visitors to the Museum’s gardens will be able to join in with some free craft making sessions to celebrate the adventures of Clara.  On Mondays from 11.00 until 3.00 they’ll be able to make free Woven Dreamcatchers inspired by her journey by land and sea.  Materials can represent land, sea, culture, fashion or climate – whatever takes their fancy!  The dreamcatchers can be decorated with sticks, straws, leaves, ribbons and bows.


On Tuesdays people can join in the free Message in a Bottle activities in the grounds from  11.00 until 3.00.  They can design and create a map celebrating our adventures of Clara exhibition. Stain it with tea and add rhino paw prints to show part of her journey, India to Rotterdam or her trip around Europe.  Use a feather quill pen to inscribe a message of hope, kindness, courage and friendship, just like Clara and the captain’s journey.  Then they can roll and tie it with a ribbon before popping in a bottle to take home.


Our Little Treasures group continues to meet throughout the summer months, from 10 until 12 on Thursday mornings.  Costing £3 a child, it’s great way to introduce little ones to the Museum in a fun and exciting way.  They get to make a craft and explore the collection with stories and singing along the way.  It’s also a chance to make new friends for young and old alike.


And on Saturdays throughout the holidays, children can join in the free fun celebrations in the grounds with our Venice Welcomes Clara activities, from 11 until 3.00, where members of the Museum’s education team will be handing out kits to create a festive rhino eye mask or horn headdress inspired by Venetian masks that can be decorated with lace, ribbon, sparkles or pompoms.


Why not get outdoors and enjoy a fun and accessible yoga session in the Museum’s glorious grounds?  Zafu Wellness and Wellbeing are leading gentle yoga classes on Tuesday 27th July and Tuesday 3rd August, from 11.00 until 12.00, costing £5.00 a lesson. Each session is suitable for all levels of experience and will include a 10-minute warm up, 40 minutes of posture work and 10 minutes of relaxation to finish.  Please bring your own yoga mat, a blanket and a cushion.  If the weather is poor, the session will take place inside or online depending on numbers.


Are you aching for Italy?  Wanting to head off to foreign shores but concerned about travel uncertainties – then let us take your worries away with a European getaway at the Museum with the return of the ever popular Late events costing only £5.00, starting with an Italian night, Ciao Italy! On Friday 30th July from 6.00 until 9.00.  Look no further than this fabulous evening full of Italian culture, music and food to help ease your longing.  Guests can relax and get that holiday feeling as they wander around the Museum’s breath-taking galleries, enjoying the delightful sights and musical sounds of Italy as they discover more about the most significant Italian items in the collection during a fascinating guided tour. And if that gets their taste buds tingling, then they can round off the evening by booking a table for an authentic Italian meal featuring meatballs, mac’n’cheese and a cheeky glass of prosecco, created especially for the occasion by Café Bowes’ head chef, Ben Parnaby.


On Friday 27th August visitors can relax and enjoy the sights, sounds and taste of France as they join us for a very French affair with our Lates, French night, Bonjour France!, where from 6.00 until 9.00 for £5.00 they can find out all about our incredible founder Joséphine Bowes and see some of the amazing artwork she created that now adorns the walls of the Museum bearing her name.  They can also discover why the Museum resembles a fabulous French chateau during a fascinating talk by Dr Simon Spier before rounding the evening off by booking a meal with the delicious taste of Paris in Café Bowes.


Help us celebrate our sensational Spanish collection of paintings, which is among the very best in the UK, during the final of our late events on Friday 24 September from 6.00 until 9.00 in this superb Spanish themed evening, Hola Spain! Enjoy live music and sangria as you saunter around the Museum’s awe inspiring galleries for £5.00. Hankering after the flavour of Spanish fayre? Then book a table in Café Bowes to savour some scrumptious tapas to make an evening of it.


The artist Chris Mouncey will be hosting a watercolour painting and drawing architecture in the Open Air workshop on Wednesday 4 August from 10.00 until 4.45.  Why not join him for an enjoyable day painting The Bowes Museum in the fresh air. Chris will show different painting techniques to help create inspiring architectural pictures and answer any questions throughout the day. It costs £60 including lunch, refreshments and all the materials will be provided. In the event of inclement weather, the workshop will be held inside the Museum.


Do you feel sometimes feel like everyone else comes up with the bright ideas? Well, you can find out their secret during our Get Creative - Explore, Experiment and Play with Light (in the Museum) sessions on Saturday 21st August, Sunday 22nd August and Sunday 4th September, from 10.00 until 3.00 for those aged 16 +.  It costs £50 including lunch and bursary places are available on application.  During these day long sessions with the creative thinker Dave Bramston, participants will explore, experiment and play with light using ceramics, glass and paper. No specialist equipment or knowledge required.


Join the internationally renowned textile artist Pauline Burbidge for an Illustrated Talk on Saturday 28 August from 2.30 until 3.30 to find out what inspired her to create the quilt she donated to the Museum that’s on view in the North Country Quilts exhibition. She’ll give a presentation that will track her inspiration, making and completing two of her most recent quilts, “Plantforms”, which is on display and a recent “Quiltscape” called “re-told Stories: Pitt Rivers Legacy”.  The talk, which costs £5.00 per person, will end with a short film and there will be opportunity to ask Pauline questions at the end.


Bring your picnic and a blanket and join us for a day of creativity on Monday 30th of August on the back lawn of the Museum for our Young Curator’s Tea Party.  They’ve been inspired by the Fashion and Textiles collection and have put together a day of workshops you can try your hands at from 11.30 until 3.30.  Jess Langford and Lucy Addison will be leading a jewellery making workshop and you can also create your own statement fashion accessory in another.  There will also be an open-air photo studio where Young Curator and photographer Sophie Somers will be taking portraits of people adorned in their newly created jewellery and fashion pieces. Please note if you are under 16 you must be accompanied by an adult.


Join North East painter Gavin Watson for his sketching the Museum workshops on Saturday 4th September, where you can do some sketching in the grounds, looking at the Museum building, the people in the grounds and taking inspiration from the current exhibition by ceramicist Paul Scott.  If the weather is poor, this will take place indoors in the Jubilee Room.  The sessions run from 10.30 until 1.00 and from 2.00 until 4.30. They cost £30.00 per person and all materials will be provided.


Programme your brain to think link a genius in the Museum’s Get Creative - Have-a-go - Manipulate, Explore, Play (online) workshops on Sunday 5 September, Wednesday 8 September and Thursday 9 September from 5.30 – 6.20 for those aged 16+. It’s easy to assume that astonishingly creative people were born with brains wired to see things differently but what we forget is that every great artist and inventor learnt how to develop ideas.  Join this 50-minute online session with creative thinker Dave Bramston looking at how ideas are generated with short, simple hands-on activities. No specialist equipment or knowledge required. Priced at £5 a session with bursary places available on application.


Come and learn the relaxing art of Tai Chi Qigong in the beautiful grounds of The Bowes Museum on Mondays 13th, 20th and 27th of September from 12.00 until 1.00.  Andy will guide you in this gentle art, that’s been shown to benefit the practitioner’s physical and mental health.  Costing £5.00, everyone is welcome and the class is suitable for all ages.  If the weather is poor the session will take place online.


Be inspired to create and develop your “mind’s eye” by Kaffe Fassett, one of the world’s leading multimedia artists in his Online Colour Inspiration Lecture on Thursday 16 September at 7.00 as he highlights work from projects and collaborations, past and present, including his patchwork, fabric, needlepoint, mosaics, painting and knitting designs. Kaffe's inspiration comes from his travels throughout the world. His lecture is designed not so much to instruct but to empower and inspire the audience to create and develop their "mind's eye”. Audiences will be invigorated, entranced by Kaffe's sense and use of colour and be ready to try it themselves and are encouraged to do so.  The slide show lasts approximately one hour followed by a Question & Answer session for approximately 15 minutes.  Tickets cost £5.00


Don’t forget to visit the Museum’s website ( to download the outdoor trails for the Woodland Fairy Trail and Nature Trail to do at any time in the grounds.  Every fairy needs a set of wings! Take yours and fly away to shady glade. Next to the Lodge, by the gates you will see…some little steps take you to Sparkle and Shine hiding under a tree.  See how many fairy houses you can find around the grounds in this fun trail.

Find out about the trees, wildlife, flowers and fauna around the grounds of The Bowes Museum in this informative and entertaining nature trail. You can even create your own artworks en route by downloading special viewfinders from our website and taking a photo.


Inside the Museum as well as following the adventures of Clara trail, you can see the North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions exhibition which celebrates the quilting traditions of northern England by showcasing historical and contemporary quilts that are among the finest examples of the craft acquired by the Museum in the last 20 years. Entry to this exhibition is by a separate timed gallery ticket, which can be booked at no extra cost when booking admission to the Museum, it’s open until 9 January 2022.


And visitors can enjoy the latest ceramics works by the contemporary Cumbrian artist, Paul Scott, in New American Scenery, featuring historical transferwares that have been updated for today’s audience, telling modern stories based on his trips around America.  Visitors will be able to see the contrasts between the old and new shapes and forms, and think about decoration and what it means, on view until 9 January 2022.


The Museum’s ever popular indoor tours continue until 22 August, where for £3.00 per person, visitors can discover the story behind our magnificent Museum from one of our friendly, experienced volunteer guides in a small socially distanced tour of the galleries. They can find out more about our founders John and Joséphine and why they chose to build their amazing Museum on the edge of Barnard Castle. Visitors will also learn more about our most famous paintings and exhibits, and perhaps some others with a story to tell. The tour will last up to an hour (depending on how many questions are asked).


The Bowes Museum is open from 10.00 until 5.00 daily. Admission tickets must be pre-booked and visitors are encouraged to wear a mask inside the Museum, shop and until seated in Café Bowes.  Entry to Café Bowes and the Museum shop is free.




Notes to editors:


  • The Bowes Museum was created over 100 years ago by an extraordinary couple, John and Joséphine Bowes.  Together they built up the greatest private collection of fine and decorative arts in the North of England and constructed a magnificent building to house them in.  The collection contains thousands of objects including furniture, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and many other items covering an extensive range of European styles and periods. 
  • The Bowes Museum receives a core funding grant from Durham County Council and as a Major Portfolio Museum receives support from Arts Council England. Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.
  • The Bowes Museum has undergone major redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, One NorthEast through the County Durham Economic Partnership, English Heritage, Northern Rock Foundation, The Monument Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The European Regional Development Fund, DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund, Designation Challenge Fund, The Shears Foundation, The Richard and Suzanna Tonks Family Fund at County Durham Foundation, Durham County Council, The Friends of The Bowes Museum, The Headley Trust, Sir James Knott Trust, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Fenwick Ltd, Mercers Charitable Foundation, Welton Foundation.
  • The Bowes Museum is a member of the Discover Durham partnership of attractions. Our commitment is to promote Durham as an exciting and vibrant group travel destination and to provide the travel trade with a professional and knowledgeable service: hotline number 03000 262626,




Categories: News