Teesdale is a fantastic place to visit, rich in cultural attractions and fun things to do for all the family.
If you love castles and heritage, look no further than Raby Castle at Staindrop. This dramatic 14th century castle, built by the mighty Nevills, has been home to Lord Barnard's family since 1626. Surrounded by luscious parkland, grazed by deer, the Castle hosts some excellent family-friendly events throughout the year. Garden designers Thomas Wright and James Paine have worked to establish the Raby Gardens which now extend to five acres. These magnificent gardens display herbaceous borders, shrub borders, yew hedges, a conservatory, formal rose gardens and informal heather and conifers gardens.
Imposing castle ruins perched on a cliff overlooking the River Tees, belonging to English Heritage, is Barnard Castle itself. The castle dates back to the 12th century and was once one of the largest in northern England.
Just outside the town is Rokeby Park which was designed by and built for the gifted amateur architect, Sir Thomas Robinson. Designed in the 1720s, it is an important early example of the Palladian style. Great attention was paid to relating the heights and details of the elevations to give maximum emphasis to the central block and so create the striking and noble "North Italian" villa, which you see today. Rokeby was acquired by J S Morritt in 1769 and remains in the ownership of the Morritt family. The house is romantically set close to the confluence of the rivers Tees and Greta, a setting which inspired Sir Walter Scott to dedicate his epic poem "Rokeby" to his friend, the then owner, JBS Morritt.
Fine food can be found at the award-winning Rose & Crown Hotel which is idyllically situated in Romaldkirk, next to the church from which the village takes its name. Eggleston Hall Gardens offers, as well as stunning walled gardens and plants to buy, The Coach House Café where you can get local organic food on the lunchtime menu and delicious afternoon teas. Raby Castle has a good tearoom, as does Thorpe Farm which has a spacious coffee shop and bistro for passing visitors, those having a stroll around the heritage wood or picking up a bargain in the reclamation barn or farm shop. The Morritt Arms Hotel, just two miles from the Museum, at Greta Bridge offers a relaxed, country house atmosphere. Its Dickens Bar has the only hand painted wall mural by John Gilroy in the world. The famous Northumbrian artist is best known for his Guinness Irish Stout advertising posters. The Morritt Gilroy murals cover all fourwalls of the bar, depicting a Dickensian scene of life in the 17th century. Humour and history perfectly combine in Gilroy’s masterpiece.The Dickens Bar is so called as Charles Dickens visited Greta Bridge in 1838 to gather background information on the Yorkshire schools for his book, Nicholas Nickleby, partly set in Teesdale. The Morritt has recently added The Garage Spa, the perfect retreat for special occasions. Cross Lanes Organic Farm Shop and Café serves delicious home-made organic food, such as pizzas cooked in a wood-fired pizza oven and the Shop supports local producers and crafts businesses. The eco-friendly centre focuses on living in a sustainable way and has sheep grazing sedum on its 'living roof'!
Barnard Castle is a haven for antiques lovers with its many antiques shops on 'The Bank' and a host of independent shops offering a wide range of specialist gifts, art and crafts. On the first Saturday of every month there is a Farmers Market promoting high quality local fayre, and on a Wednesday every week there is a market on the cobbles. The Teesdale Mercury is England's last remaining independent newspaper and it has its own shop in the centre of the town stocking gifts, cards, stationery and souvenirs.
Middleton In Teesdale is another bustling town with its own independent tourist information centre, gift shops, bakers, tearooms and good pubs.
And if it's the great outdoors that appeals to you, look no further than walking to High Force and Low Force waterfalls, making a trip to Hamsterley Forest to take advantage of the off-road cycle trails, or take in Teesdale's wooded valleys, rolling grouse moors and hay meadows which provide the perfect surroundings for enjoying the dale's peaceful tranquillity.