The Bowes Museum > Visit > Visitor Information > Teesdale & the Surrounding Area

Teesdale & the Surrounding Area


Home to magnificent castles, heritage sites, beautiful gardens and the unmissable High Force waterfall, Teesdale is one of the picturesque Durham Dales situated in the North Pennines.

Its historic market town of Barnard Castle, with its elegant Georgian and Victorian architecture, is home to a medieval castle, riverside walks, and a good selection of independent shops and antiques outlets, together with a well-supported Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of every month, giving customers the opportunity to buy good quality local produce.

Middleton in Teesdale is the other market town within Teesdale, situated higher up the River Tees.  It was once the historic centre of Teesdale's former lead mining industry and today boasts a wide range of quaint shops, tea rooms and independent businesses.

As well as its market towns, you can explore picturesque villages, drive along quiet roads, walk and cycle for miles through magnificent scenery,
 sail or fish on Teesdale's reservoirs and rivers.  Cycling and walking are two of the most popular outdoor pursuits in the area with excellent long and short-distanced waymarked walks in woodland, by the river, through villages and across the Pennines.  The Teesdale Way, the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast all pass through the dale's stunning scenery.  For off-road cycle trails, Hamsterley Forest is a great adventure for all ages, and its waterfalls, known as High Force and Low Force, wooded valleys, wide-open grouse moors and hay meadows provide the perfect surroundings for enjoying the dale's peaceful tranquility.

Teesdale describes the area that surrounds the upper reaches of the River Tees, from its source in the hills to just west of the railway town of Darlington, Durham where the river broadens out into the Tees Valley.  It is often described as the northernmost of the Yorkshire Dales, and the River Tees is often used to mark the border between Yorkshire and Durham.

In his
Pennine Way Companion, Alfred Wainwright said:

"...the Tees is an excellent companion: above Middleton it is a beautiful river, in places sliding smoothly in a wide bed, in places falling and cascading in rocky channels, and it has attracted to it a wealth of lovely trees, a host of darting birds and a fragrant wild flower garden along its banks.  On a sunny June day, the five miles to High Force are a joy to the naturalist, the geologist and the botanist;  and to the walker who has trampled the bleak moors from Edale they are perfect delight: this is the place to linger, to rest awile in sylvan sweetness, and dream.....it is the river, the Tees, with its bordering carpet of flowers, that enchants the eye and uplifts the heart....and yet makes a man sad because, having found this Arcadia, he must leave it and may never return."  

It is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and has some fine 
accommodation establishments to broaden its appeal to visitors. 

Information about reopening


We are delighted the Prime Minister has announced that museums can reopen this summer. We understand you are excited at the prospect of visiting The Bowes Museum and would like to assure you we have been developing plans to welcome you back into our beautiful building by late August; we are working on vital social distancing measures so you, staff and volunteers can be confident of a safe environment which everyone can enjoy.

We take pride in offering a relaxed and enjoyable day out for all the family, and with that in mind we are extending the Museum passes we have issued in the last year. Our exceptional Norman Cornish exhibition will continue until Autumn 2020 and we are planning to release details of a packed events programme, including the Christmas Market, over the coming weeks.

In the meantime the grounds of The Bowes Museum are open to be enjoyed by walkers and cyclists, in line with the government guidance on COVID-19. The parkland can be accessed through the front pedestrian gates between 10.30-4.45 daily. We would like to thank everyone for their continued support and understanding, and ask people to respect social distancing guidelines when they visit.

You can keep up to date with developments, including our reopening date here or on our Facebook and Twitter.