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. 

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!


Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.