This past weekend I had the opportunity (i.e. had access to a friend with a car) to visit Barnard Castle in Durham Country. Despite the fact that I have lived in the UK for over a year now, a quaint English town still fills me with the desire to squeal and eat it all up with a tiny spoon. The ride through the countryside was picturesque in a midday mist and the late autumn sun peeked through the clouds in bursts warming the stone buildings and castle ruins.
After parking the car, we first took a walk down to the river and headed towards the ruins of the English Heritage site: Barnard Castle. We choose not to pay to go into the 12th century building; the view from the river was enough for this trip and instead we walked uphill into the town center (the English Heritage website describes the center village as a “working market town also known as ‘Barney’”).
The town center was filled with little shops: pubs, teashops, secondhand and charity stores, etc. We meandered into a few places and I bought a Katherine Mansfield book from a genuinely lovely, lady working at Book Aid. It would be a wonderful location to wile away a morning window-shopping.
Interesting Fact: The character on the sign above is named Struwwelpeter from the German children’s book Der Struwwelpeter (1845) by Heinrich Hoffmann. Its ten rhymed stories teach different moral lessons with extreme consequences for poor behavior. My ausflug companion is originally from Munich and told me a few of the tales as we strolled, emphasizing the nightmares that accompanied this children’s book.
Our main afternoon event was visiting the Bowes Museum. This 19th c. French château was build by John and Joséphine Bowes to house their fine and decorative art collection. The permanent painting collection includes works by artists such as El Greco, Courbet, Turner, and Canaletto. There are also rooms of ceramics, house decorative arts, a room of Joséphine Bowes’ paintings, and the iconic Bowes Silver Swan: an 18th c. musical automaton at plays at 2.00pm everyday. Sadly, we just missed seeing the work in action. Today’s temporary exhibitions included contemporary artist Julian Opie, Six Masterpieces of the Spanish Golden Age: Paintings from Madrid, London and York, and the Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers in Fashion.
Personal Favorite: In one of the ceramics rooms there was wonderful wall of espresso cups and saucers. I loved all the various colors and designs shown together. It is also fascinating to see such variations in size. Sadly, my day did not involve the drinking of any espresso.
With our Sunday visit to Barnard Castle I slowly continue to explore the Northeast of England. Every time I see more of the country I am amazed by the views and the lived history of each village and city. This was a charming little day trip I would certainly repeat if only to breathe some more fresh air and fill my mind with lovely, calming sights.