Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle

We’ve been castle bagging again. At Barnard Castle castle, if you see what I mean (the castle after which the town is named, if you don’t).

The best view of the castle is from down by the Tees, over which it towers, being built on a small bluff above the river. We see that view every time we cross this bridge…

Bridge over the Tees

Over the years, we’ve crossed this bridge many times, since it lies on the route from home in Lancashire to TBH’s ancestral pile in County Durham. But we’ve never been to the castle together (I had a look around many moons again, a lazy interlude on a long walk from Ravenglass to Lindisfarne). We did try once, but despite the fact that the castle was officially open, it was locked up and there was nobody around. “Don’t worry, he’ll have popped out for a moment”, we were told when we asked at the local Tourist Information office. No such difficulty this time.

The castle is Norman of course (aren’t they all?). It feature’s in the opening canto of Sir Walter Scott’s poem Rokeby.

The moon is in her summer glow,

But hoarse and high the breezes blow,

And, racking o’er her face, the cloud,

Varies the tincture of her shroud;

On Barnard’s towers, and Tees’s stream,

She changes as a guilty dream,

When Conscience, with remorse and fear,

Goads sleeping Fancy’s wild career.

Which was highly appropriate to our visit. West of the Pennines the weather had been fresh, but bright, sunny and spring like. As we climbed on the A66 the temperature plummeted, clouds massed ahead, and soon it was first sleeting and then snowing heavily with snow settling on the road. Invisible snow apparently. The sort which it’s quite safe to ignore when driving at 80 miles an hour: or so some people clearly thought. One or two had learned the error of their ways the hard way. When we reached Barnard Castle the sleet had become pouring rain. We took refuge in a splendid little cafe (just off the Morrison’s car-park) for lunch, and by the time we’d finished it had brightened considerably again.

Such varied hues the warder sees,

Reflected from the woodland Tees,

Then from old Baliol’s tower looks forth,

Sees the cloud mustering in the north,

Hears, upon turret-roof and wall,

By fits the plashing rain-drop fall,

Lists to the breeze’s boding sound,

And wraps his shaggy mantle round.

Baliol is presumably Bernard de Balliol after whom the castle, and hence the town is named. He built the castle, or part of the castle, or owned it during it’s heyday depending on which internet source you choose to believe. From him it eventually passed down to Richard III. If I’d done some research prior to our visit, I might have looked up above this high window and seen his boar emblem carved there. I don’t know whether it was Richard who had this window added, but if he did he knew a fine view when he saw it.

Window with a view

We could see a few patches of snow in the hills beyond the Tees. The riverside paths here look very inviting on the map – one for another journey.

The view upriver

The castle is clearly a shadow of it’s former self. When it’s decline began is another issue on which the sources I read failed to agree. What’s clear on the ground however, is that it once covered a very large area. It’s split into four sections: Inner Ward, Town Ward, Middle Ward and Outer Ward. There’s an internal moat between the Inner Ward and the rest of the castle, which I thought was rather unusual.

A small slideshow:

All good fun, and we still have Brough Castle, Bowes Castle and Raby Castle either on or close to the route, for future journeys.

Barnard Castle

13 thoughts on “Barnard Castle

  1. We love Barnard Castle. Yet another place that reminds me of my childhood! Coming from Teeside it was a nice run for a day out, and Geoff and I have spent many a long weekend in the area with the campervan. Lots of good walking within an easy drive.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I know the town pretty well, and I’ve walked the Tees from Middleton upstream a couple of times, but I don’t know the area all that well and I’ve looked at the map a few times recently and thought that this would be a great place to have a short break with the kids. We have accomodation available about half an hour away too! 🙂

      1. Favourite places we walk in in the area include Hamsterley Forest (you never see anyone there once you get 10 minutes from the car park), Cotherstone Moor and Balderhead Reservoir (where Hannah Hauxwell’s old house is), the moors above Teesdale and the moors to the west of Hamsterley. They’re all only a half hour or so’s drive from Barnard Castle. We usually stay in the Camping and Caravanning site at Barney if we’re not wild camping.

  2. qdant says:

    Canto second

    But, westward,Stanmore’s shapeless swell,
    And Lunedale wild and Kenton-fell,
    And rock-begirdled Gilmanscar,
    And Arkingarth, lay dark afar;
    While, as a livelier twilight falls,
    Emerge proud Barnard’s bannere’d walls
    High crown’d he sits, in dawning pale,
    The sovereign of the lovely vale.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I ought to have known that you would know it Danny. That’s rather good, is Scott’s poetry unjustly neglected?

        1. beatingthebounds says:

          I can sometimes manage as much as 45 seconds (-:
          Thinking about it, I think that I was reading ‘Ivanhoe’ when I toured the castle during my Ravenglass-Lindisfarne backpack. At the time, I didn’t realise that Barnard Castle had a Scott connection.

  3. Castles! Can’t beat ’em. Used to drive past this one myself alot. Plenty in pur neck of the woods as well for an afternoon out when you come down to see us

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      There are several near you that I would love to go back to, and probably others I don’t know. We’re going to be spoilt for choice I can see. Can you arrange the weather?

        1. beatingthebounds says:

          Raglan and Goodrich are both great – I’d happily go back to either. I’m not sure whether I’ve been to White Castle.
          I see you’re settling into your knew role of apprentice EWO.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Now there’s an idea! I shall be daydreaming about this one for quite some time I suspect. I’m not aware of any such list, but there must be legions of anoraks like me who’d sign up for that project. I shall start working on that right away, well soonish anyway. Would you include peel towers too? Oh, hang on – there’d be a lot of those. Could be a lot of work this…..don’t hold your breath waiting on your share of the royalties!

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