Sunday, September 30, 2007
GETTING THERE: The Great Northeastern Railway (GNER) runs frequent train service from London's King's Cross to Darlington, the nearest station for Barnard Castle. Fares start at about $50 round trip. Details: 011-44-8457-225-225, http://www.gner.co.uk. A taxi ride from Darlington to Barnard Castle costs about $40. The bus is vastly cheaper, but very slow; the Barnard Castle Tourist Office Web site (see below) has schedules.
Various car rental companies operate in Darlington, including National and Enterprise. Rates about $36 a day or $210 a week.
GETTING AROUND: Buses connect the villages of Teesdale (see above) but you can walk from one end of Barnard Castle to the other in 10 minutes. Having a car means you can explore the countryside without hiking everywhere, but while in town, leave it parked -- just not on a double yellow line. You'll get a ticket.
WHERE TO STAY: Number 34 (34 the Bank, 011-44-1833-631-304), a B&B next door to Blagraves restaurant, is a five-minute walk from the castle, the church, the River Tees and the Bowes Museum. The new part of the house was built in 1742; some of it is much older. The resident ghost is called George. Try to book the sybaritic Blue Room. Rates from $108 per night, including breakfast. The owners also offer a two-bedroom self-catering cottage down the Bank, with rates from $160 a night or $800 per week. Greta House (89 Galgate, 011-44-1833-631-193), a Victorian B&B on the old road that led to the town gallows, has brass beds. Rates from $70. There are many other B&Bs in the vicinity; check the tourism office (see below).
WHERE TO EAT: Blagraves (30-32 the Bank) serves superb local food; dinner for two (without wine) runs about $75. Valentine's (11 Galgate) tends toward modern European, with pastas, fish dishes and lush desserts. On nice days, you can eat in the patio garden. Lunch for two runs $25 to $40, dinner about $60. Bailie's (7 the Bank) boasts a cool, contemporary decor and a good wine list. The food ranges from modern British (Cumberland sausage with garlic mash) to exotic forays into fusion (green Thai curry). Lunch for two runs $20 to $40, dinner $65. Zeta's Coffee Bar (Marketplace) is cheap ($7 for a sandwich and a cappuccino) and good.
PUBS: The Old Well (21 the Bank) has been pulling pints since the time of the Tudors. A little way out of town, the Morritt Arms on the Greta (Greta Bridge) is long on atmosphere, and in Cotherstone, the Fox and Hounds serves real ale and the village's specialty cheese.
WHAT TO SEE:
* Barnard Castle (011-44-1833-631212, http://www.teesdale.co.uk). Admission is $8.
* Raby Castle (011-44-1833-660-169, http://www.rabycastle.com), in Staindrop, was repaired in the 17th century using stones from Barnard Castle's castle. Full of art by Van Dyck and Reynolds, antique weaponry and trophy animal heads, it's largely 14th century. Admission $18.
* Bowes Museum (Newgate, Barnard Castle, 011-44-1833-690-606, http://www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk). Admission $14.
* Egglestone Hall Gardens (011-44-1833- 630-115, http://www.egglestonehall.co.uk), on the edge of the moorland village of Egglestone on the B6278. Lovely gardens full of rare plants surround a Palladian mansion. There's also a chic bistro and shop. Admission $2.
INFORMATION: Barnard Castle Tourist Office, 011-44-1833-690-909, http://www.teesdale.co.uk.