Our first week-long holiday in the caravan for almost a year! We headed North up the A1 to County Durham, and a remote campsite a few miles away from the market towns of Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle.
By the time we had pitched camp on the Saturday, it was quite late into the afternoon. So we settled for a short drive into the nearest town, Bishop Auckland, to explore. Most of the shops were already closing down, however we found ourselves a nice short walk through the grounds of the original Bishop’s Castle.
Sunday morning, and more castles! First off, we headed into our other nearby town of Barnard Castle. A quaint and compact town centre, with plenty of little touristy shops and refreshingly very few of the big high street names. There’s a Morrison’s supermarket tucked away behind the main street though, for grocery essentials.
Then off to Raby Castle for a bit of a nostalgic tour. Deborah had some vivid memories of Raby from her childhood, aged about 7. Incredibly, some things were unchanged. There was still a Raby fox curled up on a sofa in front of a roaring fireplace, and we reckon we identified the old fire brigade carriage which her father attempted to crank the manual pumps on and got into so much trouble with the museum attendants many years ago!
Monday looked to be a reasonable weather forecast for the morning, so we decided on a drive out to the High Force Waterfall near Middleton-in-Teesdale. It’s a nice short walk for the dogs, although the final access to get close to the waterfall is via some steep rough steps. Good photo opportunity nevertheless. A quick wander around Middleton’s tourist shops, and then back to our base.
Tuesday looked like a fair forecast, so we travelled in to Durham centre and parked up close to the river. The old town is quite compact, and winds its way gradually uphill to the castle and cathedral. Durham Cathedral is one of the few churches in the country on such a massive scale, and was well worth a visit. Although the climb up the tower steps was out of the question for me, we spent quite some time looking around the interior and the undercroft. No photos allowed inside, unfortunately!
Wednesday’s forecast was the worst of the week, with heavy rain predicted for most of the day. Steam trains are always on my holiday wishlist, so we drove to the outskirts of Bishop Auckland and an outpost of the National Railway Museum at “Locomotion“. Essentially it’s a huge engine shed exhibit, with a good mixture of permanent and temporary items on display. While we were there, we saw various World War 2 themed exhibits (with the D-Day 70th anniversary imminent), and also a couple of locomotives used in the 1970’s film ‘The Railway Children’.
Continuing the railway theme, I found that the Weardale Railway is due to open anytime soon, with preservation trains running from Bishop Auckland up through the Wear valley. Another one to add to our list of future places to visit!
As it had been such a miserable day, we decided on a meal out in the evening and headed for the nearby Sun Inn at Wackersfield. The trip advisor reviews for the Sun Inn have some diametrically opposed opinions, but we found the service was absolutely fine and the huge portions served made for excellent value.
Thursday, and an improved forecast looked like a good day to travel to the north of Durham and visit the Beamish Museum . Dogs are welcome around the site, which meant that we could make a full day out of it if we wanted. Probably the most expensive of our tickets during the week, but good value all the same. We spent many hours wandering around the extensive site, and even ventured onto one of the trams during the afternoon. Neurotic dogs and tram noises don’t mix very well, but we got there in the end. I think Beamish is one of those attractions which will keep on growing, and always offer something new to see if we ever visit again.
Friday was our final day, and the weather forecast was excellent – warm and sunny all day, so a perfect opportunity for a day at the seaside. We headed out to Hartlepool, for a wander around firstly the historic quay and marina, and then around the historic headland. A short drive north of Hartlepool found some dog-friendly beaches at Crimdon Dene, and then back to the south side of Hartlepool to Seaton Carew, an old style seaside venue with gift shops and ice cream vendors.
I generally have a few words of praise for whichever campsite we stay on during our caravan trips. However, this week has proven to be the exception. We stayed at a caravan park near to Ramshaw, and it’s the only place in our years of touring that I’ve ever looked at in a negative light. Rather than provide a comprehensive list of failings, let me just say that it didn’t seem to be run to particularly professional standards. Still, lesson learnt and we won’t be going back.
And finally, some more photos from our week away, in a gallery for you to explore…