Image © Copyright David Dixon/Creative Commons Licence
With graceful towns, sublime villages and a rich heritage amidst glorious countryside, the middle Tees Valley features in several works by England's favourite artist, JMW Turner. At its heart is Barnard Castle - 'Barney' to locals; a mellow and picturesque market town with a firm reputation as a centre for antiques. Set between the moors and the Tees gorge, the nucleus is the gaunt castle draped along river cliffs, whilst an equally eyecatching - albeit bizarre - building is a vast French château, where today's antiques buffs may drool at the startling collection of the hugely wealthy Victorian industrialist John Bowes. It's the perfect area to tackle an easy ramble to work up an appetite for an afternoon's browsing and picking.
THE WALK (c.3¾ miles)
1) From the octagonal Buttermarket Hall saunter down The Bank, the epicentre of the antiques and collectables quarter of this cosy old town. Make a mental note of your favourites and browse at length after enjoying a gentle walk beside the River Tees, described hereabouts as "...a terrible river; so rapid..." by Daniel Defoe (author of 'Robinson Crusoe') during his tour of Britain in the 1720's.
At the hill-foot junction keep ahead on Thorngate; then cross the iron-lattice footbridge behind the imposing former worsted mill and turn left on the path beside the cataract-strewn Tees. Within the edge of a static caravan park, the way is sharp-right up the park road (pass-by the marked footpath to your right), keeping up the right-hand park roadway. Waymarking is haphazard. Just beyond the uppermost caravans turn left (stile) onto the grassy path which skims the top of woods above the river, presently reaching a road, Abbey Lane. Bear left, soon crossing a beck beside the quaint Bow Bridge before reaching Egglestone Abbey.
2) Explore these atmospheric ruins (free) before continuing along the lane to the crenellated Abbey Bridge. Cross this and immediately look left for the gap-stile and waymarked Teesdale Way footpath. Head upstream through the woods, presently bursting out into riverside pastures. This section is enhanced by limestone scenery cleaved by the river; bluffs, levels and clefts where for over 700 years, Teesdale Marble (a particularly attractive memorials stone) was cut.
3) Just beyond the sewage treatment plant drift right to the ruined barn. Turn upfield here; once in the succeeding pasture head half-left on the well-used grassy path, presently meeting a wall curling in from your right. Stay beside this to reach trees beside a nearby house. Turn up the path, which continues as a walled, tarred lane, Parson's Lonnen.
At the top, turn right the few yards to view the spectacular château housing the Bowes Museum. Then return along Newgate to find the Buttermarket.