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The Auckland Project

Activities, Attractions , Places2go
Auckland Castle

One Historic Town, Seven Attractions, Two Thousand Years of History

The Auckland Project are bringing history, culture, art and nature to life with an action-packed programme of events and activities at Auckland Castle, gardens and galleries for the whole family.

Family Friendly Activities at Auckland Castle

Auckland Castle

Auckland Castle is one of the best-preserved Bishop’s palaces in the whole of Europe – home to England’s only Prince Bishop’s for thousands of years. Nowadays you can make yourself at home in this unique castle.

Children can dress up and dance in the Throne Room, explore the foods once used at a traditional dinner party in the Long Dining Room, and trace the footsteps of the Bishops in St Peter’s Chapel, one of the largest private chapels in Europe.

Beyond the pageantry of the state rooms, you will discover the lives of Auckland Castle’s most recent occupants, the characterful and often controversial Bishops of Durham. Use vintage typewriters in Bishop Hensley Henson’s study, spot the hidden hand print in the Moule Room (once left by a Bishop’s wife trying to renovate the room!), and play with 1960s toys in the Bishop Ramsey Room.

Knight School at Auckland CastleBounce on Bishop David Jenkin’s bed when the guides aren’t looking and see the lair of Bishop Hensley Henson, who was so unpopular that they tried to push him into the River Wear – but got the Dean by mistake.

Banquets are off-the-menu these days, but the Bishop’s Kitchen offers simple pleasures, including homemade treats and food grown in the 17th-century Walled Garden.

Thanks to the work of an incredible team of restorers and conservators, you can fully appreciate the scope of the power, wealth, influence, and faith, held by the residents of this beautiful castle. It’s waiting for you to enjoy. For more information to help plan your family day out at Auckland Castle and to purchase tickets please click HERE

Auckland Castle Deer Park Gardens and Grounds

Auckland Castle sits at the heart of 150 acres of historic parkland, created over 800 years ago by the Prince Bishops of Durham as their own private hunting ground. Today, the parkland enjoys free entry throughout the year and is a haven for wildlife, with over 100 veteran trees, fish ponds and woodland paths. The perfect place for children to explore!

The historic Deer Park retains many of its significant features, including the Georgian Gothic Deer House, an Ice House, an Obelisk and the 18th-century Trevor Bridge.

Download our Walk in the Park map and lace up your walking boots. There are three suggested walks through the Deer Park and points of interest to look out for along the way.

Auckland Castle Walled GardenOur 17th Century Walled Garden was one of the first of its kind in the North East, techniques such as heated walls and glass hothouses were used to grow vegetables, flowers, fruit, and even pineapples for the bishop’s guests, which were very rare and exotic in the 1700s.

The lower part of the 17th-century Walled Garden is now blooming and ready to welcome visitors, while the regeneration work on the upper Walled Garden continues. Green-fingered visitors and food-lovers alike will find much to enjoy here, from pattypan squash to black tomatoes fresh from the vine, the veg patches are yielding harvests headed straight to your plate, in our cafes and restaurants. We will develop 10-acres of new gardens by 2024, including the Upper Walled Garden, a Faith Garden next to the Faith Museum and a Wilderness Garden.

More to Explore…

From the Deer Park you can also see the stage which plays host to Kynren, the spectacular, live action outdoor show, presented by our sister charity Eleven Arches. Watch the epic tale of England come to life and journey through time with amazing performances and unforgettable adventures for all the family.

Mining Museum Gallery at Auckland Castle

Mining Art Gallery

Step into another world to see depictions of life in the coal mines, but also the communities that grew around them.

The intimate and awe-inspiring art collection in The Mining Art Gallery gives a unique insight into the lives and souls of coal miners and their communities, showing how human creativity and spirit can shine even in the darkest places.

The Mining Art Gallery provides a permanent home for the distinguished Gemini Collection of Mining Art. Look out for works by prominent local artists, such as Tom McGuinness and Norman Cornish. The work on display showcases the skill and creativity of these labourers and celebrates the achievements of the mining artists as a vital aspect of coalfield heritage, whilst also capturing the community spirit, pride, solidarity and identity celebrated through Durham Miners’ Gala, also known as the Big Meeting.

Watch a series of atmospheric videos showing a glimpse what life was like for miners and their families in and around the North East coal mines, including original footage. Find original miner’s lamps, pit ponies, and explore some of the games and pastimes enjoyed by mining families.

The Mining Art Gallery allows you to experience what life was like to be a miner. Culture, life, and community sprung out from mining in the North East; it’s our history, it’s our character, and it’s who we are.

The Mining Art Gallery was created in partnership with Dr Robert McManners OBE and Gillian Wales, and a visit to the gallery takes you on an exploration of the art, culture, and context of the mining industry and its place in the history of County Durham.

Spanish Gallery at Auckland Castle

Spanish Gallery

Auckland Castle has been home to Francisco de Zurbarán’s series of Spanish masterpieces Jacob and His Twelve Sons, for over 250 years. These striking paintings are the inspiration for this new gallery, in the heart of Bishop Auckland.

The Spanish Gallery is unique in Britain, telling the story of the Spanish Golden Age in the 16th and 17th centuries. With exhibitions spread over four floors, you could spend a whole day immersed in the curious world of Spanish art, including works by El Greco, Velázquez and Murillo. Learn about Royal Spanish children and hear the gruesome stories of the saints!

The gallery is also home to a remarkable collection of great Spanish masterpieces which have been painstakingly reproduced as facsimiles. The exhibition includes Renaissance wall tiles and elaborate, geometric-patterned timber ceilings, a tabernacle and even a tomb!

Learning and engagement are at the centre of our vision. Getting up close to the works in the Spanish Gallery is an exciting, immersive and engaging experience. The gallery draws on works from our collection and develops a series of activities and exhibitions in partnership with Durham University, as well as institutions and galleries from around the world.

When you have soaked up the majesty and melodrama of the Spanish Golden Age, refreshment awaits in El Castillo, the tapas bar next door. El Castillo is Bishop Auckland’s newest restaurant, serving Spanish-inspired food with a seasonal menu showcasing local produce, freshly picked from Auckland Castle’s 17th-century Walled Garden. Expect flavourful small plates and a relaxed dining experience, the perfect way to round off your day. Salud!

Auckland Tower

Auckland Tower

Climb high to see far – the 29 metre Auckland Tower with its 15m viewing platform offers 360° views across Auckland Park, Bishop Auckland town and the rural landscape beyond.

Auckland Tower is the perfect place to start your visit to The Auckland Project and get the lay of the land. Buy tickets here, collect guidebooks, maps, and children’s trails. Learn about events and activities, as well as finding out more about the Prince Bishops of Durham, before making your way to the Castle.

The building, designed by Nìall McLaughlin, stands on the threshold between the town and the Castle. Its modern design echoes historic structures, like a great wooden siege engine drawn up against the Castle’s fortifications to allow access to the historic inner realm.

Don’t forget to look up – the Tower also features a number of striking architectural details, including decorated tiles and ceiling panels. For more information about Auckland Tower please click HERE

For more information about visiting The Auckland Project please click HERE



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