BARNARD Castle has enjoyed its best year for visitors in 2021 off the back of the now notorious eyesight-testing trip to the location by Dominic Cummings, according to English Heritage,

The County Durham town hit headlines during the pandemic when it was revealed that the Prime Minister’s chief adviser at the time had taken a day trip there while the rest of the country was in lockdown.

Despite the backlash that Mr Cummings received for his trip, including an enquiry by news outlets on the matter, it has come to the benefit of Barnard Castle.

Read more: Reasons for dead seals on Whitby and Redcar beaches revealed

English Heritage has said it was among many “hidden local gems” which saw an increase in visitor numbers during 2021, as more people turned to local and nearby places on their doorstep due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Barnard Castle’s 12th century fortress, which belonged to Richard III and has a sensory garden, saw an almost 20 per cent increase in visitors in comparison to 2019, according to statistics from English Heritage.

Several lesser-known historic attractions in North Yorkshire have also achieved their highest visitor figures in over a decade, including Kirkham Priory up 75 per cent and Pickering Castle up by 30 per cent since 2019.

The Northern Echo: The rise in visitors is down to Dominic Cummings trip and the fact that people were exploring attractions on their doorstep during the pandemic, according to data.The rise in visitors is down to Dominic Cummings trip and the fact that people were exploring attractions on their doorstep during the pandemic, according to data.

English Heritage also said they had more than 372,000 people join as members in 2021, as the public explored more of their local area.

Kate Mavor, chief executive of English Heritage, said: “At English Heritage, we look after over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites across the country – many of which attract visitors from far and wide.

“In the past, those lesser known, more intimate local sites in our care have often been overlooked in favour of our more iconic ones, despite having just as rich and important a history.

Read more: UK police ordered NOT to chase criminals due to issues with their BMWs

“This has been a long and hard pandemic but one silver lining appears to be that with people staying closer to home, they have discovered historic places nearby.

She added: “We also saw last year, once our sites had reopened after lockdown, a surge in people joining English Heritage as members.

“And it’s these members who account for more than half of those bumper visitor numbers at local sites.

“People fell in love with their local heritage and as English Heritage members they were able to enjoy our sites for free.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054