Beamish Museum, near Stanley, has triumphed in Britain's tourism Oscars.

The open air museum was jointly awarded gold in the large visitor attraction of the year category in the Enjoy England Excellence Awards in London.

It shares the honour with Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, home to HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose.

The judges said: "Beamish offers a superb all-day experience that is truly brought alive by the skill, knowledge and pro-active stance of the costumed presenters and interpreters who re-enact life in the early 1800s and 1900s.

"These people are integral to the visitors' experience of the museum and contribute enormously to the overall quality of Beamish as a visitor attraction.

"Beamish offers an extremely high degree of authenticity, from the girl making bread in the miners cottage, who is happy to chat about social history, to the eighteenth-century Manor House that is only lit by candles and the school room where the teacher is giving a lesson on decimal currency.

"Beamish excels in the use of the senses in interpretation to engage emotion, taste, smell etc."

Museum director Miriam Harte said she was proud to accept the award on behalf of the dedicated staff who are the essence of the museum.

She said: "It is a great honour to be considered by tourism professionals as one of the best large visitor attractions in the whole of the country."

The museum, which attracted 325,000 visitors last year, has won scores of awards over the years, including European Museum of the Year in 1987 and the Good Britain Guide's living museum award in 2000, 2002 and 2004.