THE newly refurbished tourist information centre in Barnard Castle has become a tourist attraction in its own right, thanks to the skill of local craftsmen.

For a £60,000 facelift has included a new counter which combines modern security and disabled facilities with traditional scenes of the dale carved into its ash frontage.

Visitors can pick out Barnard Castle scenes on the left hand side, including the Bowes Museum, castle, county bridge and the Market Cross; the right hand side offers views of the dale including Egglestone Abbey, Raby Castle, dry stone walls and a spring gentian.

The locally made counter was the brainchild of James Usher, Teesdale Council's head of development, which helped modernise the centre along with Teesdale Market Towns Partnership and Teesdale Marketing.

"We had tenders from outside the area, but the designs were all the same," said Mr Usher.

"So I approached Anthony Nixon Furniture in Barnard Castle and not only did they do a superb job, they came in with the lowest tender."

The stone pillars are also local, coming from Dunhouse Quarry at Staindrop.

Tourist information officer Val Wilson said the counter had proved a great talking point. "It has become a tourist attraction in its own right."

The refurbishment included upgrading the centre's technology and providing a cyber caf. Residents are also welcome to use the computers, for a small charge.