By Hello Freckles – Blog Squad member

blogger Tasha sat outside the front of The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum makes a great day out. If the weather is a bit on the miserable side there’s plenty of art to enjoy perusing. Of course, if you get a bright sunny day, like we did, then it’s worth taking a walk in the grounds and enjoying the landscaped gardens (and fountain).

You’ll find The Bowes Museum in the Durham Dales, just a stone’s throw from Barnard Castle town centre. The location of the museum is intentional, as John Bowes (the original owner) wanted Bowes to be somewhere people could easily visit and enjoy. 

External view of The Bowes Museum building and surrounding landscaped garden

The building looks stunning from the outside. As you arrive through the gates you’re confronted with a building that’s more akin to the French Renaissance than rural Durham.

The grandeur doesn’t stop there either. Inside the museum you’ll find some internationally renowned artworks; paintings by El Greco, Francisco Goya, Canaletto and of course, the grand attraction, the 18th century silver swan. There’s lots more too, so much so it can be hard to know where to start.

collection of paintings on display inside The Bowes Museum gallery

Helpfully, you can book on to a guided tour, which is what we did, and I’d highly recommend it. Sheila, our guide, was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly while also being funny and personable. Over the course of an hour, she took us through the history of The Bowes Museum, how John met Joséphine and how they went on to collect many artworks. In fact, you can see some of Joséphine’s paintings in one of the three art galleries on the second floor.

The Silver Swan is synonymous with The Bowes Museum and is an absolute must see. It was out of order when I visited, but don’t worry, you can see a video of it in action when it was last restored and gaze upon the intricate detailing. 

The Silver Swan at The Bowes Museum

On the first floor you’ll find the Fashion and Textile gallery which showcases fashion pieces from 1550 to 1970. At the time we visited it was also showcasing an exhibition on fashion photography. The keen fashionista may remember when The Bowes Museum hosted the Yves Saint Laurent: Style Is Eternal exhibition back in 2015, which attracted visitors from across the country (and probably the world, given it was the first exhibition in the UK to display so much from the French designer). I think I’ve held a soft spot for The Bowes Museum ever since I visited for that exhibition.

display of dresses and fashion in the Textiles gallery at The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum boasts such a varied collection of ceramics, metal, silver, sculpture, and furniture spanning five centuries, so if fashion or paintings isn’t really your thing, you’re bound to find something to pique your interest here.

No visit is complete without a coffee stop, or lunch break. If you happen to be visiting at the weekend, then I’d recommend heading along on a Sunday. Why? The Sunday lunch in Cafe Bowes is a real treat. For around £10pp you can tuck into a Sunday roast with all the trimmings. When we visited, we enjoyed roast beef with a Yorkshire pud, vegetables and of course roast potatoes. If you’ve got space for dessert why not try one of the many cakes they’ve got available?

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