“ Address: Auckland Park / Bishop Auckland / County Durham / DL14 7NP / United Kingdom „
Auckland Castle and Deer park
With our English Heritage card in tow, and having been to one deer park, we decided to visit this one. Auckland Castle is a castle in the town of Bishop Auckland in County Durham, and even with the sat nav, we had real problems finding the place, although it was sign posted when we were very nearly inside the gates.
BIT OF HISTORY...
The castle has been the official home of the Bishops of Durham years, since 1832 but has been owned by the diocese for more than 800 years, and is still the Bishop's official residence today. The building is the administrative centre for the Diocese, as well as a tourist attraction and the park is where the Bishops once hunted game. Apparently the dining room is home to 12 of the 17th century paintings by Francisco de Zurbarán, although we didn't see them as there was no evidence that we could actually go inside the castle.
CASTLE AND PARK...
Driving through impressive gates we managed to park right outside of the castle inside the castle grounds. The signs weren't very clear about parking but when we asked we were told we could park there although it seemed no one else had done this. The castle itself looks quite Gothic and not really like a castle at all although it did serve defensive purposes. After a short stroll around the very well manicured gardens, we walked along the path to the deer park, which is a different type of scenery altogether.
The Deer Park is set in eight hundred acres of parkland and it is here where the Prince Bishops hunted game. The castle and grounds contain 7 Grade 1 listed buildings which we were able to see when we walked around.
There is a walk of sorts through the park, although the path isn't clear. It is clear though that the walkways are a bit of a free for all because there were a few people with dogs and also evidence of horses having been ridden through the park. The whole area is gently undulating so there is nothing too tiring and nicely wooded with some interesting tree species as well as tree trunks under which were a host of insects. We also passed the river Gaunless (The Loiterer) which joins the River Wear just past the outer walls of the grounds.
There are plenty of places for picnics and there is also the interesting deer shelter or Deercote, built by Bishop Trevor in 1760. This has a grassed quadrangle with shelter for the fallow deer which used to roam the park. The tower formerly used to have an upper room where the Bishop and his guests could rest from their hunting, and there is still some evidence of this today. The buildings we passed had small signs beside them giving information about the building- just enough for us to understand what they were for but not too much.
We managed to walk quite happily round the park for more than 3 hours. There was plenty to look at and investigate with some fantastic views from the hills of the park. Little Miss especially enjoyed finding mini beasts in the fallen tree trunks and investigating the small creatures.
There are some interesting trees often looking quite incongruous and out of place as many of them stood completely alone and certainly didn't look as though they were native to this country.
It was unfortunate that we couldn't get inside and even having been to the park we still don't know if visitors can gain entry!! With it being a deer park we thought there may have been deer, so we got confused on this part as well.
The castle and park are open 7 days a week and entrance is free.
It's a pleasant walk if you live close by but don't go expecting deer!
Thanks for reading