The Bowes Museum welcomes visitors with disabilities and our staff do everything practical and reasonable to provide visitors with a positive experience. However, access to and around the building can be complicated as the Museum was constructed in the 19th century and is Grade I listed. It has a range of accessible services including wheelchair access to most areas.
Disabled visitors are encouraged to contact the Museum in advance whenever possible to ensure that staff and, if required, resources such as lifts and wheelchairs, are available. If you are visiting the Museum today and need immediate advice, please ring 01833 690606.
Arrival by Car
The Bowes Museum is situated in the historic market town of Barnard Castle, County Durham. (Please note: the Museum is not situated in the nearby village of Bowes).
4 accessible parking bays are located directly behind the museum building towards the eastern rear corner of the building and within 15 metres of the accessible entrance.
Visitors may be dropped off on the terrace immediately outside the main entrance; however the Museum asks that the entrance and the perimeter road are not blocked in order to allow for access by emergency services vehicles.
From the A1 take the A66 westbound at Scotch Corner interchange ( just south of Darlington). After approximately 11 miles, and just after Greta Bridge, signs will indicate a right turn towards the town of Barnard Castle. Follow this road for approximately 3 miles, crossing the River Tees via Abbey Bridge, to reach Barnard Castle. As you approach Barnard Castle, signs will indicate The Bowes Museum on the right hand side of the road.
From the M6 follow the A66 eastbound from Penrith via Brough and Bowes. At Bowes follow the A67 into Barnard Castle (about 4 miles) and cross the River Tees via the County Bridge. Continue along this road and up the steep bank towards the round stone Market Cross.Turn right at the cross into Newgate and the museum is about 400m along this road and on your left.
If travelling south via the A68, stay on this road until you reach West Auckland where you should take the A688 towards Barnard Castle. On arrival in Barnard Castle take the 2nd exit from the mini roundabout near the petrol station and follow this road through the centre of Barnard Castle, past the cobbled market place, until you reach the round stone Market Cross. Turn left here into Newgate and the museum is about 400m along this road and on your left.
If travelling from Durham via Bishop Auckland take the A688 from Bishop Auckland towards West Auckland and continue on this road to Barnard Castle. On arrival in Barnard Castle take the 2nd exit from the mini roundabout near the petrol station and follow this road through the centre of Barnard Castle, past the cobbled market place, until you reach the round stone Market Cross. Turn left here into Newgate and the museum is about 400m along this road and on your left.
If travelling from Darlington take the A67 via Gainford. On arrival in Barnard Castle take the first exit from the mini roundabout near the petrol station and follow this road through the centre of Barnard Castle, past the cobbled market place, until you reach the round stone Market Cross. Turn left here into Newgate and the museum is about 400m along this road and on your left.
The nearest Rail Station is Darlington on the East Coast Mainline from London King's Cross. Please see details in section on Public Transport.
Help in planning your visit can be found at www.theaa.com, which has a route planner. The Museum’s postcode is DL12 8NP to assist with this and satellite navigation systems.
Ample, free visitor parking is provided for on site within about 50 metres of the Museum.
Walking and Cycling
Barnard Castle is on the route of the W2W cross-country cyle route and many scenic walks. The Museum has bike racks.
By Public Transport
Public transport travel information can be obtained by contacting Traveline on 0871 200 2233 or can be planned online at www.travelinenortheast.info.
The nearest railway station to The Bowes Museum is Darlington (17 miles). Situated on the East Coast Main Line, the station is approximately 2.5 hours by train from London, or 35 minutes from Newcastle.
Bus services run regularly to Barnard Castle from Darlington. Arriva services 75 & 76 leave for Barnard Castle from stand M in Tubwell Row at half hourly intervals and Compass Royston service 70 leaves from stand H, also in Tubwell Row. Tubwell Row is a 10 minute walk from the rail station. Taxis are available at the rail station.
Bishop Auckland rail station is 16 miles from Barnard Castle. To travel from Bishop Auckland by bus, Arriva service 8 leaves from Bondgate in Bishop Auckland at 2 hourly intervals.
To travel from Richmond in North Yorkshire, Hodgson's service 79 leaves Richmond market place at 2 hourly intervals.
The Barnard Castle terminus for all these services is in Galgate.
The nearest airport is Durham Tees Valley (previously known as Teesside). Arriva service 12 leaves the airport for Darlington at 20 minutes past and 47minutes past the hour.
The region's main airport is Newcastle. It has metro links into Newcastle city centre with ongoing rail links to Darlington from Newcastle Central Station.
Entrance and Reception
There is a terrace laid with gravel at the front of the building. To avoid the gravel visitors can take a York stone path which runs around the perimeter of the terrace and across to the Museum’s entrance. Four broad steps then take you up to the main doors.
An alternative accessible entrance is located at the East end of the building for those with mobility issues, fitted with an intercom system that links to reception. Once reception is aware, a member of staff will direct you into the building and the front desk.
Large Print information (18 point) is available from the Reception desk.
Gallery plans (free) and Museum guidebooks (£4.99) can be obtained from the Reception desk.
The Museum has two different sized wheelchairs available for use. They can be found in the main entrance area. It is recommended that you book in advance to ensure availability.
Public Areas – General information (internal)
Attendant staff are available to assist the visitor in any way they can.
The Museum is served by a grand staircase to both public gallery levels. It has handrails to both sides. A lift is available for those who prefer to use it.
The floors of most of the galleries are constructed of wood, laid in a herringbone pattern, and are part of the Museum’s heritage listing. Due to the age of the building, the floors do move a little when walked upon.
On the first floor, there are areas of flooring constructed of small, multi-coloured ‘terrazzo’ marble chips. Carpet is also used in small areas.
Many of the galleries have rope or elastic cord barriers at about 30 cm high from the floor around the displays to help protect the collections.
On the ground floor, there is level access to the Reception Desk, The Streatlam Galleries, Shop and Café Bowes.
There is seating provided throughout the public galleries.
Lighting levels can vary in different parts of the building and at different times of the year. Due to the sensitive nature of some objects in the collection they must only be displayed in very low levels of light, which can be an issue for visually impaired visitors. Some rooms allow daylight to enter, the strength of which can vary depending on the month of the year (the Museum is South-facing).
The Museum has fully accessible public toilets on the ground and first floors. Pictograms are used to identify the toilets.
The Museum is set in beautiful grounds. In some areas there are gravel pathways and steps which may present an access issue. The Museum has tried to make alternative access where possible. There are park benches at regular intervals throughout most of the grounds.
‘Bags of Fun’ (£5 refundable deposit) containing games and an Orienteering Trail (free of charge) are available from reception during opening hours. The Museum has a picnic area to the East side of the Museum in front of the tennis court. Access to this area is obtained by small steps.
The Museum grounds contain tennis courts maintained by Barnard Castle Tennis Club. These courts can be booked and paid for at the Museum reception.
Conference and Meeting Rooms, Entertainment and Civil Ceremonies
The Museum can be booked for functions and corporate events of various sizes which can be catered for on request. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to make your initial enquiry.
There are several routes or pathways throughout the attraction suitable for visitors with limited mobility and for wheelchair users.
There is an audible fire alarm system throughout the building, and audio and visual fire alarms in The Streatlam Galleries on the Ground Floor.
Glass doors are marked with indicator strips to increase their visibility.
Large Print labels are made available in the Painting Galleries.
Assistance dogs are welcomed to the Museum. A water bowl can be made available from Reception. Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds.
Accessibility to the website
We have attempted to follow all relevant web accessibility and usability standards and employed external auditors to check the site for potential accessibility and usability issues. This has included testing on a range of browsers and evaluations against W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0. However, we are aware that it is impossible to successfully predict all potential issues. Consequently if you come across any part of our site which could be improved for accessibility, usability or clarity please do e-mail us. We recognise that this is particularly important for those using assistive technologies and screen readers. Your feedback is invaluable to help us improve this site.