The Auckland Project a Christmas experience in County Durham
What I loved about it:
This was a traditional Winter Experience unlike anything I have visited before. It is a wonderful day out for all ages with many attractions and events. Read my article for all the information on how to have the best day at the Auckland Project a Christmas experience in county Durham like no other.
Value for money (out of 10):
Why you should visit The Auckland Project a Christmas experience like no other
As we arrived in Auckland town centre, I was surprised to see it consisted of many beautiful buildings, which have been recently renovated and are part of The Auckland Project. I have to admit I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect and whether this experience would entertain and captivate our party which consisted of an eight year old, two Grandparents and a couple of teens thrown in for good measure.
In the following article I will explain how and why every single one of us were captivated and engaged throughout the whole experience and why you should visit The Auckland Project a Christmas Experience In County Durham.
We began our day at the beautiful Auckland Castle, hidden away from sight and a huge surprise as it came unexpectedly into view. My first thought was – how have I not visited here before? My last thought as I left was – I’m definitely coming back here again!
The Flower Garland
The staff (who I have to mention were absolutely fantastic throughout the whole visit) checked us in and directed us to our first stop. We headed up the grand staircase and into the Throne Room to see the handmade 64 metre dried flower garland which festooned the gazebo. The 30,000 dried flower heads were an absolutely spectacular sight. Anyone who knows me well knows I adore flowers and have been experimenting myself with drying flowers so to see this dried flower extravaganza was a real treat. All the flowers were handpicked from the castle walled gardens and have been lovingly transformed into this beautiful garland by the Auckland gardeners and curatorial team.
The Banqueting Hall
As we Wandered through the banqueting hall we were met with a table adorned with cakes, biscuits and fruit. I thought we were being treated to a delicious afternoon tea and it wasn’t until closer inspection that we realised all of the food had been crafted from wax. Joe, one of the staff members, explained how this beautiful table had been created and gave us some fascinating history of both the room and the castle. Even on close inspection it was hard to believe the food wasn’t real. The views from the large bay window were beautiful, spanning the garden and side of the castle. It was wonderful to stop and watch the world go by below.
The Neapolitan Nativity
Our next stop was The giant Neapolitan nativity housed in the newly built Faith Museum. Built in Italy, flown over to County Durham and then pieced back together by Italian craftsmen it was actually humbling to have the opportunity to experience it. I felt I had stepped back in time into an Italian church.
The 18th-century Baroque créche is a giant Nativity scene staged in a true-life Neapolitan setting. One of the biggest of its kind outside Italy, the display measures an enormous 11ft tall and 15ft wide. A real highlight of our visit.
The Garden Kitchen
By now lunch was calling and we headed to the Bishop’s Kitchen cafe. This was a real surprise, the decor was stunning, a mix of original features and added modern touches with some Christmas cheer thrown in. The menu was wholesome and full of flavour and the staff presence made the whole experience feel like a high quality dining experience.
The Auckland Tower
We left the castle and headed a few minutes up the road to the Auckland Tower. It’s so tall we had already spotted it from the road on our journey into Bishop Auckland. The Tower sits 29 metres high with a 15 metre viewing platform at the top. Here you are treated to panoramic views across the town centre, the castle, gardens and grounds. If you aren’t keen on heights, don’t worry you can take the lift and be on the top floor in no time to enjoy the views.
This winter season, housed in the tower, is “O little town of Bishop Auckland ” which is the entire town made from gingerbread! It even has a working train which travels around the gingerbread village.
As soon as you enter the room, the smell of gingerbread and Christmas surrounds you and with the festive music in the background it’s impossible not to feel the festive spirit creeping in. Before you head to the top of the tower you are given a gift of tiny buttons, these are redeemable before you leave and can be exchanged for a freshly baked gingerbread man and a warming spiced apple drink. Perfect to warm up before heading out into the cold again.
The Spanish Gallery
The Spanish Gallery is situated in the centre of the town. It has a small unassuming front which certainly did not prepare us for the four floors of stunning Spanish art that was housed inside. It is the largest collection of 16th and 17th art outside of London and is the UK’s first gallery dedicated entirely to Spanish art, history and culture.
It really is an experience to wander round and feel so small in front of the absolutely huge paintings. We were lucky to have visited when a painting by the world renowned Salvador Dali was in residence. A fascinating and mind blowing experience.
The Spanish Restaurant
To continue the Spanish theme, next door is the delightful Spanish tapas restaurant, El Castillo. The decor is light and bright and the selection of food is varied, there is something for everyone. I would definitely recommend booking in as part of your visit to The Auckland Project. It is great as a starting point for a morning coffee before exploring the attractions of the project or as a place to enjoy some small plates for lunch with a glass of wine. The menu boasts modern tapas style dishes which are flavoursome, simple and delightfully presented.
The castle grounds and deer park
To complete our day, we headed back to the Castle grounds and deer park. Auckland Castle is one of the best preserved bishop’s palaces in Europe. After a long period of restoration, the castle has recently reopened to the public to showcase its transformed rooms.
It was a wet autumn day when we visited and although it was still beautiful, it’s on my list to visit in spring or summer when the trees are blooming and you can enjoy a meander along the riverbank. There are three walking routes which give you access to different views of the castle and Deer Park. I can imagine on a summer’s day it would be the perfect place to visit and enjoy a picnic.
The Deer park is set over one hundred and fifty acres of parkland. Sitting below the castle is the 17th century walled garden where the ingredients for the cafe are grown. Interesting to see and a real plot to plate experience.
There really is so much to see and do when you visit The Auckland Project, a Christmas experience like no other in County Durham. It is sure to be a highlight of your festive trips this winter.
The Winter Experience runs until February 2023.