Adventure, Countries, Culture, UK

Keep’em Cummings – Barnard and other castles

What’s a Cummings in golf parlance? A long drive out of bounds.

All joking aside, Dominic Cummings’ controversial 60 miles round trip is probably not how Barnard Castle would want to promote itself.

But then it’s often said all publicity is good publicity.

The truth is that the north of England is well worth a road trip (when it’s allowed).

And here are some others the self-isolating Cummings might fancy:

Wham bam

Open the drawbridge

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland A beautiful backdrop I think you’d agree but it’s really what’s inside that will grab your attention.

Innovator William Armstrong was known as The Magician of the North.

And you can explore his life, and aviation and military artefacts from the world wars.

As well as unravelling the clues to Spike the Dragon’s Trail or become a Bamburgh knight… a little boy’s dream…

Distance: 69 miles.

Every Englishman’s home

Living history

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland: And here are some open-air events that Dom and his family might fancy taking in in his next trip up to nearby Durham.

Rocketman Outdoor Cinema is slated for August 29 and Disney The Lion King Outdoor Cinema on August 30.

If he and the rest of us are allowed. Visit

Distance: 55 miles.

On your doorstep


Brancepath Castle, Co. Durham And this one is only 5 miles from the university city so not too much strain on Dom’s eyes here.

Now every kid, and big kid, loves a dungeon and Brancepath, a medieval castle turned family home, delivers.

Their tours normally run April-December but are suspended for just now.

Although Dom may have a lot of time on his hands soon and December is a long way off. See

Distance: 5 miles

Roll out of bed

All the students have gone for now

Durham Castle Museum, Co. Durham: And Dom can just roll out of bed.

Or seeing he has billed the family cottage as a glorified shed, his haystack.

The Castle Tours are on hold just now but Dom ploughs his own furrow anyway. Visit

Distance: None.

And last but not least

Fancy a stroll?

Barnard Castle: Barnard Castle and derives its name from Bernard de Balliol from the 12th century.

And it was developed by the Beauchamps before passing into the hands of Richard III.

The big drawing points are Richard’s boar head emblem and the sensory gardens.

Known locally as ‘Barney’ maybe Dom’s boy thought he was being taken to see everyone’s dinosaur.

Now talking about extinct creatures, maybe one for the museum soon.. Domisaurus anyone?

Distance: We all know by now.

And if you like your castles then why not check out my series King of the castle: EdinburghThe other Lourdes… a castle, eagle and fishCastles of the world – Czech ’em out Disney’s castle and Germany.


Hogwarts and all… Harry Potter

They’re the stuff of fantasy, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, the Wizard of Oz and Hogwarts Castle.

They are the castles of our imagination, so think about the chance of seeing them come to life.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to give it its proper name, rises majestically from the pages of JK Rowling’s books…

Cheers: All the fun of Universal

And into the magnificent Hogwarts Castle in Universal Resort Orlando.

All fantasy castles are based on real ones and every Potterhead knows that JK Rowling was inspired by Alnwick Castle.

In Northumberland which is in the north-east of England.

But back to Orlando.

And the village of Hogsmeade where young wizards bedecked in cloaks, and brandishing wands, sing and dance for our entertainment.

School was never this much fun.

Loews Portofino Hotel, Orlando

You’ll get right into the heart of the castle where the pictures follow you and even rifle around Dumbledore’s study.

Just an aside here, I wouldn’t have minded the Great Bearded One being my headmaster.

At my school the teachers were never on our side!

I mean Harry and Ron never had to feel the thwack of ferula leather on the palms of their hands.

Sports are better too. And quidditch is a far better option than freezing your whatsits off in cross-country.

And I was good at that.


Universal will give you the chance to join in the fun and games with our heroes on a broomstick ride around the castle.

In the 4D ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

You’ll get the feeling of ducking and diving thrillingly close to the turrets.

It can be a little disorientating for the senses (well, yeah) but there are few things that are truly unique.

And this is one of them.


Universal never rests on its laurels though.

And this year it has introduced a new experience, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

Where you can fly on a rollercoaster as pillion to The Big Fella through the Forbidden Forest.

My next job: The Daily Prophet

Watch out for some strange creatures. As well as the ones you’ve come with.

A fun ride

How to get there: all major airlines fly to Orlando, the world’s rollercoaster capital.

I flew with Aer Lingus from Dublin with pre-clearance.

Once there catch the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross Station in London in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Watch out though through the windows for those scary Dementors.

And, of course, at Hogsmeade Station you can pop around the corner into the world of Diagon Alley.

Killer food in City Walk, Orlando

Universal is a day and a night, a day and a night.

And at night the castle really lights up with a dazzling spectacle with dramatic music.

I was part of the Dark Arts show when I visited Orlando’s sister park in Hollywood.

Read my Hollywood series http://Stair Wars

Diagon Alley deserves its own blog and I’ll return to that but for now here’s my first time in Orlando

A reminder of my return trip to Universal

And here’s my reprise of my first Orlando trip Because you never forget the first time.

There was a second and there will be a third, fourth, fifth…