The North East of England holds a rather special place in my heart. My Grandparents lived in North Yorkshire, and my Grandfather had long links with County Durham. In fact his medals are displayed inside Durham Cathedral in their WWII tributes. I have fond memories of my Granny picking me up from Darlington station in her Mini, and us trundling back through the little lanes to her cottage. I loved getting the chance to go back last week… it had had been too long. The market towns, farming country, stunning views and friendly folk, all felt so homely and familiar to me.
I’d been invited up by a charitable organisation called Eleven Arches (named after the beautiful viaduct nearby). The focus of my trip was surrounding an event this Summer called Kynren, a spectacular depiction of 2000 years of British History, all set in the shadow of the the stunning medieval castle, Auckland Castle.
Eleven Arches is the brainchild of Jonathan Ruffer, an investor who decided to purchase and invest millions in the extensive and sympathetic renovation of Auckland Castle. Within the Castle there were 13 Spanish masterpieces by Zurbaran, which are also currently being restored and will be housed within a purpose built gallery in the town when they return. Ruffer’s dreams were greater than just returning the Castle itself to it’s former glory, they include a plan to rejunivate the whole area, turning it into an international tourist destination and in turn creating investment, jobs and community.
When it’s completed the castle is going to be truly a world class destination heritage site. The plans include not only the Spanish Art gallery, a coal mining art museum, a hotel, beautiful walled gardens and green houses, and a cafe (we got to sample the food from the onsite catering team and it was absolutely fantastic).
Kynren itself is the second leg of Ruffer’s plan for Bishop Auckland and the surrounding area. The event itself represents an amazing partnership with the community, with 1500 volunteers involved with the production. What I experienced was that no one had a bad word to say about anything. Having chatted to taxi drivers and shop owners, everyone seemed excited and proud and was involved in some way. For 6 months of the year, entire families can get involved in the project. From rehearsals, to set building, to costume design… the skilful Kynren team are providing fantastic work experience, skills and great family entertainment for the whole community. Children as young as 4 will be taking part this year, and they have over 70 teenagers involved.
The event itself will involve an enormous live cast, including dozens of horses, sheep, geese and goats. Although the set isn’t finished in the pictures above, you can see the proximity to the castle and how fantastic it’s all going to be in the Summer twilight. There will be fireworks, video projections, special effects, and we were lucky to see a sneak preview of a Viking Longship that will rise from a lake, complete with Vikings ready to jump into the battle scene.
Last year was Kynren’s debut, and despite having no images or footage to show the press they sold an incredible 100,000 tickets over the Summer, with visitors flying in from all over the world once the word spread. This is testament to the amazing team they have working at Eleven Arches, and the sheer quality of everything they are achieving. This summer promises to be even bigger and better, and I absolutely can’t wait to see it! I think there’s no doubt they will achieve their goal of putting Bishop Auckland firmly on the tourist map.
This beautiful region definitely deserves to be up there with better known tourist spots in the south of England. I stayed at Headlam Hall near Darlington, an absolutely gorgeous hotel, I’d really recommend it for comfort and a bit of luxury if you come to the area. I also paid a visit to the lovely town of Barnard Castle, complete with the quaint tea rooms, sweet shop, florists, antiques shops and fish and chip shop you’d hope for in a pretty little market town, with an English Heritage castle thrown in for good measure.
The countryside is also just beautiful, and you’re only stones throw from the moors and the Pennines. I can’t wait for my next trip and to take my family with me too. Have a peek at the trailer below, and if you’re looking for an amazing event this Summer to look forward to, come to Kynren!
This post is kindly sponsored by Eleven Arches, all opinions are my own. If you’d like to purchase tickets for the event, you can do so here xx