The 12th-century site made headlines when Boris Johnson’s former right-hand man admitted driving there in 2020 when Britain was in lockdown. The chief adviser turned PM’s nemesis earned widespread scorn when he said his 60-mile round trip to the County Durham landmark on the River Tees with his wife and young son was to “test his eyesight” after catching Covid.
Barnard Castle has since notched up its best-ever visitor year ‑ tourist numbers in 2021 rose by almost 20 percent on 2019 figures.
An English Heritage source said: “Never has the old adage, no publicity is bad publicity, been more true.
“Barnard Castle has become infamous for its link to a modern-day political scandal. People are clearly desperate to visit and check it out.”
Research by English Heritage, which looks after more than 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites, says people used last year’s Covid “stay at home” mandate to visit its lesser-known and sometimes overlooked sites. Many of them have said 2021 was their busiest year.
Visitor numbers at Boscobel House in Shropshire, where Charles II hid from Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers in an oak tree, rocketed by 82 percent in 2019. And trips to 900-year-old Kirkham Priory in North Yorks rose 75 percent.
English Heritage CEO Kate Mavor said: “It has been a long and hard pandemic.
“But one silver lining appears to be that with people staying closer to home, they have discovered historic places nearby.”