The location of Dominic Cummings’ famous sight-testing trip – Barnard Castle – had its best year ever for visitors in 2021, according to English Heritage.
County Durham City hit the headlines when it was revealed the then Prime Minister’s chief adviser had taken a day trip there while the country was on lockdown .
English Heritage said it was one of many ‘hidden local gems’ which saw a surge in visitors in 2021 as more people turned to places on their doorstep due to travel restrictions from Covid-19.
The 12th-century fortress of Barnard Castle, which belonged to Richard III and has a sensory garden, has seen an almost 20% increase in visitors compared to 2019, English Heritage said.
While Boscobel House, where Charles II hid from Cromwell’s soldiers in an oak tree, also had its best year with numbers up 82% on 2019 following a relaunch of the Shropshire site.
Several lesser-known historic North Yorkshire attractions also hit their highest visitor numbers in over a decade, including Kirkham Priory up 75% and Pickering Castle up 30% since 2019.
Kate Mavor, Managing Director of English Heritage, said: “At English Heritage we care for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites across the country, many of which attract visitors from all over.
“In the past, these lesser-known and more intimate local sites that we care for have often been overlooked in favor of our more iconic ones, despite an equally rich and important history.
“It’s been a long and difficult pandemic, but a silver lining seems to be that with people staying closer to home, they’ve discovered historic places nearby.
“We have also seen over the past year, once our sites reopened after lockdown, an increase in the number of people joining English Heritage as members.
“And it is these members who represent more than half of this exceptional number of visitors to local sites.
“People fell in love with their local heritage and as members of English heritage they were able to enjoy our sites for free.”
English Heritage said more than 372,000 people joined as members in 2021 as the public explored more of their region during the pandemic.