The castle itself was built by Bernard Balliol (after whom the town is named) in the 12th century, on the site of an earlier castle built by his uncle Guy de Balliol, from Picardy, in about 1100. Richard III acquired the castle by marriage, and was a great benefactor to the town. The ruins, overlooking the River Tees, are most imressive.
St. Mary`s Church is largely Norman and Transitional.
In the Market Place is an octagonal two tiered Market Cross built in 1747.
The Bowes Museum, built in French chateau style by John Bowes in 1869, contains excellent collections of furniture, paintings, textiles and ceramics. The Silver Swan automaton, made by John Cox and first mentioned in 1774, performs each day at 2pm. There are formal gardens and a 21 acre park.
Walter Scott and Charles Dickens both admired the town, and Dickens wrote much of "Nicholas Nickleby" at the King`s Head.
The economist C. Northcote Parkinson, was born at Barnard Castle.
Blue Badge Guide Colin Crosby is available to lead Guided Walks around Barnard Castle for groups.