Barnard Castle dates back to 1093AD, when Guy de Baliol received land grants following his support of William during the Norman conquest. These land grants also included the site of the eponymously named town. It is likely that the first castle was of wooden construction, but it is believed that this early castle was replaced by a stone structure when Guy's son, Bernard de Baliol (from whom the castle takes its name), rebuilt and extended the fortification between 1112 and 1132AD. Bernard died in 1154AD, and the expansion of the castle was continued by his son (also called Bernard), eventually finishing around 1185AD.
During the 13th Century, Barnard Castle was besieged by Scottish forces, and was briefly occupied. However, much of the north east of England fell under the jurisdiction of the Prince Bishop of Durham - a unique office holding both secular and spiritual authority - and in this role, the church continued to contest the Scottish claim. When King John of Scotland was overthrown in 1296AD, stewardship of Barnard Castle reverted to the Prince Bishop.
During the early 14th Century, Barnard Castle was granted to Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. During this period, improvements were carried out to the castle. This work continued during the 15th Century when the castle passed to the Neville family via marriage.
In 1477AD, during the Wars of the Roses, the castle was seized by Richard, Duke of Gloucester - who later went on to be crowned King Richard III. Like many of Richard's northern castles, it fell into a state of disrepair and neglect. Following Richard's death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485AD, the castle remained in the hands of the crown.
In 1569AD, The Rising of the North took place under the leadership of Catholic nobles (led by Charles Neville), in an attempt to replace Elizabeth I on the throne with Mary Queen of Scots. The rebels occupied Barnard Castle, following an eleven day siege. Ultimately, the uprising failed, and Charles Neville was attained and his properties sequestered by the crown. Barnard Castle was largely ruinous by this point, and in 1626AD it was sold to Sir Henry Vane. Henry emptied the castle of its possessions and plundered it for building materials, marking the end of the castle as a serious fortification.
Today, the remains of Barnard Castle command a striking position overlooking the River Tees. Apart from the 14th Century round tower, only fragments of this once-great fortification remain, but despite this, the evocative and picturesque location does much to elevate this site above the simple sum of its parts. Barnard Castle retains a strong sense of place, nestled in quiet decay in a very scenic corner of England. The ruins are full of character, and very much recommended for a visit.