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  • 5th Jun 2024
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The ambitious development scheme that looks to awaken the “sleeping giant” that is Raby Castle

The Rising enables Raby Castle to provide an engaging and diverse offer to our visitors, providing more to see and do during their visit and being able to spend a full day in the grounds, embracing our ‘eat, see and shop’ ethos.

Claire Jones, Head of Leisure and Tourism at Raby Castle.

When Lord and Lady Barnard inherited the majestic Raby Castle and Estates in 2016, they knew that there was a mammoth project ahead of them to restore the 250-acre estate to its former glory.

The Vane family launched an ambitious development plan called “The Rising” – named after the historic plot to dispose of Queen Elizabeth I and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots in 1569.

The scheme will restore and modernise several historic buildings around the estate, including the 18th-Century Walled Gardens, The Dutch Barn, The Riding School and The Vinery Restaurant.

“The Rising” looks to make the Staindrop estate an attractive tourist destination for many years to come as they look to move with the times.

“Raby has always been a beautiful and popular place to visit but we understand that visitors want so much more from a visit to a historic house and garden these days,” said Claire Jones, head of leisure and tourism at Raby Castle. “We recognised that Raby needed to adapt and keep pace with other amazing UK destinations to remain relevant to today’s audience and we could see the opportunity to create something incredibly special to drive visits not only to Raby but to this region.”

Whilst it was incredibly important to adapt and make Raby Castle attractive to a new generation of visitors, it was equally as important to celebrate and maintain its heritage and rich history.

“Raby’s aim is to demonstrate how to reimagine a historic house and gardens to fit seamlessly within a modern-day world and support its future,” said Claire. “Lord and Lady Barnard also have the perfect balance of being respectful of the history and heritage at Raby but progressive enough to see how sharing it with others in a new, innovative way, will preserve these buildings for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The history of Raby Castle is celebrated through the restoration of various buildings that had fallen out of use over the years.

For example, The Dutch Barn and The Riding School are listed buildings that reflect the equestrian past of the estate but both had fallen out of use over a century ago.

“These two iconic heritage buildings have been opened up, becoming magnificent event spaces and will be proudly on display for all to see. We went through a careful process working with architects, planners and consultants to understand how they could be sensitively adapted for more flexible use without losing any of their charm and history,” said Claire.

She added: “We have retained much of the individual character at The Riding School – an 18th-century architectural gem with textured walls, authentically irregular lines shaped by centuries of use, and solid timber beams. The original exposed beans and intriguing ventilation stacks have also been restored in the neighbouring The Dutch Barn.”

With a project of this scale, there are always going to be challenges throughout the process and “The Rising” was no different.

One of the biggest challenges of the development was during COVID as they were granted planning permission in December 2020.

“This resulted in longer lead times to build into the schedule and shortages in labour to face, as well as the challenges of designing over Zoom, however these were all met with our usual Raby positivity,” said Claire. “These challenges have also encouraged us to be more resourceful. We’ve recruited our own in-house construction team to allow us to be much more agile and flexible, adapting wherever needed to keep the project on track.”

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Despite all of this, Claire said that it has been “a career high.” Adding, “I get a real adrenaline rush from the tough deadlines and coordinating so many elements to come together all at once.”

Claire believes that in the past, County Durham has often been overlooked by tourists. However, she has noticed a shift in recent years and seen more people want to visit the region.

“The Rising enables Raby Castle to provide an engaging and diverse offer to our visitors,

providing more to see and do during their visit and being able to spend a full day in the grounds, embracing our ‘eat, see and shop’ ethos,” said Claire.

She added: “The Rising will be a destination like no other, and we feel confident this will draw an audience from much further afield. In turn, it will also have a significant impact on the local tourism economy, providing a place where people can also discover County Durham’s thrilling past and promising future.”

The County Durham locals want to “feel proud” of Raby Castle and all that it offers. The Rising helps deliver that pride as it marks a huge milestone in the rich history of the iconic landmark.

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Laura Kingston
Founder and Editor

Laura is the Founder and Editor of High Life North. She had the idea to set up an exclusively digital women’s magazine after feeling there was a gap in the market in the North East. With over 10 years of experience in marketing and PR, Laura had a very clear…

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