When I visited at the end of last month, there was a palpable tension in the air at Bishop Auckland, as if a storm was about to break. The reason for this high-pressure zone was the much-anticipated reopening of the magnificent Auckland Castle.
Built by the Prince Bishops of Durham in the 12th century, Auckland served first as a hunting lodge and then a state residence. It was restored in the 18th century and stayed in the hands of the Church until 2010, when philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer stepped in, buying the castle, with its unique collection of Zurbarán paintings.
Ruffer founded the Auckland Project to restore the castle and found other attractions in the town, including a gallery of mining…