Auckland Castle

A palace fit for kings

Auckland Castle has a thousand years of historic connection with England's only prince-bishop: granted exceptional powers by Norman kings, the Bishop of Durham remained virtual monarch in his diocese right up to the 19th century. The castle and its park are at the centre of a wider sacred Christian landscape which may be 1500 years old. They are one of the most important and best-preserved medieval bishops' palaces in all Europe.

Friday 1 April 2016 - Wednesday 28 November 2018
All Day

A symbol of power and authority, Auckland Castle was built as one of the primary castles and hunting lodges of the Prince Bishop of Durham. Positioned high above the meandering River Wear, Auckland Castle offers commanding views of the surrounding countryside.

The great status of the palace allowed the Prince Bishops to host lavish celebrations and hunting parties, and invite royalty including King John, Edward III, James I, Charles I and Queen Victoria to stay. A private residence until 2012, this once-hidden historical treasure is now open for the public to enjoy.

Auckland Castle is a palace of intimate grandeur. From the 1600s onwards the Prince Bishops used their increasing wealth to create a country retreat that reflected their semi-royal position. A unique part of the building is St. Peter’s, created from a medieval great hall, now Europe’s largest private chapel and the resting place of five bishops.

In the 1700s a succession of Georgian Gothic State Rooms, containing delicate plasterwork and sumptuous furnishings, were created by the renowned English architect James Wyatt. Amongst the finest surviving examples of Wyatt’s Georgian Gothic in the country, they form a state processional route from the entrance to the great Throne Room.

Jacob and his Twelve Sons, an impressive cycle of paintings by Spanish master painter Francisco de Zurbarán, hang in the Long Dining Room. Representing the 12 tribes of Israel they have silently pleaded the case for political, social and religious tolerance since their purchase by Bishop Trevor in 1756.

Permanent displays examine the lives, beliefs and motivations of England’s only Prince Bishops in more detail. An ever-changing temporary exhibition programme, also found within the State Rooms, examines other historical and artistic subjects.

Formal gardens surround the front of the castle while a large Medieval deer park features bridges, fish ponds, an ice house and a charming 18th-century Deer House.

Auckland Castle is now closed to daily visits for major conservation and representation work. It will reopen in 2019.