Barnard Castle sees upturn in visitors after Dominic Cummings saga

Senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Businesses in Barnard Castle have claimed they have benefited from the exposure of Dominic Cummings' controversial family trip to Durham during the lockdown.

Cummings visited the riverside at Barnard Castle on Easter Saturday after traveling from London to Durham to stay at a property on his parents' farm when he and his wife fell ill.

The Downing Street adviser said they took a trip to Barnard Castle, where he was spotted by a retired chemistry teacher, as he planned to travel back to London the next day and he wanted to check he could drive safely, particularly as his 'eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease'.

That comment led to many jokes about opticians in the town.

The local mayor John Blissett claimed the headlines generated by the prime minister's most senior aide 'put us on the map'.

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He told the PA News Agency: 'The crowds have been coming in and obviously the curiosity is there.

'I don't know whether the opticians have had any more trade though.

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'I think the publicity has done us good in the sense that it has put us on the map.'

Last year locals started the Making Barny Brighter Together campaign to bring in more visitors.

Blissett added: 'This has done us one hell of a favour, they know about us.'

TV antiques expert David Harper, who has been wrongly identified as Cummings when he has been spotted heading to his antiques and art shop, said: 'I don't know how many emails I've received from people saying Barnard Castle looks so lovely.

'I've heard of people thinking of relocating and checking out property prices.

'When I reopened my shop earlier this month, if I had a pound for every time someone mentioned it, or cracked a joke about eyesight or calling me Dominic, I would be super-rich.

'If everyone in Barnard Castle got together and wrote a cheque for the cost of the marketing, we still couldn't pay for it all.

'Thank you Dom.'

Harper said, only this weekend, a couple who were visiting the town after not coming for many years said they were reminded of its attractions by seeing it in the news and they came into his shop and bought some art.

He added: 'I think Barnard Castle will forever be connected with the lockdown, and eye tests.'

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