When the prime minister’s advisor Dominic Cummings drove to Barnard Castle to “test his eyes” during the lockdown, he could not have expected the journey to inspire a local tourism boom.
But it seems media reports showing off the town’s medieval fortifications, winding riverside walks and verdant countryside, have had an impact.
Ivor Stolliday, Chair of Visit County Durham, says the press coverage was "terrific... we really couldn't have bought that kind of publicity, it was extraordinary."
The prime minister’s most senior aid later admitted driving 30 miles from his parents’ house to Barnard Castle, at the height of the coronairus restrictions. He had left London a fortnight earlier with his wife and son.
Speaking at a special press concerence in the rose garden at Downing Street in May, Mr Cummings said his eyesight had been affected by COVID-19 and he wanted to test it, before returning to the capital.
David Harper, an art and antiques dealer, says the town had become associated with jokes about eye tests: "There are so many gags now attached to it."