More than 200 runners are under starter’s orders as preparations gear up for the annual Auckland Castle Trail Race and Fun Run

The popular event in partnership between with Shildon Running and Athletics Club and Auckland Castle Trust will return to Bishop Auckland for its third successive year on Bank Holiday Weekend, Sunday August 27.

178 people have already signed up for the multi-terrain Trail Race and 57 youngsters are set to take part in the separate two-mile Fun Run.

A limited number of places are still available to book online or via email, until Monday, August 21.

The five-mile Trail Race is designed to present an exciting a challenge to runners who will follow a unique multi-terrain course through the scenic grounds of Auckland Castle.

Participants will set off from the Robinson Arch, overlooking Bishop Auckland Market Place, run past 900-year-old Auckland Castle and the historic Walled Garden before making their way through the woodland paths of the picturesque deer park, past the Kynren site and onwards towards Binchester.

The two-mile Fun Run is open to under-16s of all abilities and leads runners along a more gentle path taking in the scenic sights of the Castle’s deer park.

Ed Murphy, of Shildon Running and Athletic Club, was among those behind the launch of the trail race three years ago alongside Chris Griffith and Gareth Shaw, and has some words of wisdom for anyone tempted to take part.

He said: “We designed the course as a step up from the very popular Park Runs which are 5km, the usual progression is to a 10km but this is a good level in between.

“If you can do Park Run, you can push yourself a little bit further and have the achievement of tackling a five-mile Trail Race.

“Anyone unsure of taking part or new to running could accompany their child on the Fun Run, it’s a more gentle course but offers a good idea of the route and conditions.

“The Fun Run itself is a great opportunity to get children into running from an early age, and we hope that by getting youngsters involved in the event they will become the next generation to carry it forward.

“Auckland Trail Race and Fun Run takes part on a Bank Holiday weekend so we want people to come along, enjoy the run and enjoy everything Bishop Auckland has to offer.”

The Trail Race and Fun Run are part of a programme of events taking place whilst Auckland Castle is closed for extensive restoration work.

The former home to the Prince Bishops of Durham is being returned to its former glory as part of a £70m project by Auckland Castle Trust.

With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, (HLF) and other key partners the Castle is due to re-open in May 2018, until then events will be held in its grounds and the deer park will remain open to the public.

The Trail Race will start at 11am on Sunday, August 27 and the Fun Run will begin at 10am on Sunday, August 27, runners are asked to arrive with time to register before the race and under 8s must be accompanied by an adult.

Entry to both races is open until 9am on Monday, August 21, bookings can be made via www.aucklandcastle.org or by emailing trail@aucklandcastle.org.

The Trail Race is £9 per entry and the Fun Run is £4 per entry.