I have wanted to visit the Alnwick Garden for some time, after seeing the Duchess of Northumberland (who created the garden) on the local news talking about it. Recently when my fiancé and I both had the day off work, we decided to go there for the day and I'm only sorry I didn't manage to go sooner!
The Alnwick Garden opened ten years ago on what was derelict land next to Alnwick Castle. The garden is in central Alnwick (for some reason I had always thought it was in the middle of nowhere) and is well signposted when you get into Alnwick centre. It has its own car park - I would assume this is pay and display, but I can't confirm that as my fiancé insisted on parking in our usual spot in the town centre and walking along.
When you arrive you have to go into a glass building where you can pay for your tickets before entering the garden. When we went there were ticket desks to both the left and right, but people were only queuing at the right hand desk, despite two receptionists being sat on the left hand desk. This made us think that perhaps the left hand desks were shut, especially since the receptionists looked over at us and didn't say anything. As we were waiting in the queue some other people asked the receptionists at the empty desks and were told they could pay there. This annoyed me really and didn't create a good first impression, as I felt they were basically sitting there chatting idly whilst a queue formed on the other side of the reception. You do have an option when paying whether to buy a ticket to just the garden or to the garden and Alnwick castle, but we decided just to visit the garden.
Once paid, a man on the door scans your ticket and you can enter the garden. The first thing you see as you enter is the waterfall which is quite spectacular. Part of the garden is on a hill and the waterfall cascades downwards with jets of water that periodically spray upwards and side to side which is quite spectacular to watch.
There are lots of things to do in the garden, but we decided to go around the maze first. I don't know why, but even at the age of 27, I find going into a maze really exciting! I suppose, it's not the biggest maze ever - the Hampton Court Palace maze has nothing to worry about - however it is still big enough to wile away some time trying to find your way out. It's actually called the bamboo labyrinth, and is partly covered at the top. I did note that some of the branches were a little overgrown and hanging down a bit so I did have to duck the odd time, despite being only five foot four!
Coming out of the maze, the next thing we came to was the rose garden. This is home to over 3000 roses and as I am sure you can imagine it smells amazing! Of course it also looks very pretty and this section of the garden has a very 'English Country Garden' look about it. We did notice that some sort of a talk was going on whilst we were there, with a gentleman talking about the roses and people asking questions on how to grow them. I can only assume that this was one of the guided tours that takes place between 12:00 and 13:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Roses are labelled and the ones that are offered for sale in the gift shop/mini garden centre attached to the garden are clearly marked.
Next is the Serpent Garden, so called because it is based around a large topiary serpent. This part of the garden is home to many water features including one shaped like a giant cocktail glass. There is one water sculpture called 'Torricelli' and this one slowly fills up with water before jets of water spring from the ground - I remember there were lots of little children having fun running into the spray with this one!
Moving on, we walked up to the back of the garden past the fountain (or grand cascade to give it its proper name) where we found the ornamental garden. This part of the garden is filled with flowers of all sorts of varieties and is very pretty and peaceful. There are little rivers running through the garden which join at small fountains.
The next part of the garden is the cherry orchard. This is planted with hundreds of Taihaku cherry trees and six hundred thousand (yes really) tulips. Unfortunately we went too late in the year, so missed this, but I absolutely adore tulips and have been promised we can go back to see them next year. I believe the best time to go is between April and May.
Finally we came to the poison garden which is arguably the most interesting part of the garden. You can't just wander through this part, you need to wait and be met by a tour guide - as the warnings on the locked gates specify 'these plants can kill'. A tour guide met us and guided us through the poison garden explaining the plants and what they could do. She described everything in a very over the top and dramatic way, but it was still entertaining and fairly interesting. From plants you often grow in your own back yard to more sinister ones that the garden has had to obtain a home office license to grow, you get to view plants here that you would never have the chance to see close up.
Other features of the garden include a woodland walk, which unfortunately we didn't have time for, a 'roots and shoots' garden for children to try planting things and a large terraced café at the entrance. There is also the treehouse restaurant - which is as it sounds, a restaurant in a tree, which we saw and it looks spectacular. As far as I know however it is not only expensive but often fully booked. Details on how to book can be found here on the alnwick garden website http://www.alnwickgarden.com/eat/eat-in-the-treehouse
There is also a gift shop at the front of the garden which has a little garden centre so you can purchase some of the plants you have just seen. Toilets are here too and they have the most spectacular sinks you have ever seen!
On the day the garden costs £11 for an adult. If you book online you get a discount, so it is only £8.50. Children under 16 can enter the garden for just 1p each.
Should you want to visit the castle as well as the garden, it will cost £22 for an adult, £6 for a child aged 5-16 or 1p for under 5's. These prices are reduced to £17.85 for an adult, £5.10 for ages 5-16 and 1p for under 5's if you book in advance. Presumably prices are subject to change.
The garden is open from 10am-6pm, during the summer months, which from what I can gather on the website means April through to October.
On the whole, I thought this was a great day out and it is somewhere I really hope to go again (next time fingers crossed the tulips will be in bloom). There is a lot to see and do and we had an absolutely fantastic day. If you are visiting Alnwick, then I would say seeing the garden is a must!
*Also posted on Ciao under username pink_champagne
I am not the type of person who normally likes visiting stately homes and gardens, in fact the idea of walking through most formal gardens is something that I would find extremely boring but Alnwick Gardens is a cut above the rest and I loved spending time there.
Alnwick garden is situated next to the amazing Alnwick Castle and the gardens date back to the 1750's when Capability Brown designed the first gardens. The gardens have undergone extensive redevelopment over the past few years and now consist of formal gardens, water features, a pavilion, one of the worlds largest treehouses and the famous poison gardens. It costs £9.50 for an adult to visit with kids visiting for a mere penny. The best value way to visit is to buy a combined ticked for the castle and gardens which costs £20.80 for an adult and £5.50 for a child and allows you to visit both attractions over two consecutive days.
The largest feature in the garden is the huge water feature, a magnificent series of pools on many levels with water cascading downwards. The fountains squirt water out at regular intervals in lovely patterns and children delight in standing and waiting to get wet. There are mini ride on toys for young kids at the bottom of the feature and they can ride these in the spray from the water. For those who do not want to get wet you can climb up the stairs and enjoy the sights and sounds or just sit on the grass enjoying an ice cream and relaxing with the sounds of moving water in the background.
The poison garden is kept locked for obvious reasons and you can join one of the many tours that seem to leave around every ten to fifteen minutes and take about half an hour. Our tour guide was really enthusiastic about the plants and she pointed out some of the highlights of the garden and answered questions. A lot of the plants were recognisable so it came as a surprise that they were poisonous; who knew that a bush commonly used as a hedge could poison you if you burned it or a common weed had chemicals that were absorbed through the skin. More exotic specimens included hemlock, ricin, opium poppies and the biggest killer of them all which is tobacco. The cannabis plant was kept under a dome to stop school groups from stealing a piece and seemed to be the most popular plant in our group of adults too, I never knew that it could grow outside in the UK. A tour of the poison garden is truly fascinating, I think in modern times we have lost the knowledge about healing and harmful plants that previous generations would have had.
The formal gardens are breathtakingly beautiful. The rose garden was a favourite of mine, there are several thousand rose bushes in this section and the scent was amazing and the variety of different types of flowers lovely. Another favourite part of the garden for me was the ornamental garden which had numerous nooks and crannies to explore amongst the fruit trees and lavender bushes. There were two dovecotes along the walls and the tame white birds were undisturbed by humans and were happy to wander close by while I sat and relaxed on a bench.
The woodland walk is another peaceful place to take a stroll, it features an enormous treehouse which is magical in appearance and also a place where you can book to go and eat in the restaurant. Even if you do not visit the treehouse it is wonderful to just look at it and wander through the mature trees.
I have only described a few sections of the garden, there are many more areas including a sensory garden which is particularly suitable for disabled visitors. The huge pavilion serves reasonably priced drinks, snacks and very good ice cream (I recommend the raspberry and honeycomb!) and you can sit out at tables in the sun or simply sit on the grass and enjoy the atmosphere.
Alnwick gardens are as far from the typical boring stuffy stately home gardens as it is possible to get. I spent hours here over two days and loved seeing people of all ages enjoying themselves in beautiful surroundings. The gardens should be top of your list of places to visit if you are in Northumbria.
This place is about as near as you'll ever get to a Garden "Theme Park".
10 years ago, the Alnwick Garden, the brain child of the Duchess of Northumberland was nothing more than a run-down, overgrown and overlooked area within the grounds of Alnwick Castle.
The Duchess quickly set about following her dream of creating a public space for families and people of all ages to enjoy.
She established a charity trust fund for the project, and managed to persuade the (apparently) renowned Belgian international landscape gardeners Jacques and Peter Wirtz to apply their talents on a very grand scale.
The end result is a spectacular outdoor venue that appeals to keen gardeners and family fun seekers alike. The Garden is now firmly established as a very popular visitor attraction in its own right.
~~~~Getting there and admission~~~~
It's about a mile from the A1 exit on the outskirts of the market town of Alnwick in Northumberland, and The Garden is clearly signposted.
There's a security patrolled parking area which can accommodate cars and coaches, costing a very reasonable £2 for the day. A short walk across the road, and you make your way into the Gardens. Once you've got tickets at the cubicle, follow the road round to the left, to come to the main gardens, or if you wish turn right to go to the Treehouse (we'll come to that later)
The gardens are open 364 days a year, only closing on Christmas day. According to the official website www.alnwickgarden.com the current opening hours are :
Winter opening - October to March: 10am - 4pm (last admissions 3.15pm)
Summer opening - April - September: 10am - 6pm (last admissions 5.15pm)
The admission charges are fairly unique. Standard adult charge is £10, with concessions for students and over 60's at £7.50. Each ticket includes an optional £1 donation to the charitable trust, which you can also gift-aid. Children are charged at a nominal 1p, although any more than 4 children in the group means its £2.50 per additional child.
There is disabled access throughout and both wheelchairs and scooters can be hired.
~~~~This place has certainly grown on me~~~~
A few years back now in late 2002 just as it was first opening to the public, I remember reading about the project while visiting the Castle (which incidentally is a fantastic day out in itself - and has been used in many a film including the original Harry Potter series), and me and the wife decided to take a quick look to see how it was progressing.
It was a soggy wet mess of a day, and frankly being charged for the dubious privilege of looking at some muddy banks, some half finished stone work, was less than appealing.
However by the time we returned in late summer 2007, the transformation was amazing....
~~~~The main Gardens ~~~
As you walk in to the entrance, you can't fail to notice the impressive centre piece of the gardens, the Grand Cascade.
A wide grassed area, leads down to this multi-level spectacular of stone steps and fast flowing water jets.
If you've got little ones with you, I can almost guarantee their eyes will be almost immediately drawn to the green and yellow toy tractors at the base of the cascade, and within 60 seconds or less they will be dragging you down there, to let them have a go.
Go with the flow I say! There are four different displays on the hour and half hour to enjoy, and there's access routes either side if you want to take a closer look.
Picking up the trail from the bottom of the cascade, if you head to the right, where a set of mazy hedges, you'll discover a wonderful collection of water sculptures that are perfectly designed to get up close and enjoy.
Parents beware -have a change of clothing to hand, while its great for the little mites to reach out and touch the numerous magical shiny features, its all to easy for kids to get a soaking in all the enthusiasm.
Carry on round a little and depending on the season you might be able to enjoy the rose garden (no promises), or far more interesting from a child's perspective, the mysteries of the bamboo labyrinth.
Follow the trail eventually up the slopes, and you'll come to the top of the cascade - this is a fantastic alternative viewing angle for the water displays - just hold on tight to those little handies
There's a beautifully presented wall garden to explore, with water channels running through for a little paddling action.
Elsewhere to the left of the garden, you can go on a guided (for obvious reason) tour of the Poison garden, which is carefully guarded behind locked gates. Tobacco, mandrake, as well as more extreme drug related varieties (apparently with growing permission from the Home Office) are kept here for educational purposes, in fact in partnership with the Drug action team, the garden is used for schools drug awareness visits.
~~~~The Giant Tree house~~~~
If you've ever built any kind of den in the back garden , this is the place for you. Even Tarzan and Jane would probably have had to get planning permission for this magnificent palace of wood.
It's entirely separate from the main gardens; basically you just need to turn right after you pay at the ticket office opposite the entrance. You head up a fully boarded I'm a celebrity style entrance route, and immediately on your left is a little video room / rest area.
No doubt if you have little ones with you, the first thing they'll make a bee line for is your classic rickety bridge. Now clearly if you've got a thing for heights, you might want to be making a sharp exit stage left at this point in proceedings. Not only because of the view down below, but also the fairly vigorous motion that comes with the crossing.
I'm sure if push came to shove the bridge could support the weight of a couple of dozen at any given time, but if like my wife, you happen to be pushing a pushchair full of beaming young explorer as well as feeling a little shaky under foot it becomes a bit of an adrenalin ride.
~~~~Any one fancy a cuppa?~~~~
Any regular readers of my day out reviews will no doubt be staggered that I've managed to get this far without mentioning the dining facilities.
Rest assured, these are amply provided for, and the quality is excellent. A great feature is that they endeavour to source as much as possible from the local Northumberland region
In the main gardens, there's a large, part indoor glass pavilion cafe, with a fantastic selection of hot and cold foods on offer.
Just across the courtyard there's the Courtyard coffee shop which you can visit without paying admission to the grounds
To round things off there's the Treehouse restaurant and bar.
A roaring log fire (presumably not sourced from the construction site directly) , and tree branches growing up through the floor combine to provide a unique and quirky setting for a lunch or dinnertime indulgence. Once again you don't even need to get tickets to the Garden to dine here.
~~~~Duchess Duchess, how will your garden grow?~~~~
I'm glad to report that this is anything but the end of the story. Quite contrary.
Whilst there might not be any silver bells, or cockle shells, there are great plans afoot for further additions, with amongst other things a sensory garden , a Grotto, and an adventure play area all in various stages of development. Naturally these depend on the money raised from the charitable trust.
I for one look forward to revisiting over the coming years and seeing it progress.
It's a shining example of how great swathes of unused private land can be turned into a really inspirational community project for ours and future generations to enjoy.
Alnwick Garden has been highly recommended to me on many occasions, and when we visited Northumberland recently, it was definitely on our list of attractions to visit. Located between the market town of Alnwick and the grounds of Alnwick Castle is the most amazing, creative and inventive garden, designed by the Duchess of Northumberland. Although the first couple of phases are now complete, this is a garden still in the making - and the ideas for the future will make sure that I return again to see the absolutely magical things that are planned come into fruition.
The gardens were always a cherished part of the castle, beloved and developed by a succession of Dukes. The original gardens were created by the leading designers of their day. Capability Brown landscaped the parkland in 1750, and visitors can still experience views across Capability Brown landscape from the Treehouse in the garden. The 3rd Duke was a plant collector, and brought seeds from over the world, attracting an international reputation. In the middle of the 19th century, the 4th Duke created an Italianate garden, featuring the Venetian wrought iron gates that have been restored to their original position at the entrance to the Ornamental Garden. By the end of the century, the Duke's gardens were at their grandest with yew topiary, avenues of limes and acres of flowers.
During World War II's Dig For Victory campaign, the garden was turned over and provided food, and soon after, the austerity of the 20th century saw the garden fall into disrepair. It was closed as a working garden in 1950.
Jane Percy, the current and 12th Duchess of Northumberland, is a keen gardener - and she had the vision to turn the run down collection of broken brickwork and brambles into something beautiful. She is completely responsible for the restoration and development of the garden.
The scheme was not without its opponents. English Heritage has accused the Duchess of destroying one of the greatest gardens in the country, although she insists that a full archaeological survey was carried out by 30 scientists from Durham University, at a cost of £150,000. The legal confrontation that ensued cost the Duchess £500,00 before she gained permission to build the garden.
Although the Duchess claims that her main objective was to bring jobs and prestige to the North, the £42 million cost of the garden has attracted a fair amount of criticism, particularly as the Duchess is seeking £16 million of public funds for the next stage of development.
The third element of criticism is design. Although the Duchess believes that this mainly comes from "bitchy" and "snobby" gardeners in the south, many reviews criticise the fact that there is little of the North in her garden. The inspiration seems to come from the gardens of Europe, and the main designers are from Belgium. Items such as the surfacing, which is a side-laid clay paver usually only used in Belgium, incense some British designers, who feel that a nod to Northumbrian or British materials should have been made.
The Alnwick Garden was created by Jacques and Peter Wirtz, who are celebrated international garden designers from Belgium. The Wirtz signature style centres on architectural green structures, as seen in the hornbeam-covered pergolas, yew topiary, box and beech hedges. The various sections of the garden are all unique; one area leading into the next, but each with their own individual character.
~~The Grand Cascade~~
The Grand Cascade has to be mentioned first when describing the garden, as it is the first thing to hit you as you walk through the gates. This centrepiece of the garden is built into the slope of the hill, into two listed earth banks from the 1850s. The water cascades over the 21 stone ledges, down the hill at 7260 gallons a minute. In addition, water jets create a constantly moving decoration, attracting the eye with unpredictable patterns of water, both large and small, high and low. When the sun glints off this huge, tumbling mass of water, it is really beautiful.
At each side, the Grand Cascade is surrounded paths that climb the hill, leading through hornbeam pergolas which echo the stone curves. Channels of water leading from the Ornamental Garden wind down the hill, in and out of the pergolas.
~~The Ornamental Garden~~
The Ornamental Garden is one of my favourite sections of the garden. It is accessed through the huge and ornate original Venetian gates, and is a very formal garden, laid out in the Spanish style of squares and fountains. The use of water, running through long channels in the ground into fountains reminds me a lot of the Alhambra. These water channels run right out of the gates and down the slope to the entrance of the gardens, meeting in pools along the way and winding in and out of trees.
There are charming little corners of this garden - pathways are bordered by lavender and fruit trees, and two dovecotes sit on the mellow old stone walls of the garden in a quiet corner. At the Ornamental Garden's centre lies a bubbling pool that spills into the rills that run throughout the Garden. There are also two small secret gardens, hidden behind hedges - that you can discover by following the water to the fountains enclosed inside.
~~The Water Sculpture Garden~~
This garden has the feel of a maze. It contains a winding holly hedge, which both leads to and disguises a selection of water fountains and sculptures, created by William Pye, a water artist who brings together both art and science in his work. The sculptures are made from stainless steel, and feature thin layers of water running down beautiful shapes in various ways. The main attraction here is Torricelli, and interactive water sculpture which works on the principle of hydrostatic pressure - allowing the tension to mount as the pressure rises, and then suddenly erupting in a flurry of jets and movement as the correct pressure is reached.
~~The Poison Garden~~
The big, black locked gates, with their skull and crossbones symbols, create a great deal of anticipation and excitement when they are finally opened and visitors can enter. The Poison Garden can only be entered at set times, with a marshal controlling the situation and providing an educational talk as she shepherds the visitors around the garden. Alnwick Garden has a Home Office licence to grow cannabis and coca - and these plants are rather strangely kept in their own cages in the garden. The talk was very informative, as the marshal led us past poisonous plants that grow naturally in Britain and regaled us with gruesome tales of death and sickness.
This part of the garden really caught the imagination of the teenagers in my party, despite the lack of some of the actual plants. The Marshal frequently had to hold up a colour photo of the plant because of the lateness of the year - saying "earlier in the year you would have seen the mandrake growing, but sadly it has already died back". If you are interested in this part of the garden, make sure you visit before the end of September!
~~The Cherry Orchard~~
This is a fairly new part of the garden, and best seen in spring when the large, double flowered, white cherry blossom comes out. Hundreds of Tai Haku cherry trees are planted in homage to Japanese culture, providing a very good reason to visit the garden at this special time of year.
~~The Rose Garden~~
Again, a garden best viewed in the summer months, the Rose Garden is a lovely fragrant mix of roses, honeysuckle and clematis. There are more than three thousand David Austin Roses, including Just Joey, Jude the Obscure and Gertrude Jekyll.
~~The Tree House~~
Any lover of Enid Blyton's magic stories will be drawn to the amazing wooden treehouse. Straight from the pages of a fairy tale, this enormous structure is built from Canadian cedar, Scandinavian redwood and English and Scots pine and is reached through high wooden walkways and wobbly rope bridges.
As you look around, you are drawn to the cosiest room imaginable - a hexagonal wooden room with a pointy roof and a roaring log fire in the middle. As one person after another peers in, a very polite but very bored doorman says time after time, "Yes madam, it's a restaurant..." And it is a restaurant - but one for a very special occasion - rather exclusive and definitely not for a quick stopover with the kids!
~~The Woodland Walk~~
A mile of natural woodland with wonderful views starts at the Treehouse and is often home to sculpture exhibitions.
~~Fun for Smaller Children~~
This garden has everything for adults, and even something for disaffected teenagers, but like every quality family destination, it has lots for younger children to do too. The Bamboo maze is one of the twistiest, mystical mazes I have been in. The use of bamboo makes a dense, atmospheric screen, and it is not easy to find your way out! The Labyrinth was designed by Adrian Fisher, an international maze-maker.
Younger children love to play in the jets of the Cascade, pretending to be caught out and soaked by the sudden squirts of water. In addition, a selection of mini tractors were available for small children to roll down the slope at the bottom of the cascade, and to collect water from the water walls.
There are activities for children throughout the year - we visited at Halloween, when pumpkin carving was going very well.
~~Amazing Plans for the Future~~
The Duchess has even more plans to develop the garden. These include a pond, which will be frozen for 6 months of the year to create a skating venue surrounding an ice sculpture; a spiral garden, which includes a path winding through hornbeams to a high point, with marbles of water which will shoot into the air for children to catch; a garden for the senses, which will ask the visitor to pass through blindfolded to experience the smells and touches available; and a quiet garden, with a large shallow pool to rest hot feet in.
The café has rather average hot and cold food, served by lacklustre and depressed staff - but in a lovely location with big glass walls to see the gardens with. The food facilities do not compare at all well with somewhere like the Eden Project, and the eating area was run down and dirty when we visited.
Sadly I did not have to use the toilets, but I have heard that they are of exceptional quality and cleanliness, having won the Loo of the Year Award in 2006! I understand that the boys toilet provides led lights to assist better aiming....
The gardens and the tree house are all fully wheelchair and buggy accessible. There is a disabled toilet and baby changing. Milk warming is available on request.
Parking is in a massive car park on the other side of the road - it is a fair walk to get to the garden entrance, but you are allowed to park outside the gates in a special area if you are disabled.
Great emphasis is put on the Garden being a charity, and a £1 optional donation is added to the price of an adult ticket.
Child tickets are available for children 16 and under.
Concession tickets are available for over 60's and students with a student ID.
Adult Ticket £10.00; Concession Ticket £7.50; Child Ticket £0.01
Although I appreciate that my ticket is going to a charity, I was disappointed that reduced price tickets were not an option later in the day. When we first attempted to visit the garden, it was just after 3pm and the garden closes at 4pm. The ticket office insisted on charging us the full £20.02 (for 4 of us). They assured us that we could see everything in an hour. On this occasion we decided to return the next day at an earlier time, and this was the right decision. There is no way that you can see everything in the garden in an hour - the Poison Garden tour alone takes 20 minutes!
I advise anybody to allow at least 2 hours for a visit to the garden alone.
A more expensive ticket includes Alnwick Castle, and I would allow a whole day to see both attractions.
Description: Contemporary garden that features spectacular water displays, wonderful gardens and one of the largest tree houses in the world.
Are you looking for a different dining experience? Maybe you are planning a special date and want to wow your partner, or perhaps a family meal to celebrate a special occasion? Maybe you just fancy something new, and are open to suggestions. Whatever your reasons, look no further for the Alnwick Garden Treehouse Restaurant is breathtaking and will provide a truly magical experience that you will not forget.
The Alnwick Garden is situated just off the A1 at Alnwick, Northumberland, there is loads of parking and it is well signposted. the restaurant itself is located high up in the trees and is a real life, living, growing treehouse, complete with log fire!
As you approach, you will see this amazing treehouse all lit up like a fairy castle, which you then enter and marvel at the beautiful decor and breathtaking dining room. It almost seems like a dream, it really is that special.
The menu is a range of delicious locally sourced products, combined to make an interesting and delicious choice for you and they also have an excellent choice of wine and beers. Have a look at the online menu for a better idea, I warn you though, it all looks great and you may be tempted to return to try the different things!
The service is great, the prices are reasonable and the setting is absolutely beautiful. There is often live music and you can have drinks in the bar before your meal, or even after.
I cannot recommend this place highly enough (no pun intended!) and suggest that you go along and experience the magic for yourself, you will not be disappointed!
Situated just off the A1 at Alnwic, Northumberland, and is well signposted if travelling by car. There is ample parking available.
Buses - connect Alnwick to surrounding towns and also Newcastle.
Train - the east coast line stops at Alnmouth which is 4 miles away.
There is an excellent review of the Alnwick Garden on here and I would urge you to read it. I couldn't possibly do better and would like to concentrate on the Treehouse, which if you haven't heard of it is
definitely one of the most magical restaurants in the world.
It's located high up in the treetops, with a huge roaring log fire in the centre of the room and trees growing through the floor! Yes, it really is as magical as it sounds, in fact, it is better. Words and photo's cannot do justice to this amazing place, you have to experience it for yourself. If you can, it is great to go when it is still light, but when it gets dark while you are eating, that way, you get to see it in the daylight but also all lit up in the dark. It is like something from a fairy story and if you want to make someone feel special, then you can do no better than to take them here.
There is also live music on selected evenings, and we were lucky enough to experience it when we went. It simply helped to make an incredible dining experience all the more incredible.
Using locally sourced ingredients where possible (always featuring local fish and seafood, organic meats from Northumberland's farmlands and other regional specialities), the menu is delicious (sample menu's can be viewed online) and reasonably priced too. The service is excellent and you are never made to feel rushed, but instead encouraged to take the time you need to enjoy your meal in these amazing surroundings.
When we went, my partner took me on a surprise date. I wasn't allowed to know where we were going and it was an absolute treat! If you want to make an impact, I would highly recommend this, it is the stuff that dreams are made from. In fact, if you are planning a wedding reception, this would be the place to aspire to, it would add a whole new dimension to "that dream day" for everyone concerned!
I genuinely adore this place and am sure that you will too, it will delight the hardest to impress!
The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland is a really lovely place to visit, as I discovered recently when in the area.
I had decided to visit on the recommendation of a friend who had recently spent a day there, and had spent quite a while telling me about it afterwards. I was intrigued to find out more and visit here myself, as although I live in the North East and have visited many places in Northumberland, I had never visited The Alnwick Garden.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Alnwick Garden is situated just off the A1 at Alnwick in Northumberland, and is well signposted if travelling by car.
Buses connect Alnwick to surrounding towns and also Newcastle.
If travelling by train, the east coast line stops at Alnmouth which is 4 miles away.
THE ALNWICK GARDEN
The Alnwick Garden consists of a number of themed gardens, water sculptures - some of which are interactive, woodland walks, visitor centre and cafe and restaurant.
Ten years ago the garden site was derelict. Then the Duchess of Northumberland had a vision of creating a garden for families to enjoy, and from this vision, the project began.
To this day, things are still being added to the garden, and it is being created by celebrated Belgium designers Jacques and Peter Wirtz. Their unique approach to garden design is rarely seen in public areas, so this garden provides a unique opportunity to see their work.
On entering the garden, there seemed to be so much to explore and it was much larger than I imagined. We set about visiting the different gardens and features of the park.
THE PAVILION AND VISITOR CENTRE - this contains places to eat, drink, shop and enjoy some nice views of the garden. In the cafe, both hot and cold food is served. You can enjoy a meal or a sandwich whilst overlooking The Grand Cascade.
Locally produced pies, puddings and cakes are available in the garden's shops to take home. Also a range of plants and David Austin roses for your garden.
Drinks and snacks are also available from the Visitor Centre, and it is possible to enter the Visitor Centre and shops without buying a ticket to visit the garden.
THE GRAND CASCADE - This is a huge cascade water display which is the largest in the UK. There are four different displays every hour and half hour. Kids will have a great time here dodging the water jets which spray across the pathways and also high up into the air from the 162 water jets.
It is advisable maybe if you are visiting with children to bring a change of clothing as they may get wet!
THE SERPENT GARDEN - This is a great interactive water sculpture garden. This is another area which is great fun for kids as they can collect water in the mini tractors, paddle and explore the many ways the water moves in the serpent shape.
THE ORNAMENTAL GARDEN - This garden contains over 16,000 European plants, which is the largest collection of European plants in the country. There is a pool in the middle of the garden where water flows down open pipes to the two secret gardens either side. There are some really nice quiet places to sit in this garden, and also it is a great place for children to play hide and seek.
THE ROSE GARDEN - Over 3000 roses are contained in this garden, so as you can imagine it smells lovely! It is also very colourful.
THE BAMBOO LABYRINTH - This is a maze of twisiting pathways through tall bamboo, designed by one of the world's top maize designers. Great fun for both children and adults.
THE POISON GARDEN - This is an intriguing and fascinating garden, behind locked gates with a skull and bones sign warning these plants can kill. You are only allowed access to this garden with a guide, who will take you round and tell you all about the deadly plants here, such as belladonna, cannabis, mandrake, tobacco and deadly nightshade. We were informed that the Home Office grants a licence to Alnwick Garden in order for them to be allowed to grow the deadly plants.
THE CHERRY ORCHARD - This is a recent addition to the garden and contains 350 Tai Haku cherry trees.
THE TREEHOUSE - This is one of the world's largest treehouses. There are walkways and rope bridges, linking together a series of smaller houses, and at the heart of the treehouse is a restaurant. The treehouse was one of my favourite places here at the garden.
It is also possible to book a table for an evening meal at the restaurant and it offers an a la carte menu in the evenings.
THE WOODLAND WALK - This is a mile-long woodland walk, which offers some lovely views along the way of Alnwick Castle and the river.
We spent a lovely day here, and it is obvious there has been so much thought gone into the planning and development of the garden to ensure it is a place to be enjoyed by both adults and children.
There is something for everyone here, which I had not realised prior to visiting. I think I assumed it would just be a garden, and maybe not very interesting for children, but how wrong I was!
It is both an ideal place to relax and also to have fun with your children, and I will return again. I am looking forward to seeing the new developments which are planned.
I would also say that I noticed the garden is accessible for disabled visitors, including access to the Treehouse. Wheelchairs and scooters are also available to hire.
The garden is an evolving project, and there are many more features to be added, including a skating pond and more adventure play areas. There are also plans for five more themed gardens.
Workshops, tours, talks and courses are all held at the garden, as well as planting workshops for children. Many groups and schools take advantage of these.
A varied programme of events and activities are offered through the year, with music, performances, exhibitions and more. Spooky family activities are held for Halloween, and there is a great Christmas programme with lantern parades, trails, and of course Father Christmas!
Much of the programme is free for visitors.
Admission to the gardens is £8.00 for adults, and this includes an optional £1 donation to the Alnwick Garden Trust. Concession - £7.50, but please remember to deduct £1 if you do not wish to donate the extra £1. Children aged 16 and under the admission charge is only 1p!
It is possible to buy a Friend of The Alnwick Garden pass for £20, and this gives you unlimited access all year, as well as invitations to special events.
Alnwick Garden is open 364 days a year ( closed Christmas Day) from 10am - 6pm Apr-Sept, and 10am -4pm Oct-March. The Treehouse is open for evening dining. ( Tel. 01655 511852 to book a table).
The Alnwick Garden is a charity, and all profits are channelled back into the garden's development.
For more info regarding all the activities please visit www.alnwickgarden.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can telephone 01665 511350.
The Alnwick Garden is a wonderful garden and a great day out. I highly recommend a visit here.
I made my second visit to Alnwick Gardens on the 16th January. Unfortunately, I was there for a reception following the funeral of the wonderful man and dear friend who first introduced me to this magical place. He and his wife were staunch supporters of the gardens and enjoyed their beauty regularly with their children and gorgeous grandchildren.
At the risk of making a simple review a little on the emotional side, I write this review in honour of one of the kindest, most sincere gentlemen I have ever had the privilege to know and I thank him for sharing this spectacular place with my son and I.
Adults, £8, Concession £7.50. Groups £6.25 per head, Education groups: £2.50 per child. Children go free (for up to 4 children per adult). All these costs include an optional £1 gift aid charge.
The Gardens are open all year except for Christmas day from 10:00. Closing times vary per season from between 16:00 in the Winter to 19:00 in the summer months/
The Garden is open all year but would advise you consider the weather at the time of your visit and wear appropriate clothing. The garden is accessible to all with wheelchair access throughout with chairs available for hire. Assistant dogs are welcomed in the Garden.
The First Duke of Northumberland commissioned the celebrated gardener Capability Brown to create the first gardens adjoining the castle grounds in 1750. Over the following years, development continued with hothouses being constructed to grow pineapples and other produce to be sent to Paris where the Third Duke was based as Special Ambassador in the 1820's. He collected seeds and plants from all over the world when he traveled and built a conservatory in the garden which the public could visit only one day a week.
In the mid-19th century, the Fourth Duke created a garden inspired by the Italian Renaissance period which also dictated the décor in the Castle State rooms. Interestingly, the wrought iron gates currently found at the main entrance and the entrance to the Ornamental Garden are the restored original 16th century Venetian gates the Fourth Duke brought from Italy.
By the end of the century, the gardens were alive with grandeur with hedge topiary, a long-stretching flower garden, lime trees grape houses and a large conservatory making contributing to its beauty.
In the Pavilion, an original 18th century garden decoration can be found which takes visitors back to the original gardens. There sits a lead sculpture of a fox sitting on top of a fruit-filled urn decorated with season-inspired masks and held up by monkeys.
During the 2nd World war, the gardens were once again put to practical use. Having been turned over to the Government's care, the land was used to grow produce until 1950. From that time, until the Alnwick Garden restoration project began in 1996, the site was used as a tree nursery.
As many resources as possible were locally sourced, including the water cascade stone which was brought from West Woodburn
What makes these striking gardens unique is the fact that visitors are actively encouraged to participate in their surroundings. You see children running through the jets of water which spray impressively across pathways. Families pick berries from the ornamental garden to taste their sweetness and people roll up their trousers to wade in any number of streams that line the paths. What on face value is a very sophisticated and elegant park, Alnwick Gardens welcomes young children to run free and enjoy the natural beauty they have come to visit.
Upon entering through the main gates, you will instantly be met with the glorious Grand Cascade that, as the UK's largest water feature, is the perfect centerpiece for the garden. It is a truly magnificent site which draws the eye up the rolling hill of the garden to the treed area and the ornamental garden tucked quietly away at the top. At peak flow, more than 7200 gallons of water run across 21 weirs per minute though I must point out, it was designed in as Environmentally Friendly a manner as possible. 250,000 gallons of water are stored underground which is filtered and then recycled.. It changes sequence on a half hourly basis throughout the day. There are 162 jets in total which fire water up to 6 metres high into the air and across the walkways.
Crescent-shaped stairs made from 149,000 block paving stones, lead up either side of the cascade, meeting in the middle at each level. The cascades are lined with beautiful hedging and oak trees which lend themselves to the magical sense of the place.
In front of the cascade, John Deer mini ride on tractors contrast against the elegance of the light stonework oddly however, your children will love maneuvering these play things, scooping up water and chasing their terrified parents.
As you pass through the gates into this 1753 walled treasure trove, you are immediately hit not only with a great sense of calm, but also the gentle aroma of the over 16,000 plants before you. In the middle of the garden is a pool from which water flows down through a network of open pipes leading towards the colour-themed (one red, one yellow) secret gardens on each side.
Raised flower beds mean the planting can be enjoyed by everyone with an array of roses, delphiniums, Peonies, Priental poppies, and iris. From above, and all around you crab apple trees, rose covered arbours and bloom gently. My son's favourite part of the gardens, beside dangling his limbs in the pool with his 'Grandpa John' was the marvelous collection of berries also on display. It included currants, strawberries (including white strawberries which I had never heard of) and yellow and red raspberries. Herbs are peppered throughout the garden offering an intense and varied assortment of smells and textures to the planting.
The planting has been done in such a way that it will flower at different times throughout the year meaning it is always filled with colour and tempting perfumes .
The Ornamental gardens were one of my favourite part simply because all the senses were being touched - from the sound of the constant water flowing gentle, to the fresh smell of the lavender that washed over you as you passed it, to the sweetness of the raspberries straight from the stem.
The Rose Garden
An English Garden will never be complete without a rose garden and Alnwick Gardens is no exception. The Pergola-lined, winding walkway takes you through an impressive maze-like selection of roses which were donated by one of the countries top rose growers, David Austin Roses. The Fragrant aroma is so vivid it is almost intoxicating. There are 3000 rose bushes, trees and shrubs with Old rose and English rose blooms as well as my favourite, climbing roses. In addition, the garden boasts the Alnwick Rose which was created by David Austin in honour of the garden.
My son adored racing along the maze-like paths and we could take our time knowing he couldn't get to far away from us without doubling back on himself.
The Serpent Garden
This Garden hosts a series of water sculptures designed by William Pye and created around a serpent shape made of holly. The sculptures sit peacefully within the natural surroundings making them appear as almost part of the scenery. This is a very interactive piece which encourages people to get up close and personal with water and to appreciate how it can be different depending on perspective. The Starburst sculpture even allows you to stand on a (toughened) glass plate to watch the water exploding below you.
The Poison Garden
For fairly obvious reasons, visitors are only allowed to enter this garden accompanied by a trained companion from the Gardens who will talk you through the different plants dispelling myths surrounding some plants and describing the gory ancient history of others. Plants included here are Deadly Nightshade, Magic Mushrooms and Cannabis.
The Woodland Walk
The Woodland Walk provides a more natural contrast to the formal, well-manicured gardens. Mature Trees centuries old line the pathway while Forest flowers carpet the grounds along the walk which leads towards some fantastic views of the Alnwich Castle and the River Aln.
The Bamboo Labyrinth
The feature, designed by one of the world's leading maze designers, Adrian Fisher is set in a relatively shady section of the garden and follows a path which is decorated with delicate bronze leaves. The sounds of the bamboo as it rustles in the wind is extremely relaxing though much louder than I would have expected. This is a great, mysterious place as paths twist in different directions only allowing you the quickest of glimpses of other visitors.
Without a doubt this was the Children's (and many adults) favourite part of the Gardens. The Treehouse, found just outside the main gates to the garden is a 6,000 square foot group of smaller houses with angled roofs and turrits linked by suspended rope bridges and walkways. It was built using natural and sustainable products including Scots and English Pine, although Canadian Cedar and Scandinavian Redwood was also sourced. It is amazing how such an enormous structure manages to blend in so well with the trees that embrace it as well as with its natural surroundings. It includes two resource rooms which provide learning programmes for visitors, a terraced restaurant (that even has a log fire in it!) and a small gift shop.
I am sure I don't have to explain why this fantastic structure is a hit with the kids already, but I understand they are looking to begin work on the next phase of development which will include a tree-based adventure play area which will include a maze of rope bridges, platforms and aerial walkways, with wheelchair access and a designated area for the under 5s and for the severely disabled.
The Pavillion and Visitors Centre made largely of glass but also a blend of wood, steel and stone houses the majority of amenities including the following:
There is a gift and a garden shop which offer a range of unique, locally crafted gifts, local produce, gardening goods with an extra flare and bulbs including those of the now famous Alnwick Rose as well as sweets, books, art work etc.
There is a small coffee bar in the visitors centre which provides basic refreshments or there is a restaurant which offers simple but quality food at reasonably affordable prices. Also on offer is the treehouse restaurant which offers a heartier menu. An A La Carte menu is also available in the evenings. Visit http://www.alnwickgarden.com/visitthegarden/eating.asp for more details of their menu.
Visitor interpretation area
Here visitors can learn about the historical and geographical background of The Garden. There are also two Education rooms perfect for school trips
This is ideal for lectures, conferences, concerts and weddings and was in fact where the funeral reception I attended was held.
This is a beautiful open space looking on to the gardens which is often used for outdoor performances
toilets are located within the Treehouse, and in the Pavilion area.
Parking immediately in front of the centre is relatively limited however there is over flow parking a short walk away which provides an abundance of further space.
To find a place with so much breath-taking beauty, so much diversity and so much to enjoy is rare. Admittedly, this place holds a special place in my heart thanks to how I was introduced to it, but I was blown away by how much there is to see. I was equally impressed by how they have encouraged younger generations to relish in their natural surroundings and to absorb it fully through interaction.
All of the areas have posted notes relating to the specific plants, site and history which allows generations, young and old to learn a bit as they go.
Some may question the value of paying £8 for a visit to a garden, but this is much more than a garden. It is a celebration of so many different aspects from nature, to modern design, architecture, history, and even biology. All in all, it is a fantastic, unique, and fun day out - perfect for the family.
Contemporary garden that features spectacular water displays, wonderful gardens and one of the largest tree houses in the world.