Newest Review: ... 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. Pa... more
A stunning garden in the heart of Alnwick
Alnwick Garden (Northumberland)
Member Name: pink_glitter
Alnwick Garden (Northumberland)
Advantages: lots to see and do, stunning flowers and water features
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-treeho use
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
Summary: Thoroughly recommended