“ Alnwick Castle, Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1NQ Tel: (01665) 510 777 Mon - Fri. Enquiries: 24 hour information line 01665 511 100 „
On a typically drizzly August bank holiday we decided to drive an hour and half to visit Alnwick Castle as friends of ours had said it was an unmissable experience. This is a phrase I had heard before and it often accompanied very missable subsequent excursions, but regardless, we took them on their word and head off.
Alnwick (pronounced Anik) Castle is a grade 1 listed building having been built after the Norman Conquest and resided in by the Duke of Northumberland aka the Percy family, whose presence is felt and seen at every turn from video conversations to a littering of family photographs everywhere.
The castle is steeped in a rich history ranging from it's building to keep the Scots from invading through to the Wars Of The Roses and more recently hosting battles and scenes from iconic cultural icons as Harry Potters Hogwarts and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
The castle lies within acres and acres of sprawling and beautiful gardens that can also be seen with the purchase of an additional ticket. It was pouring with rain so we opted to see the castle only. It seems the only way to get into the castle is via a stream of gift shops: one at the entrance of the whole complex and then another in the grounds itself (although arguably for the latter we may have taken the wrong entrance). The first noticeable thing I found upon setting eyes on the castle for the first time was thinking it was actually quite small and low lying. Once inside you appreciate that this initial view is deceptive and the gradiose becomes apparent. The castle mainly consists of the yards where events are held, the main house with stately rooms and some out buildings hosting 'museums' and the cellar dungeons.
My over-riding opinion was that for all it's grandeur, as an adult, there isn't actually that much to see. Event after event is piled on to entertain children from broom stick riding (to mirror quidditch I imagine), soap making, hitting things and making a racket and dressing up and prancing in mock medieval clothing. Great if you have them as I imagine they can be easily entertained all day. However, we were a group with age ranges 30-70 and found interest slightly more difficult to find, or limited in scope and number at the least.
The most interesting part was the state rooms but these were frustratingly few. Given the size of the place we expected access to more than a dozen or so rooms for the £14 entry fee (house only, it's a further £12 if you want to visit the gardens too). These were largely magnificent and fascinating, especially to see the evidence of everyday use by the residing family.
The chapel was ornate and opulent although a lack of good natural light meant it was a bit gloomy. This was a theme that seemed to run throughout. Despite the fact that all rooms had large widows the rooms generally had a dark and gloomy feel, largely due to the furnishings and decor that were far from bright.
Most interestingly for me was the library which seemed to be the room the family spent most time in. This was a curious mix of antique, regal furnishings, floor to ceiling cases of dusty, and I imagine seldom leafed if at all, books. I looked for Fifty Shades Of Grey but alas, not to be found amongst the journals. Most bizarre amongst the regal splendour was the 50" flat screen TV I assumed would have been wheeled away during public hours to maintain appearance, and the drinks trolley, home to an inordinate number of Red Bull cans. It was a peculiar site and I would expect was there to show that the modern family actually use the house.
Elsewhere, other than an abundance of modern family photos including those of the recent daughters wedding, there was little evidence of modernity. The dining room is also still apparently used by the family for meal times but there was no sign of use. The dining table must have been 20 foot long and I could only imagine the amount of 'pass the salt' gags that must frequent dinner times.
The overall feel, library aside, was that of a stuffy, regal and archaic lifestyle and house that differed minimally to other similar places I have been to. The tour ends with a very windy and laborious talk with the Duke about the history, restoration and current use of the house. You really needed to sit for it and there were surprisingly few available and all taken, so i wasn't going to wait around for too long. In the Dukes defence, he did come across as personable but from what I heard, nothing was particularly enlightening, nor information not available elsewhere in the building.
So what of the other things on show? We went to see 2 of the 'museums'. These each consisted of one tightly packed room smaller than an average sized bedroom with minimal displays... Probably the most Intersting of which involved items found on the castles grounds. The displays appeared cheaply and shabbily put together (and that includes the 'talking' dummies) and information was fairly limited. It's a shame because they could have done so much more but they felt a bit like an afterthought rather than displays of excellence and value in their own right. If I were to be honest, it felt as though the owners or developers thought 'we need to give them a bit more for their money' and hastily put these together to try and appease people like me.
Another problem with Alnwick is that there is very little to see that has step free access so can be tricky if elderly, disabled or not fully mobile. Most thing to see require access by step including the main house itself. These are manageable large staircases but the museums require a steep climb up narrow, winding, dark stone stairs only wide enough for one person. This makes seeing some of the attractions impossible for many people.
As for unmissable? I think you probably know my thoughts on that.... I found that value for money was awful given what was available to see for adults. We didn't get involved in any of the children's activities but am sure they would be very entertaining but visiting as adults alone, there is little to recommend for the very steep entry fee. We expected to be there the best part of the day but were done in an hour and a half.
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
When we booked our few days up in Rothbury we had a list of several places we wanted to visit and Alnwick Castle was top of my list because I always enjoy visiting places used as locations in films I have enjoyed. Alnwick castle has been used in many films but its most recent claim to fame as a film location is for the Harry Potter films. We hadn't done my research that carefully and imagined that this place would be a bit like other stately homes and a morning visit would probably be all we would need. How wrong we were, the place is huge and there is so much to see that a full day visit still probably isn't really enough.
Alnwick Castle is in Northumberland in the town of Alnwick just off the A1. It is sort of half way between Newcastle and Edinburgh to give you an idea. I would suggest that you would need a car to get there as public transport would involve local buses as there is no train station in the town and the nearest one is Alnmouth which is 15 minutes away by car .
PRICES AND ADMISSION TIMES
We were quite shocked when we saw the price of tickets. I believe we paid $14 each for the Castle and £12 each for the garden. This ticket does however allow us to go back as often as we like for one year from date of purchase however the castle is not open all year and I understand they are closing early this year for some renovation work at the end of September. This price is fine if you live locally but not quite so handy for us as we live too far away to make this a day visit so chances are we won't take advantage of this! The opening season is from the 31st March through till the 30th September when the family return to the castle to live in the winter months. My husband did get a slight reduction as he is over 60 but it was only a pound or so. I also discovered that the tickets are cheaper if you buy in line which is useful to know and once again we didn't check this before we went. The times of admission are from 10 am until 6pm but they don't let anyone actually come in to start their visit after 4.15pm
We weren't going to bother with the gardens but then we were told that the cherry blossoms were out so decided to go and look.
The most impressive feature is an enormous cascade with comes down through several pools through the centre of the garden. It rivals the cascade at Chatsworth in that it may not be a long but all the side pools also have fountains and features. The fountains change with different parts performing at any time you look; you cannot fail to be impressed by these displays which take place every half hour. This cascade dates back to the 1850s and is quite a feat of engineering as 7260 gallons of water come down through the various pools and 21 weirs every single minute. I presume they capture this water and send it back up again rather than let it go to waste.
As you enter the garden gates this is the first thing that you see. Around the entrance area is a cafe and posh restaurant and shops. You get a great view of the gardens from both the cafe and the restaurant. We didn't visit either as we went to the garden as we arrived so didn't need refreshment at that stage.
Around the shop and cafe area is all tiled and in front of the cascade as you go down the steps is also all paved. In front of the cascade on this paved area were a large number of ride on toys for young children. If you lived locally this would be a lovely place to bring young children to have a good run around and play.
We made our way to the right in order to see the Japanese garden with the cherry blossoms. I must admit I was a little disappointed as the trees are still very small and although there are quite a large number going up a big hill which you walk up by a very long zigzagging path the display was not that impressive. I think once the trees grow a bit more then they might look a bit more colourful but that could take a few more years. Under the trees were lots of tulips but sadly these were also not quite out and had we been a week later the display might have been better but still you can't have everything and the huge black cloud did only sprinkle us and it could have drenched us.
We walked across the top of the garden to the ornamental garden which was again a bit underwhelming as the roses were not in bloom, the bulbs were not out and none of the summer plants were blooming either. We them made our way down through the sides of the cascade to the serpent garden.
The serpent garden had a number of different water features which were very nice but you were firmly warned NOT to play in the water features despite the poster near the entrance which showed children playing in a water feature which I thought was a little stupid if they didn't want people to do just that.
The next garden we went into was actually a bamboo maze which looked good but we didn't feel like trying to find our way through a labyrinth so we moved on and across to the poison garden. We could have gone on to explore the rose garden but as no roses were in bloom we thought it wasn't really worth bothering with on this visit.
This was very well done as it has a locked gate so you could only enter with a guide at specific times. Just outside the gate was a small hut with a log fire inside which looked a bit like Hagred's hut only far smaller. Our guide explained this was not a medicinal garden but that all plants in the garden were poisonous in some way or other.
We followed her down a corridor or covered walkway of ivy which all added to the sense of darkness as you went into the garden. The guide was excellent and explained which parts of the plants were poisonous and what happened if you did eat or even touch certain parts. Many of the plants were not at their best as it was early in the season but it was a very interesting tour froma knowledgable and entertaining guide. We finished the tour by walking through a second corridor or tunnel of ivy and out through the gates. Interestingly this garden has a special license to grow both cannabis and coca behind bars in giant cages! Strangely also many of the plants with poisonous parts I have in my garden as do many others in our country, some I knew were poisonous like Laburnum but others I was not aware of and will now treat with caution.
This is quite a short walk from the garden and is easily accessible by wheel chair through someone with difficulty walking might find the amount of walking need to be beyond them. On the way to the castle with is on a slight hill with a dry moat around it we were greeted with a 'host of golden daffodils', crocuses and blue bells all perfectly in bloom in the forefront and then castle in the background which was a pretty stunning sight.
Not only is this an impressive stately home but the family who own the place have made the most of the place by organising tours and setting up a number of displays and activities in the castle and grounds. There was plenty to do for children as well as some extremely sumptuous state rooms which in my view rivalled those we saw in Buckingham Palace.
BATTLE AXE AND BROOMSTICKS - The tale of Two Harrys
We chose to do the 'Battle axe and Broomsticks' tour which was a sort of fun tour of the grounds showing the main places that were used in the Harry Potter films. The guide was dressed in costume and was obviously a frustrated actor as he was really into his role, leaping around and being far too energetic and requiring us to shout out with enthusiasm as part of the tour!
We learned that the gardener's store shed had had bits added to it to become Hagred's hovel and the little patch of tress near the hut became the dark forest in the films. The guide described how fog machines had filled the moat area to create the atmosphere but even so you needed a good imagination to see how they had achieved the effect in the film.
It was easier to see how different parts of the main buildings had been used. The broomstick training ground and doors to Hogwarts were easy to recognise but the guide explained how the flying car had been shown to fly over the castle walls and crash into a huge tree. There was no tree there and it had in fact been CGI and a model tree stump.
Apart from the Harry Potter filming element we also visited various other parts of the castle grounds ending up at Harry Hotspur's statue at the furthest end of the inner grounds. We were asked to guess how old we thought this was and it turned out to actually be moulded plastic and only a few years old but still an interesting story which the guide told with enthusiasm about how Harry Hotspur was possible the youngest person to earn his knighthood at only about 12 if I remember the story correctly.
During the season Alnwick offer so many different experiences daily from this tour of the two Harrys - Potter and Hotspur through to Broomstick training, archery and a more general tour of the grounds and more specifically for children there is a Knight's quest area and finally the latest tour of the 'Lost Cellars'. They also offer more specific events such as craft days and this year they are welcoming the Olympic torch and celebrating the Queen's Jubilee as well. If you want to know more about these specific events and the days they take place then check the Alnwick Castle website.
THE LOST CELLARS
His was the second of the free optional tours we booked ourselves on to. This was a very clever way of using the cellars which were not actually that remarkable but were cleverly enhanced with the use of props and two very captivating actors to tell a story of those who had been locked up in the cellars. It took about twenty minutes and was quite entertaining but not necessarily something you couldn't miss experiencing when visiting Alnwick. No-one under the age of thirteen is allowed to take part in this adventure and you are warned that this is 'Not for the faint of heart or timorous souls who fear shadows of the eternal night....'
THE KNIGHT'S QUEST
This area had a range of activities for children to take part in with mini problems to solve, clothes for dressing up in and finally a sort of 'Chamber of Horrors' type of experience called the 'Dragon Quest' with a hall of mirrors and skeletons dropping on you and so forth which again was well done and pretty darn scary for young children I would think.
A BIT ABOUT THIS CASTLE
This is not your usual Stately home with an air of dust and unlivedness about it, this is a family home and the Percy family live here from October through to the end of March each year. I am not sure where they go in the 'open season' of Alnwick but as you walk around inside the castle there are family photos of the children sitting on the piano and other places so it feels like somewhere lived in. Personally I am not sure I would put photos of my children around as there are so many odd bods around it might jeopardise their safety. This place has been the home of the Percy family, The Duke of Northumberland, for around 700 years and by cleverly creating a place where people want to visit and keeping up with the times hopefully they should manage to keep it in the family for several hundred more years.
Inside the State rooms you will find opulence in the extreme with fabulous antique furniture, paintings by Canaletto, Titian and Van Dyck amongst others. The crockery display was something that had to be seen to be believed with Crown Derby, Meissen and Paris porcelain in such quantity beautifully displayed. I am not sure if any of the pieces are ever used!!
WHERE TO SPEND YOUR MONEY AND EAT
There are a number of options from a small cafe, a restaurant, a number of medieval tents which open in busier times selling ice creams and other snacks. A shop selling souvenirs, lots of Harry Potter souvenirs, castle souvenirs and books as well as china, and smaller novelty items.
WOULD I RECOMMEND?
Indeed this is a wonderful place to visit. There is so much to see and do and every age group is catered for. You can just walk around the grounds designed by the famous Capability Brown, climb the ramparts and view these from above. You might meet falconers, actors in costume, explore further by taking part in one of the tours or just explore the State rooms and imagine you are one of the wealthy guests of the Percy family.
Although the castle is closed during the winter months but the garden stays open daily from November 1st through till 8th January and various events are organised from lantern making workshops through to Christmas Wreath making and Christmas Carols.
I really hope we can go back and visit this wonderful family home within the year our ticket is valid for. This is a beautiful castle and so much has been done to make your visit both interesting and enjoyable for all age groups.
Thanks for reading and I trust this has been useful and interesting for you. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.
During the summer we have visitedno the castle of Alnwick. The Alnwick Castle is actually the place where the first two movies of Harry Potter have been filmed and that's something we officious wanted to see! The castle is close to the town of Alnwick and about one mile of the highway. There is parking spaces at the castle which are sufficient and free! The castle itself isn't free and costs around 12 pounds to entry for adults.
When you drive up to the castle you can already see it from far and it's breathtaking. The castle is completely surrounding by a wall and has large gardens around it which gives it a more dramatic effect. The Duke and Duchess of Nothhumberland are still living here so you can't see the entire castle.
There is still plenty to see and you have access to the library which is filled with more than 16.000 books. Very impressive and beautifully decorated with ladders to climb up the bookcases. There is a large sitting area which is decorated in a dramatic Italian renaissance kind of way with beautiful furniture. You have the dinning area which has a breathtaking fireplace made of marble. There are lots of old painting and the tables is beautifully decorated with porcelain and chandeliers. You have the carriage house with a large collection of carriages from the nineteen century and lots more.
You can easily spend a good few hours here and it really depends of how much you like history because there's a lot to be found and everything has a story behind it. It's truly a interesting family.
There is a beautiful restaurant where you for 2.40 pounds can have a ham sandwich / salad and there are other more expensive sandwiches and hot dishes. There are also complete menus but we haven't had them. There are several toilets and when I used them they looked clean and fresh.
I think the castle is really worth the trip if you are in the neighborhood. There is lots more to see than just a beautiful building. There are museums where they show the military history and also a part where they show Roman findings. The castle has become more famous because of the Harry Potter movie but it's nice to see that they stayed true to themselves and the beautiful history.
Alnwick Castle is a medieval castle which has perhaps become more famous nowadays for being used in the Harry Potter films as Hogwarts School. It is a spectacularly beautiful castle set in the heart of Northumberland just a few minutes walk from the walled town of Alnwick. The castle dates from 1096 with various alterations and additions being made to the building over the centuries. As you can imagine it is a building which has a wide and varied history and is a really interesting place to visit.
A day to Alnwick castle involves a lot of walking. You park a fair distance away from the castle (charges are £2 per day) and have to walk to the entrance, disabled parking is available which is closer. Alternatively the castle is only a couple of minutes walk away from Alnwick town centre and a bus stops outside. The terrain is generally fairly hilly but the walkways are in good condition, obviously once inside the castle there are loads of uneven surfaces, stairs and cobbles to negotiate. Entry costs £12.50 for an adult and £5.50 for a child in 2010 with discounts available for families. The most cost effective way is to buy a combined ticked to visit both the castle and gardens which is valid for two consecutive days and costs £20.80 for an adult.
Alnwick is stunning from the outside and it looks like it belongs in a fairytale with knights slaying dragons to rescue princesses from dark towers. You could see people getting excited when the castle first came into view, especially kids who thought they were seeing Hogwarts. You can see where the moat was which is now a sunken grassy area and one of the first things that catches your attention is the ramparts where soldiers would hide to fire shots to defend the castle from intruders. Once inside you can climb these ramparts and see for yourself how soldiers could have seen enemies approaching for miles around the castle.
Once inside the castle walls there are signposts directing you to the various parts of the castle, the signs and map are not great but there are members of staff dotted around who were all unfailingly polite and happy to help visitors enjoy their day.
The most spectacular part of Alnwick are the state rooms which are used for entertaining. You wander through a series of sumptuously decorated rooms with silk wallpaper and family portraits on the walls and are blown away by the opulence of it all. The dining room was perhaps the most lavish room at all with the table set for a formal dinner with gold candlesticks, silver serving dishes and fine china making it a table for the nobility. A corridor is devoted to displaying the vast china and pottery collection amassed by the Percy family over the centuries and this too is a spectacular collection.
The military history of Alnwick is discussed in two separate museums, the first in Constable's tower where the story of how the Percy Tenantry Volunteers was set up in the 1700's. You get the feeling there was lot of friction between the Percy clan and the government during these times as the museum emphasises how the Percy family had to fund a battalion of soldiers due to the lack of support from the government of the time. The second military museum is the Abbot's tower which contains historical artefacts of the Northumberland Royal Fusiliers. There is an impressive collection of memorabilia and old weaponry on display in these two museums and I'm sure this will be fascinating to those interested in warfare.
A museum celebrating archaeology is in the Postern tower and it has a collection of Roman finds from Hadrian's wall. There are many unusual finds here like a beautiful ring as well as the more mundane coins and pottery. Northumberland is an area steeped in history and has rich pickings for archaeologists and the digs continue to this day.
Alnwick has managed to retain its traditional appeal without becoming a Harry Potter theme park but they still capitalise upon the success of the films. My friend is a real Harry Potter geek and she enjoyed looking at the various parts of the building and trying to work out which parts had featured in the film. She was delighted to find the main courtyard was where Harry and chums played quiddich but was disappointed to find many of the Hogwarts features such as sculptures were added by computer after the film had been shot. There is a tour every afternoon which was led by a young man wearing Hogwart's robes which went into more detail about how the castle was used in the film and my friend and daughter really enjoyed this.
There are some activities for kids within the castle such as archery for £2 and the Dragons Quest where kids enter a dragon's lair. I also saw the staff set challenges for the kids in the state rooms as there were owls hidden in each room for them to find with prizes at the end of the tour. Having said that I don't think the castle is ideal for young kids to visit simply because most of the castle is geared towards adults.
There is catering on site, the Courtyard café sells rolls, wraps, cakes and drinks but is overpriced, an egg mayo roll will cost around £3 for example. The good thing is sitting out in the courtyard on wooden benches soaking up the atmosphere but it is probably best to take a picnic.
What I disliked about Alnwick is the fact that there are numerous signs and exhibitions which seemed to be aimed solely at glorifying the Percy family and their 700 years at Alnwick. The amount of inherited wealth on display was staggering and obscene in many ways. I don't know how the wealth was originally accumulated but no doubt there was some exploitation of the common man and woman in order for this to happen. Although Ralph Percy who is the current Duke of Northumberland does not enjoy the same political power as his predecessors it is for me a reminder of a system where people are born into both incredible wealth and power and in a modern Britain I see no place for inherited titles. Having said that I can see that the current Percy clan have done a brilliant job of looking after the castle and opening it up to the public and I doubt very much if the castle would be as good a visitor attraction if it had been owned by the likes of the National Trust.
As a massive Harry Potter fan, Alnwick Castle has been on my list of places to visit for ages, but I only lately got round to it. Located in the historic market town of Alnwick in Northumberland it was a lovely day out.
Alnwick Castle has been the home of the Percy family, Earls and Dukes of Northmberland for 700 years, since 1309. The first record of the Castle was in 1096, but it wasn't until the early 1300's that it was restored as a fortress. In the 1700's the grounds were designed by Capability Brown. Each generation of the family added their own mark and the latest mod cons. It was one of the first homes in the North East to have electricity which was run by a hydro electric system installed in 1889.
Within the castle there are lots of things to see and do. You could visit the State Rooms and really get a feel for the history behind the castle. The furniture and antiques in these rooms have been collected by the Percy family over the years. Rooms to visit include
- The Library. Home to a massive collection of over 16,000 books which are housed in floor to ceiling bookshelves. Aside from the books, the room is filled with beautiful furniture and ornaments.
- The Dining Room. The decoration in this room is fantastic. It was recently refurbished and everything has been perfectly restored. There are lots of original paintings around the room of the different Dukes and Duchesses.
- The Drawing Room. When I went it was undergoing restoration, but it will be decorated in and Italian Renaissance style.
There are activities to stop children getting bored too. They can join the Knights Quest school for medieval trainees which includes dressing for the part! If they can complete the challenges which include sword fighting and jousting they will earn a Knighthood. Once the knighthood has been earned they can go on to to follow the Dragon's Quest and put their new fighting skills to test. My nieces were a bit young to take part in these activities, but all of the children involved seemed to have a whale of a time.
The grounds are massive with lots to see and do. You can walk along the terrace which gives beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Things to do in the grounds include
- Postern's Tower. Houses a large collection of British and Irish archaeology which have been used provide an insight into Northumberland's ancient past.
- Abbot's Tower. Home to the Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland. It holds a large collection of uniforms, medals, weapons, paintings and memorabilia all of which relate to the various historical campaigns in which the Regiment has fought.
- The Coach House. Where the grand state coach is stored. It now bears the arms of the 7th Duke and Duchess and was re-painted in 1902 for their use at the coronation of King Edward VII. Alongside the coach is a collection of vehicles from the 19th century.
Like all tourist attractions, there is both a restaurant and a gift shop. I much prefer to take a picnic so I didn't venture in, but the gift shop seemed nice if a little overpriced.
As previously mentioned, Alnwick Castle is where some of the Harry Potter scenes were shot. It's great being able to walk round and spot recogniseable scenery from the films.
Alnwick Castle is open to the public from 31st March 2010 until 29th October 2010. The grounds open daily at 10am - 6pm with last admission being at 4.15pm. State Rooms 11am - 5pm with last admission at 4.30pm. Knights Quest 10am - 5 pm with last admission at 4.45pm.
Prices are as follows;
Child (age 5 - 16) £5.50
Family Ticket (two adults and up to four children) £32.50
If you plan on visiting Alnwick Gardens, the castle has combined tickets for both attractions so it's worth checking their website before booking. Tickets can be bought on the door or online.
The castle is very easy to find, just 5 minutes off the A1. I get lost easily but even I found the castle with no problems!
I recently paid a visit to some parts of Northumberland I had not been to for a while. Living in the North East as I do, the Northumberland coastline is right on the doorstep, and as well as the beautiful beaches and scenery, it has some great places to visit, and quite a few castles!
Alnwick Castle is somewhere I have visited a couple of times over the years, but as it is years since my last visit, I decided it was time I went there again.
WHERE IS IT?
Alnwick Castle (pronounced 'Annick') is located just off the A1, in the historic market town of Alnwick, here in Northumberland.
It is easily reached by car, by simply following the brown tourist signs. If travelling by train, the nearest station is Alnmouth which is approx 15 minutes away. The city of Newcastle is 45 mins away, and there are bus services from here.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Alnwick Castle is one of the largest inhabited castles in England, and often referred to as 'The Windsor of the North'.
Home of the Percy Family for 700 years, it is now home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland and their family.
The earliest mention of Alnwick Castle in the history books appears soon after 1096 when Yves de Vescy became baron of Alnwick and built the earliest parts of the Castle.
The castle was restored as a fortress by the 1st Lord Percy of Alnwick in the early 1300's, and since then, generations of the Percy family have added to it.
During the late 17th century, the castle fell into decay, until Elizabeth Seymour and her husband Hugh Smithson, turned it into a residence of 'Gothick' style. The pair became the first Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.
Over the years. more has been added to the castle and it became one of the first homes in the North East to have electricity.
Over recent years the castle has become famous for being the home of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, although the castle is no stranger to the TV and film industry as scenes from many Catherine Cookson adaptations, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and Blackadder, as well as many others have been filmed here.
Next month (November 2009) sees the castle celebrating 700 years since the purchase of the castle by the Percy family, and also looking back over this period, which remembers the siege of 1462, to the housing of Cromwellian soldiers during the Civil War and schoolgirls evacuated from Newcastle during the Second World War.
VISITING THE CASTLE
There is so much to see and do at Alnwick Castle and it was quite busy on the day of my visit.
There are guided tours of both the castle and grounds, as well as Birds of Prey demonstrations and Archery lessons available. If it is a nice day it is worth taking a picnic to eat in the grounds.
Within the grounds and castle walls, the stone towers are home to several museums. We visited the Constable Tower, which is a museum dedicated to the life and times of the Percy Tenantry Volunteers. It was very interesting hearing about the Duke's 'Home Guard' soldiers.
The Postern and Abbot's Tower also house museums dedicated to Briitish Archaeology and the Regiment of the Northumberland Fusiliers.
Inside the castle you will find the state rooms, which contain art and furniture collected over the years by the Percy Family. The library had a huge selection of books, and the dining room housed the longest table I have ever seen! It has played host to many royal guests over the years.
We also visited Ramparts Walk and Hotspur's seat, which was built in the 14th century as a watchtower, and renamed 'Hotspur's Seat' after being rebuilt by the 1st Duke and Duchess who were proud of their ancestry.
The Outer Bailey is quite impressive and is now recognised as the place where Harry Potter learnt to fly. The Inner Bailey we learned was once home to a bake house, slaughter house, brewery, chapel and school.
The Clock Tower, Gun Terrace, which displays a selection of cannons and Coach House are all worth a visit, but really there is so much to visit here, you will easily fill your day.
There is a cafe and restaurant but as I mentioned before, it is worth taking a picnic if it is a nice day, as the lawned picnic area has great views of the castle and also the River Aln.
Gifts, books and souvenirs are available in the castle shop.
There seems to be plenty activities for children at Alnwick Castle which makes it popular for a family day out. Aside from the Archery and Birds of Prey, you have of course, the famous Harry Potter setting and kids will love the magic and wizardry theme.
Also there are other activities such as the chance to dress as a knight or lady of the realm and follow in Harry Hotspur's footsteps as Alnwick's most famous battling son. Children can learn some of his fighting skills and put them to good use in accepting the challenge to defeat the monster in Dragon's Quest. This seems to be excellent fun for children (and adults too!) with plenty of screaming going on as you go through a tunnel full of realistic looking skulls and skeletons which suddenly jump to scare you!
To celebrate the 700 year history, a new exhibition trail has been created, which appeals to both adults and children alike. It tells of the 700 year history through the personalities of the Percy family, whilst leading you around the castle and grounds on a discovery trail.
If you have time, I would recommend a visit to the Alnwick Garden, which I have reviewed previously. It is just 300 metres from the castle, but as it is possible to spend a whole day there also, you may wish to visit on another day.
I can thoroughly recommend a visit to Alnwick Castle. I enjoyed visiting here again and found the guides in particular to be very friendly. I noticed they are happy to answer any questions and spend time explaining everything in a factual but interesting way, which adds to the enjoyment of your visit.
Overall, it's a great day out, whether you enjoy castles, history, or are just simply a Harry Potter fan.
Alnwick Castle is open from beginning of April to the end of October.
Admission is £11.95 for adults, £4.95 for children aged 5-15. Concessions are £9.95.
Family tickets are available at £29.95, and weekly or season tickets are also available, just ask for details.
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel. 01665 510777
24hr information line - 01665 511100
A great place to visit, with super grounds and great inside facilities for kids and parents alike.
Lots of genuine art on display inside the Castle, and all belonging to the Duke of Northumberland.
Unlike the nearby Bailiffgate Museum where all of the old photographs of Alnwick town have just been taken by a Trustee.
The Castle has a great cafe, a brilliant shop, and plenty of room for the kids to run about and enjoy themselves.
They are planning to go back to their old system of joint tickets with the Alnwick Garden, so that can be an added bonus in the better weather.
Just beware that the Castle opens at about 11 am, and can be a bit expensive. It also closes from the end of October until Easter, which can be an unpleasant surprise if you have travelled some way to visit it !!!
All in all, a five-star place to visit, and although pricy, you'll want to go back.
Alnwick Castle is found in the little town of Alnwick, Northumberland. We visited this attraction, as we were holidaying in the area already.
The Castle's main entrance is accessed from within the town centre, unusually, and a beautiful little town it is too: It's pronounced 'Annick' and there are plenty of shops and little restaurants to keep visitors busy, in addition to the Castle.
It's now famous as it was used as a location for the Harry Potter films, and if you've seen them you will be thrilled to recognise some of the settings once you are inside the grounds. Apparently it was also used in Blackadder and various other films, but that seems to pale into insignificance compared to the boy wizard :)
A family ticket is currently around £30.00, a little bit steep, but you can see where the money goes: The grounds and Castle are immaculately kept, beautifully landscaped and spotlessly clean.
There is food available from a lovely cafe, where you can choose to sit indoors or outdoors under sunshades, and the snacks are high quality - this is reflected in the price though.
Activities are laid on throughout the season, with dressing-up for children and mock jousts etc. There are regularly displays such as falconry too.
Access is allowed to part of the Castle, and on display inside are historical treasures and exhibits relating to the Castle's history, and the views from up on the ramparts are far-reaching and stunning.
We had intended to do this first part of the tour as I have described above, then go on to the famous Alnwick Castle Gardens: However, by the time we got to the Gardens entrance, it was nearly closing time, and we hadn't realised that you pay to enter the Gardens seperately, which would have almost doubled the cost:
As it was , we didn't have time, but I'm not sure that we would have paid this to be honest. We were looking forward to seeing the huge treehouse in there, but didn't feel the extra price was justified.
It's open daily from 1st April, 10.00 am till 5.00 pm, throughout the season until the last day of October. Overall, it's a good day out with plenty to see, but only if you're already in that area.
It's great to have lots of things to do in the holidays. It's the summer and parents all over the UK are having to find stuff for their little darlings (or devils) to do. So if you are in the Scottish Borders or Northumberland at all in the Summer Holidays then this really is the place for you.
History Behind Alnwick Castle
Alnwick castle is one of the biggest castles, that is lived in, in England. The first parts of the castle was built in 1096 making some of the castle more than 900 years old. It was originally designed to stop enemies getting to Alnwick and behond. Also to house the Baron of Alnwick safely. So the castle had to have strong defences of course, so over the next hundred years built more castle and exceptionally strong walls against enemies.
It was over taken by William The Lion (King Of Scotland) however with huge numbers lost. The castle was damaged but William resided there, until he was overthrown and taken prisoner. 100 years later in the 14th century Lord Percy takes Alnwick castle as his own and begins restoring it to live in, and give better defences. Over the next 100 years the castle and county is affected by the plague which kills almost a third of people in Europe. Alnwick did not miss out with around 300 killed.
Back to the battles, Scots had taken Berwick Castle and Lord Percy, now Earl of Northumberland had to do something. So he decided to go up to Alnwick and kill every Scot (As a Scot I find this very sad...) So Scotland got it's revenge by burning down a lot of Alnwick.
The bloody history of Alnwick continues as the 7th and 8th Earls of Northumberland are beheaded for Catholic beliefs and the other sent to tower of London. Lovely...
The 9th Earl is the one I find most interesting however. He had the nickname "Wizard Earl" because he loved making potions and science. He was interested in many 'magic' attibutes including Astonomy, Plants (Botany) and using unusual 'spells' to do things. He was not interested in running Alnwick castle, so left it to a cousin, who was then involved in the Guy Falkes bombing of parliament plot. Oh dear...
After lots of family problems, the castle became inhabited for 100 years as it was just in such decay. It was restored eventually and the Earls, now changed their title to Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. No more battles, the bloody decades had ended and civilisation took over. The 3rd duchess of Northumberland became the governess of Queen Victoria where she taught her and her siblings everything.
In the 20th century the castle played a huge part in both world wars. It became an emergency college for teachers and nurses, as there was a sever shortage. It played host to many women who used the land for the war effort. It was a vital factor in the Northumberland war effort.
In 1950 it was opened to the public and was very successful. It has not changed, and still has original features all over. It has been used to film such movies as Elizabeth, and most famously the 1st Harry Potter film.
After deciding to go there we had to figure out how to get there. I have been to Alnwick around 4 times and live around 40 miles away. So after putting all the family on side to go to a day trip there we headed off. We came from the Edinburgh road and followed the A1 to Alnwick. It was very easy to follow signs and we just followed and we were in Alnwick in no time.
When you get there, you can't really miss it. We followed a sign and it took us through the town centre which took a while to get through. You then head towards the car park which was full to the brim with cars. So had to wait around 5 minutes and we eventully got a space. Parking there costs just £3 for the whole day which is a fantastic price, as it costs that to get around 2 hours in a city. You then walk in through the gates and there you are. The castle is so high you can see it from all over Alnwick.
Price To Get In
After getting there you head to a lovely red box to pay for your ticket in. I was with my parents and brother plus two other friends. You can buy a day pass, week pass or season pass. As were were only there for the day we chose day pass.
Concession (Student, OAP, Carer etc) - £9.00
Child (Under 15) - £4.50 (Children under 5 go free!)
I found this quite pricey to get in. I got a concession as I am over 15 but am a student so just showed my pass and got in. It ended up costing £43.50 to get in!!! For 2 adults, a concession and three under 15's. It is quite a lot of money but you get to browse the castle and grounds all day. I would have expected it to be a bit cheaper and did find it a bit pricey. Weekly passes cost more at around £15.00 for adult and season at £22.50.
I saw someone use a season pass, they just walk there dog on the grounds which I thought was a good idea. You get unlimited use of the castle and grounds so a good idea for more local people.
Getting Started On Browse
We bought a map for £2 which was very detailed and helpful. We headed off on a direct path to the castle and was amazed by the view and vast size of the actual castle. There were lots of other tourists of all different nationalities, getting their photos taken next to the castle and in the grounds. When you eventually reach the huge doors of the castle you get asked to for your ticket. You are informed you will be asked for your ticket when you enter the state rooms. Never found out why? But anyway continued straight in and figured out what to see first. Everything is easily sign posted and even so, you are left gawping at the sheer size of the castle and what it may have looked like hundreds of years ago.
We decided to try out the State Rooms first. These are the public rooms of the house which is still lived in by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. Obviously they don't include bedrooms or private rooms but it does give an excellent insight into what a traditional grand county house is like. You first of enter a exceptionally grand sitting room with beautiful ornaments. As you tour around these bright grand rooms, you get to see some magnificent objects and paintings. There is a mirror I was very fond of about 15ft tall. All my mum could say was how long would it take to clean?
Anyway you get to the dinning room which has played host to the queen and many other royal guests. The amount of knifes and forks are amazing, and i'm just talking about around one plate! The table is so long, it is an amazing site into how royal eat and dine. You go though a drawing room which has amazing paintings of past owners of the castle. Then to my favourite room, the library. I couldn't stop aweing at the amount of books and trophies. A great site to see reminded me of Hogwarts a lot.
We headed off to a kids section called Knights Quest (or Dragons) as it was recommended in the leaflet and map to try it out. We walked past the gift shop and restraunt, which looked really good. We got there and were amazed to find you could just run in and give everything a try. We first started out with a mirror illusion, where you stuck you head through a box and looked like you were a floating head.
Very funny and got a lot of great pictures from it.
We then had many various activities which included dressing up in some fantastic costumes (even I did), fighting knights, being scared by a guy on the toilet (have to see it to believe it), seeing a dragon and much more amazing things.
We were in there for around an hour trying different things. There was so much to do for anyone of any age. All around were children and adults laughing, and it really was good fun. Also it is in the courtyard were Harry Potter let Hedwig go in the snow, making it that extra bit special! An excellent part to the castle and really good fun.
We walked out and headed directly into Dragons quest. We hadn't got what we bargained for when we went in. You start off going through a door and you are immediately looking at hundreds of light up (fairly realistic) skulls. You walk in and I ended up screaming as a skelton jolted unexpectantly. That was really funny! We continued where we went through a tunnel of skulls then at the end, another innocent looking skelton jumped at us! I must have jumped 100 feet in the air! So we continued and got to a huge monster in a cage. We went in and touched it and as soon as we did it started to laugh loudly (making me jump yet again another 300 feet) and it was actually a very nice monster, who said sorry for scarring us. We then headed out extremely quickly but that was really excellent fun!
After all the running about (and screaming!) of Knights and Dragons quest we were hungry. It was after lunchtime so decided to go to the restraunt which was right next door, only a couple of steps basically, You could choose if you would like to go to the cafe or the main restraunt. We were hungry so headed towards restraunt. We got lovely seats up the top so had a a great view. The rooms were done in a medival theme with swords and dragons everywhere. It was all good fun.
We did however have to wait around 15 minutes to order but it was a busy time and we were kept amused by the surroundings. The menus were great, there was an excellent selection for children (especially picky ones) and for adults. I had a Burger with salad as a treat. The waiter was very helpful and even gave us a wee smile which was nice.
After around 10 minutes our food was on the table, which was very quick and I was very impressed. The food was very good, not Gordon Ramsay obviously but great finger food to have as a treat. Really filled us up and paid a very good price at around £5 per head including drinks.
Even though we hadn't see the grounds yet we went into the gift shop which is right next door to knights quest. On entering you are confronted with hundreds of weird and wonderful gifts. I saw in the left hand corner of the long shop, a huge Harry Potter display selling everything from scarves to collectables. Other parts of the shop include everything from wizarding equipement (wands, spell books, potions etc) Then fairies which are lovely to look at but quite pricey. Then young girls things like unicorns, magic bags and pink wands. For boys there are knights toys including soft swords, armour, bows and arrows and much more.
They have a selection of printed gifts saying "Alnwick Castle" on pens, bouncy balls etc. There really is a fantastic selection of gifts and something for everyone. The prices are reasonable but like any other gift shop it could be a little less expensive but the items we got were good quality. I ended up getting a Harry Potter badge, some pens and a quill (which I love!) which all came to under £5 which was very good.
After we left the gift shop we started to explore the grounds. This mattered a wee bit more to me most as this is the Harry Potter theme of the trip. We thought we should get a tour however the last one had left 10 minutes before so decided to do our own thing. We left part of the castle and was surrounded by castle walls and the next part of the castle infront of us. We walked around and was amazed at everything. We headed into the Constables tower which had steep steps to get up and fairly high up. There we saw men (plastic) dressed up in war ware and you got to see what they would have had to do. There one was guy we sat beside on a window, who was spying in case of a secret enemy attack. Really interesting and actually educational at the same time.
We kept heading a long and went into another tower which had lots of archaelogical finds in it. It was amazing to look at all the real old swords, armour, pots etc they had found and dug up from different areas of the castle. It gave good information, and not to much so enough for children to look at.
We continued along the walls and got to someone doing archery. 2 of the kids we were with were from the city and had never had a go at it before so we thought why not. I didn't give it a try as I had done it at school, so didn't fancy it. We did have to pay £2 for it per person which was a little annoying but the instructor was very good and calm. They seemed to really enjoy it and it was open to everyone over 8 years. An excellent experience and good fun to watch. No one from our group got a bulls eye however.
Harry Potter Grounds
We had reached the end of the wall so headed through the smaller doors (still around 15ft high) and into another courtyard. This was plesently familiar. It had been used in the filming of the first and second Harry Potter movies. It was great to see and there was a huge board were it had "Your First Flying Lesson" which made us realise we were standing in the exact spot were Harry and his friends had filmed the first time they had been on a broomstick. It was a pretty cool feeling thinking you are standing in the footsteps of your favourite actors (in my case!) and we took lots of photos.
We followed the grounds and were able to figure out were each scene was filmed (making it more of a game, an idea for kids) which was great. We saw the very statue where Neville had got his cloak stuck when his broom went haywire. Also were Harry and Wood stood and explained about quiddich. Amazing for a die-hard Harry Potter fan like myself. Amazing site to see for any fan.
We had spent a good 4 and a half hours there and after getting there at 11 o'clock it was not half three. We had to go as we needed to be home for 5 to get our friends home. It was very easy to go, you can just walk off when you are done. So we walked back along the exceptionally long path and looking back at the sheer size of the building. We were able to find our car easily and get through Alnwick quickly (even at almost 4 o'clock) which was good. We could still see the castle for a while, along the road!
What's Right With It
First off, in the summer holidays it is something to do for children which they will love (Especially if Harry Potter fans) and something that is as much for kids as it is adults. I loved the castle and found it very interesting and fascinating to look around. It is quite a magical castle (traditionally it has hosted REAL WIZARDS there) which makes it that little bit different. I could see all around smaller children amazed at the magic and girls marvelling at the unicorn statues, etc.
The childrens exhibits are exceptional and so much fun for everyone. I can't stress enough how much of a family attraction it is, and really seems to bring the family more toghether. Also there are many kids running about so making them tired... so they sleep!
The castle is very clean and in excellent condition. If you like looking around then I would recommend the state rooms which are outstanding and very interesting to look at all the items. Everything is right about the castle- Location, history, exhibits, fun-ness and so much more. Excellent castle overall.
What's Wrong With It
Two things I would say about the castle. First it is a little pricey to go. To get in is quite a lot of money, and then you have the gift shop and restaraunt. They are just a little more pricey then they could be (£1.20 for a pencil for example) and could do to be just a wee bit cheaper. Another thing I noticed was the the amount of toilets avalible. They are quite far apart and since the castle is quite big it is a little difficult if you are in the middle of the castle. There are ones at the restraunt and ones at the other side of the castle. But they were in excellent condition however.
I've tried to stress that this is an excellent castle to visit if you are visiting the area or, like me from the area but have never been. If you don't have kids it is still excellent fun but children will adore it and talk about it for weeks. I found it fun and i'm 16! The castle is an excellent attraction and it is a great day out for all. Would recommend to anyone who is in area and please make a visit if you can as you won't regret it.
In the northernmost reaches of England lies the beautiful county of Northumberland and at its heart, standing on the banks of the River Aln, is the bustling small town of Alnwick (pronounced "Annick"). The town's crowning glory is the castle, home of the Duke of Northumberland, whose family, the Percys, have lived there since 1309. The castle, described by the Victorians as "the Windsor of the North", is now a marvellous mix of the old and the new. History A castle of some kind has stood on the site since the 11th century when William the Conqueror's standard-bearer, Norman Gilbert Tyson, acquired the land and built an earth and timber fortification. However, nothing of this original building survived. In 1093, Robert Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, killed the king of Scotland, Malcolm Canmore, less than a mile away from the castle and the Scottish army was pushed back northwards. Two years later, Tyson joined Mowbray's unsuccessful rebellion against William Rufus, King of England, and his land and castle were taken from him. Ownership of Alnwick passed to Yvo de Vescy the following year, and Vescy started the first building program at the site. Descendants of Yvo de Vescy retained ownership of the Castle until 1297; however the loyalties of the Vescy family fluctuated between the Kings of England and Scotland ensuring Alnwick Castle remained the focal point of ongoing conflict between Scotland and England, which culminated in the unsuccessful attack in 1297 by William "Braveheart" Wallace. In the same year, William de Vescy died leaving no legitimate heir, and the castle was placed in the care of the Bishop of Durham. In 1309, the bishop sold the castle and accompanying estates to Henry Percy. Alnwick Castle now passed into its most notorious, and dramatic, period. The Percy family were one of the most powerful in England and their legacy has been chronicled by many including William S
hakespeare, (Harry Hotspur, son of Henry fourth Lord Percy of Northumberland was made famous in Shakespeare's Henry IV). Their history is one of tumult and intrigue, conflict with the monarchy and with the Scots, the first Lord Percy led a revolt against King Edward II resulting in the loss of all his possessions, which he later regained. In 1314 Percy fought with the king at Bannockburn, was taken prisoner, and then ransomed back by the English. As owner of Alnwick Castle, Henry Percy made extensive repairs to the structure and modified its design, much of which remains in fine condition to this day. The descendants of the first Lord Percy continued to try and bring down the English monarchy and the castle continued to be an important fortification and strengthened over the ensuing centuries; however from the mid-17th century until the mid-18th century, the Earls of Northumberland abandoned their castle at Alnwick, and it became severely decayed. Sir Hugh Smithson became the first Duke of Northumberland in 1766, and was responsible for the castle's restoration and the introduction of the fantastic interiors. From then onward, the Northumberlands made their mark in the courts of their monarchs and the affairs of the nation. The Dukes of Northumberland continued to maintain the grandeur of their castle as well as extend the exteriors and in the mid 19th century, the fourth Duke, Algernon, carried out a new restoration, and it is the result of this work that is now visible as the castle. Having traced my family history back to this date I find an ancestor of mine, Alan Bell, master stonemason of the Parish of Alnwick, was employed on this work. The Castle in the 21st Century Today, Alnwick Castle is an impressive stately home, and relics of its initial military origins are clearly visible in the basic design, battlements, and massive fortitude of the structure. Having survived many battles it now peacefully dominates the pic
turesque market town. Gazing at the stern, medieval exterior you are given no warning of what lies within the walls, the interior is a wonderful house and also an obviously well loved home. As you wander around the many area open to the public you come across rooms that are simply awesome, furnished in palatial Italian Renaissance style. There are magnificent paintings by Titian, Van Dyck and Canaletto, fine furniture and an exquisite collection of china, in effect something to take your breath away in every room. Some outstanding features to look for include the beautiful Grand Staircase, lined with marble and embellished with a vaulted ceiling and stucco-work; the Guard Chamber, with its gilded furniture and ceiling panels, mosaic flooring, marble statues, and other fine artwork; the stunning Library, with an even grander panelled, gilt ceiling, double-tiered bookcases, and impressive fireplace; the lovely Music Room, decorated in hues of gold, and an intricately carved panelled ceiling covered with gold, fine fireplace, and gilt furniture; the incredible Red Drawing Room, which dazzles the beholder, containing wonderfully gilded panelled ceilings and another remarkable fireplace, this time flanked with ebony cabinets and intricate gilding; and the grand Dining Room, once the site of the medieval banqueting hall, a bit subdued in comparison to the previous rooms, although there is a finely carved wooden ceiling, another impressive fireplace, and other exquisite examples of sumptuous living. Other attractions within the castle walls include the Percy state coach, which I sat in many times as a child although you were not allowed to, but my father's friend was the castle caretaker so rules were flaunted, the dungeon, which even now after many visits gives me an uncomfortable eerie feeling when I enter, the gun terrace and the grounds that offer peaceful walks and superb views over the surrounding countryside. Capability Bro
wn originally designed the tranquil garden, and today the upkeep is lovingly overseen by the Duchess of Northumberland, who is restoring the twelve acre walled garden to its former glory. The Duchess started the project in 1996 and the first stage is now complete; the garden reflects the glory and spirit of earlier gardens on the site but it is not a recreation of the past it is a garden that uses 21st century state of the art technology and is a place of beauty and learning relevant to future generations as well as our own. The Regimental Museum of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers is housed in the Abbot's Tower of the Castle, the Postern Tower contains an archaeological museum and the Constable's Tower has exhibitions on the Percy Tenantry Volunteers 1798-1814. The castle has been impressively restored and is maintained in outstanding condition both inside and out. The vision is simply dazzling, battlements adorned with life-sized stone sentinels who still dare unwelcome access, interiors teeming with vitality. Not only is Alnwick Castle an architectural masterpiece, the fortress also belies the active, influential history of its owners. There are many thousands of people who have experienced the splendour of Alnwick Castle, although they might not realize it, because it is an extremely popular site for film and TV location work; some of the many films that have used the castle are: Becket starring Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton, Mary Queen of Scots starring Vanessa Redgrave, Ivanhoe starring Anthony Andrews and Sam Neill, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner, and recently it has become known as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in both Harry Potter and the Philsopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Some of the television productions filmed on location at Alnwick are: Robin of Sherwood starring Michael Praed in the first series and Jason Connery in the se
cond, Blackadder I with Rowan Atkinson, Dracula with Louis Jordan and Frank Finlay, Festival Films, Newcastle upon Tyne - several shoots within the Catherine Cookson series. Useful Information Open Daily 1 April to 31 October 2003, 11am to 5pm (Last admission 4.15pm) Tearoom and Gift Shop open from 10am Admission Prices: (Castle and Garden joint prices in brackets.) Adult - £7.50 (£10) Concession (e.g. student, pensioner) - £6.50 (£9) Child (aged 16 years and under) - free with accompanying adult Discounts for pre-booked groups of 14+ persons: Adult - £6.50 (£9) Concession - £6.00 (£8) School groups - £1.20 per pupil (£2) Free car and coach parking. Baby changing facilities The castle is not fully accessible to wheelchair uses however there are accessible toilets. Location and Directions: Alnwick Castle is on the outskirts of Alnwick town, 35 miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne, and 30 miles south of Berwick upon Tweed and the Scottish Border. The Castle is just over a mile from the main A1 road, which goes from London (300 miles) to Edinburgh (80 miles). Newcastle International airport is 35 miles from Alnwick. There are rail services from London King's Cross, Newcastle and Edinburgh, which stop at Alnmouth (5 miles from Alnwick), the 518 bus to Alnwick leaves Alnmouth Station at 23 minutes past the hour from 09.23 until 22.23. The 505 bus service from Newcastle Haymarket stops at Alnwick. The Castle is two minutes walk from the bus station. Contact: Estates Office, Alnwick Castle, Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1NQ Tel: 00 44 (0) 1665 510777 Mon - Fri. Tel: 00 44 (0) 1665 511100 24 hour information line
Alnwick Castle is known as the "Windsor of the north". It is situated in the county of Northumberland (my adopted county) and is the county's largest inhabited castle. Home to the Duke of Northumberland; his family, The Percy's have lived there since 1309. It's a magnificent border fortress and dates back to the 11th century, having been built after the Norman Conquest. The castle has survived many battles, but now peacefully dominates the picturesque market town of Alnwick (pronounced Annick).
The castle's landscaped gardens were designed by Northumbrian Capability Brown and are well worth a visit. During the last year however, the grounds and gardens have been undergoing a major make over. The project is being supervised by none other than our own Charlie Dimmock and will feature the biggest water feature in the country. Current visitors can see Charlie at work. The project is scheduled to open in six months time, meanwhile visitors can watch the progress.
Inside the castle you will find it furnished in palatial Renaissance style, with paintings by van Dyke, Titian and Canaletto. Other attractions include the Percy stagecoach, the dungeon and the gun terrace. Younger visitors will be interested to know that several scenes from the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone were shot here, however they won't find any moving staircases!
As with all castles, Alnwick provides excellent views over the town and surrounding countryside. It is said that on a clear day you can see no less than seven castles.
Open to the public from Easter to late October, if you venture into Northumberland - a visit to the castle is a must.