England – Castles of the North East: Alnwick

Alnwick is not the kind of castle that makes you imagine banquets and princesses. It’s the type that will make you think of brave knights and epic battles. And for some, of course, Harry Potter, as this was one of the location where the famous series was filmed.

Located less than an hour’s drive away from Newcastle upon Tyne, Alnwick can be easily accessed by car, or if you’re patient, by bus. The village itself is an excellent example of rural England and a pleasant place to spend an afternoon, but the castle itself is a must-see.

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The great thing about Alnwick is that while there are several guided tours at the castle, as well as many distinct attractions for people of all ages (broomstick training is always a hit!), you can explore the grounds on your own pace and hand pick what interest you the most. There is no right or wrong way of going about your visit.

Alnwick naturally attracts fans of film and TV alike, and has tours and displays dedicated to the various pieces it served as a filming location for. The most widely known, of course, is Harry Potter, and many wizarding world enthusiasts still come to Alnwick to see how it transformed into the legendary Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But Alnwick has also been the scene of the 2014 Downton Abbey Christmas special, and currently showcases a Downton Abbey themed exhibit complete with costumes and set props.

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You can also take an hour-long tour on the castle’s history, or pop into the many towers and baileys for small themed historical displays. If you are visiting with children, they are bound to enjoy the opportunity to dress up and participate in a dragon quest. Or just wander around and let the castle surprise you.

One place that should not be missed are the state rooms. This is a collection of lavish dining room, library and other entertaining spaces connected to the Percy family, the dukes of Northumberland who have resided at the castle since the 14th century. The family still uses Alnwick as their winter residence, so make sure to visit between the beginning of April until the end of October, otherwise you’ll only be able to visit the Alnwick gardens.

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Speaking of which, the gardens are a wonderful spot to wander around on a sunny day. A particular point of interest is the poison garden – visit at your own risk!

A part of the castle gardens that you can visit at no cost is the Tree House – aside from being able to sit down here for a meal, running around its bridges is sure to awaken your inner child (or please your actual children, if you are here on a family trip). But to explore the castle properly, you’ll obviously be needing a ticket.

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If you book online, you can get a castle ticket for £14 and a garden ticket for £11.50, but I’d recommend the joint castle and garden ticket for £23.85. If you do only have time or money for one of the two, go for the castle. You can actually make the ticket an annual one at no additional charge, so the Alnwick Castle can easily become your regular weekend hangout if you’re in the North East of England.

For more information and tikckets, visit the castle website.

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