Leaving Bamburgh and its own castle behind, we travelled only a short distance the next day to get to Alnwick Castle. After getting out tickets, we walked in through the courtyard, which is the restaurant centre of the castle. We were actually pretty hungry, so we did stop for something to eat.
The necessities over and done with, we entered through the gates into the outer-bailey of the castle, where you get your first glimpse of the main tower house, which is certainly impressive. The first parts of the castle were built in 1096, but it’s first mention in writing is in 1136. The castle was actually ordered to be destroyed by King John in 1212, as the Lord of Alnwick at the time was accused of plotting against him, but fortunately for us, the orders were not carried out. From 1309, the castle and the barony of Alnwick were purchased by the Percy family, and has been owned by them since. In fact, the current Duke of Northumberland, Ralph Percy, still live in the castle, making it the second largest inhabited castle in England after Windsor Castle. When Alnwick Castle first came into this family’s hands, it was relatively modest, but rebuilding and expansion increased the castle size. The Abbot’s Tower, the Middle Gateway, and the Constable’s Tower still survive. More renovations in the 14th century, 18th century, and 19th century lead to the castle we see today.
We, of course, wanted to get into the main building of the castle, and do to so, you need to continue through to the inner bailey of the castle. Out of the 15 castles we visited in the UK, the state rooms of Alnwick Castle were the most impressive and grandest I saw. There was so much attention to detail in just every part of the room. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos inside (unsurprising since I’ve already mentioned the castle is still a private residence), which was really disappointing. All I can do is direct you to our good friend Google, and hopefully you’ll get an idea of how amazing it was.
Don’t be too surprised if you feel like you’ve seen parts of the castle before, because Alnwick Castle has been used in a lot of period movies and television series. I’ve of course made mention of the castle’s involvement in the Harry Potter movie series in a previous post, but it has also been used for filming Downtown Abbey, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Black Adder, and Robin Hood (2010). That’s impressive!
Your ticket into Alnwick Castle also gives you access to The Alnwick Garden, a short walk from the castle’s back entrance. The Garden was once maintained under the Dukes of Northumberland, but fell into disrepair. However, in 1997, under the guiding hand of Jane Percy, the wife of the current Duke, the garden was redeveloped. I didn’t know what to expect when entering, but I was instantly blown away. The first thing you notice is the garden’s massive water feature, “Grand Cascade”. As you’d expect from its name, it features several connected water fountains built downhill, and is certainly impressive. From here, the Garden seems to stretch in every direction, divided into specific sections and focuses; a giant Tree House, a Woodland Walk, a Pond, a Cherry Orchard, an Ornamental Garden, a Rose Garden, a Bamboo Labyrinth, and even a Poison Garden! I wanted to check out the Poison Garden, but it seems that you need to obtain tickets separately for the guided tour, so we were forced to skip it. However, I really loved the closed walkways surrounding the Grand Cascade, and all of the swings in the Cherry Orchard. It was the perfect place to just kick back and relax while enjoying the natural world!
We only managed a quick tour of the garden, but I would have loved to have spent an entire day there. We were due to meet friends that night, so we had to cut our entire visit short and get a move on. However, back at the castle, we did manage a brief climb up Constable Tower and a walk on the ramparts, as well as a quick bout of archery before leaving. I’m proud to say I beat my Mum 62-56, and even managed two bulls-eyes! To be fair, I have done archery a couple of times before, and this was my Mum’s first attempt, but that’s not the point!
I really wish I had longer at Alnwick Castle, because I would have liked to visit the Fusiliers Museum, Castle Museum, and the Percy Tenantry Museum, as well as spend a full day in The Alnwick Garden. However, time is something a traveller never has enough of, and it gives me a reason to return one day. Certainly a castle I’d like to go back to!