As a huge Harry Potter fan, Alnwick Castle was one of the first items on Judi’s list of places to visit. Located on the south bank of the River Aln, it is the 2nd largest inhabited castle in U.K. after Windsor Castle. However, it is more than the stately home of the 12th Duke of Northumberland – Ralph Percy, as aficionados of the “Big Screen” and TV Documentaries will recognise it from numerous productions. The castle was used as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films, Downtown Abbey 2014 Christmas Special and the final episode in 2015, and many other productions dating back to 1964. Click here to view the list.
After the short drive from our B&B in Boulmer Village, we decided to have a drive around town, before visiting the castle. Alnwick is a traditional old market town, dating back to about 600 AD. Therefore, downtown is a maze of narrow, basically single lane streets and a couple of narrow arches dating back to the original city wall. We really enjoyed crawling through the town centre, in bumper to bumper traffic, as it provided time to actually check out the surroundings. However, if you are in a hurry, avoid it completely. Around the town, parking is very much at a premium and we found nowhere remotely close to the castle.
The official parking lot for both the Castle & Gardens is located on the B1340 (Denwick to Alnwick road). Disabled parking is available on the Castle side of the road, but all others must park in the lots on the other side of the road. Lots of signage is posted. A pedestrian light is provided for safe access across the busy B1340.
At the far right of the parking lot, when heading to the castle and gardens is the Treehouse Restaurant, a multiple level structure within the trees, with restaurant, rope bridges, etc. I planned to take a photo on return to the car, but the rain expedited our transit directly to the parking lot, hence the above photo is courtesy of Tripadvisor.
Alnwick Gardens Pond
The walk from the parking lot to ticket office is about 5 to 10 minutes and passes the above pond. At the ticket office, you have the option of visiting the castle, the gardens or both attractions. Being a dull and overcast day, with rain forecast in the afternoon, we opted just to visit the castle, which was one of the top items on Judi’s list.
From the ticket office, it was a further 5 to 10 min walk to the castle entrance, at Lion Arch.
Alnwick Castle approaching from gardens/parking lot
At the ticket office they provide a small brochure which folds out to provide a map of the castle and the location of the attractions.
The entrance, or Lion Arch is located on the lower right corner of the map. Walking through the covered walkway, they post the daily activities and schedule, so you can plan your visit.
We headed straight to the State Rooms, which are in the centre of the castle and built around a small courtyard. The public is permitted access to the ground floor and the first floor. I believe the top floor must be the Duke and family residences. Click here to check out some of the current Duke’s ancestors who developed the castle over the past 950 years.
Entrance to the State Room’s Courtyard
Once you clear the castle entrance or Lion Arch, it is a short walk towards the twin tower entrance to the State Room’s courtyard.
State Room Courtyard panorama
Entrance to the State Rooms
NO photography is permitted, with or without flash, in any of the state rooms, so my camera was turned off, with lens cap on for the duration. While some photographs have been posted online, I will not re-post them. Please click here to view and enjoy some photographs from the castle website.
Entering the State Rooms, takes you into the Guard Room, where all 4 walls are adorned with a huge display of weapons – swords, pistols, knives, armour, etc. Proceeding up the Grand Staircase, you enter the Upper Guard Chamber, with its marble mosaic floor, statues of Britannia and Justice, and the very detailed plaster work ceiling. From the Upper Guard Chamber you can visit the chapel, which was a fairly recent addition to the castle, and then start the tour through the many rooms. I found the library most impressive, with almost 15,000 books, of many varied subjects. Each successive Duke had different interests and purchased books pertaining to their respective interests.
Click here to view photographs from the castle website.
The exit from the State Rooms takes you through the staff quarters, which as expected, are significantly spartan compared to the opulence previously visited.
Clock Tower entrance to Gift Shop & Cafe
Outer Bailey walk from State Room’s exit the gift shop/cafe courtyard
Departing the State Rooms, Judi stayed dry, while I headed over to the Ramparts Walk, where they have a couple of small museums and you can climb up the stairs to walk along the north Rampart.
View of River Aln from the Ramparts Walk
Picking up Judi, we headed across the Outer Bailey towards the clock tower and gift shop/cafe courtyard. Judi, of-course had to wander through the gift shop, which has a selection of grossly over-priced Harry Potter stuff and other touristy items. Needless to say, the price point and lack of value did not appeal to my heritage. We then headed to the cafe for a pot of tea and scone. Most enjoyable.
Duke’s Family Carriage
This carriage is displayed in the GiftShop/Cafe Courtyard and was recently restored for their daughter’s wedding. We then continued around the Outer Bailey to visit the Fusiliers Museum in the far corner of the ramparts. Entrance is free, with donation boxes available to make a voluntary contribution. It is small and very informative museum that covers 3 floors. Note – access to both upper floors is only via fairly steep circular stairs.
Due to the now constant drizzle, Judi headed back to cover, while I completed the circuit around the castle for a few photos.
West side of State Rooms from Library Tower to State Rooms Exit
Chapel, added more recently
Tall narrow windows are location of the library
Outer Bailey looking at the State Rooms Complex
North face of State Rooms facing the River Aln
Gun terrace facing North to repel attacks from the Scots
View from the gun terrace towards River Aln
A most enjoyable visit and, if a pleasant day, a visit and stroll around the gardens would have been a great ending to the day. However, the constant drizzle, slowly turning to rain dictated we head directly back to the car.