Funny thing about visiting this castle located in England, was that we did so on a trip to Scotland! It’s located in Northumberland, about 85 miles from Edinburgh versus just under 320 from London. If you’re in either city however, a very beautiful train trip will get you to Alnmouth Station, just 4 miles from the castle, from which a taxi or bus can be taken the rest of the way. It’s a great stop if you happen to be traveling from one city to the other.
The wonderful and unique thing about Alnwick Castle, is that it’s not just some old ruin or museum you can visit. It’s actually a private residence that the Percy family allows the public to visit for seven months of the year. It’s a very rare experience!
The 12th Duke of Northumberland is the current owner and resident of Alnwick Castle with his wife, the 12th Duchess of Northumberland, and their four children. Can you imagine spending your childhood growing up in a castle? I’m not talking about a house that looks like a castle – I mean a real, honest to goodness, 700 year old castle!
As you approach Alnwick Castle, there is a long walk up to the main gate, which gives you a striking and very distinctive view of the castle and the surrounding estate. It’s so distinctive in fact, that it is immediately recognizable. While my husband and I were watching (alright, the hubby was only half-watching) an episode of Downton Abbey, it was unmistakable that the estate they were visiting was Alnwick Castle. It’s funny how your husband can swear he’s not watching something, but then suddenly pop in with a “I know that place – we’ve been there!” Ok dear, you’re not watching (yeah right!)…. He used to do the same thing with Greys Anatomy, yet he somehow knew every character’s name.
Anywho…Alnwick Castle has been in a couple of episodes of Downton Abbey, the first two Harry Potter films, Elizabeth, and Robin Hood, as well as many other television appearances throughout the years. The entire list is published on their website at Alnwickcastle.com.
While open to the public, the castle hosts many events and activities that visitors can partake of during their visit. There is “broom riding” for the kids, complete with Harry Potter Hogwarts capes and hats. If you fancy a go at medieval weaponry, you can try your skill at archery, or merely watch a demonstration.
Inside the castle, visitors are welcome to tour several opulent state rooms with exquisite artwork and antiques. We found the library/study particularly interesting, if a bit unsettling, with books from floor to ceiling. It’s an odd feeling touring around someone’s residence while they’re not there, seeing family photos on the tables, as if they’d just stepped out for a moment – there was a feeling of being somewhere you’re not supposed to be – perhaps this added to the whole experience. But if you’re at all into books, viewing the library alone makes the visit to Alnwick Castle completely worthwhile.
In addition to the state rooms, there are several museums to peruse, some medieval weaponry to view, and a coach house, as well as the grounds which are immaculate and expansive. Our visit took place at the beginning of May, so we were able to catch the end blooms of a hillside of daffodils as well as the beginning of some cherry tree blooms. With grass in every shade of green, it was brilliantly beautiful.
All in all, Alnwick Castle is a one of a kind castle experience that we found absolutely delightful. Plus, it’s always fun to recognize places you’ve been in the movies or on television. And once you’ve visited Alnwick, you won’t soon forget it….