Last weekend we decided to make the most of the sunny Bank Holiday weather and head up to Alnwick in Northumberland for a day out.
I’ve wanted to visit Alnwick Castle and Gardens for ages, but have always been deterred by the long drive – it’s just under two hours from where we live and the journey includes a stretch of the A1 that is always plagued by road works.
Still, traffic aside, once you pass Newcastle it’s a lovely drive through some wonderfully picturesque scenery.
Alnwick is a small market town, not too far from the border with Scotland. One of its most famous attractions is the castle, which has been used as a filming location in countless TV series and films, including the first two Harry Potter movies and Downton Abbey.
There has been a castle on the site for 1,000 years and today it is home to the Percy family, or the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.
Alnwick Gardens sits beside the castle and was originally created in 1750. It’s been extensively renovated in recent years and has become a popular attraction in its own right.
We arrived about 11am and joined the stream of people entering the site. Unfortunately we chose to visit on what must have been one of the busiest days of the year – not helped by the Star Wars themed children’s event taking place all day in the gardens. We spent much of the day surrounded by screaming kids brandishing toy light sabres and mini Darth Vader costumes, which meant we didn’t quite get to appreciate the tranquillity of the gardens.
If you’re planning a visit, I’d recommend choosing a less busy time; the gardens would be incredibly peaceful without so many other people around. Still, we got to hear the Star Wars theme music played by a brass band, which was a different experience!
Unfortunately, there was also a long queue for tickets into both attractions; I think we queued for about half an hour, which was a bit frustrating. Next time, I would consider buying my tickets online beforehand to avoid the long line.
Tickets for the castle and gardens are quite expensive as you pay separately for each attraction, with a small discount for purchasing both together. It was over £50 for two adults and it did feel a bit much. Plus there is an additional charge to park in the attraction’s car park, which I hadn’t anticipated.
But there are season tickets available and our entrance fee for the castle included the option of a year’s unlimited pass, so it’s worth it if you plan on returning.
There is plenty there for families, with a fun Knight’s Quest area in the castle that allows kids to dress up and play at being a hero.
After wandering round the state rooms and the museum exhibits, we headed out of the castle and into Alnwick for a bite to eat, before returning to visit the gardens.
There are some truly stunning features in the garden, which includes an enormous cascading fountain, a Poison Garden and a maze. Plus there is a giant treehouse, which is used as a restaurant and can be hired for events and weddings.
It would certainly be a beautiful place to get married, with fairy lights strung up everywhere and a gorgeous view.
I’m sure we’ll head back for another visit to the castle, but next time we’ll choose a quieter day!