Discover a place filled with Medieval magic.
Alnwick Castle is a magical place. Well, not literally, but it served as the stand-in for Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films, and it’s also been portrayed in plenty of other movies and television shows, including Downton Abbey and Star Trek. Built after the Norman conquest in the 11th century, the iconic castle is the platonic ideal of such a structure. Imagine a castle in your mind; chances are it looks strikingly similar to what you’ll find waiting for you at Alnwick. Located just off of England’s northeastern coast, the castle is the United Kingdom’s second-largest inhabited castle—yes, the Duke of Northumberland still lives here!— and it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Fancy yourself a medieval history buff? Obsessed with the wizarding world? Interested in coming face to face with some fantastically exciting and varied plant life? Want to get married? Alnwick Castle, which is about 90 minutes south of Edinburgh and 45 minutes north of New Castle, is well worth a day-trip.
The first garden at Alnwick was laid down some-time around 1750, but over the ensuing years it steadily deteriorated. That is, until it was reopened in 2011 after the current Duchess of Northumberland undertook a massive—and massively expensive—project to redevelop the garden into its current, stunning form. The garden is built around a cascading fountain, and it features various seasonal plantings, but its main appeal is the Poison Garden, which features various potent, poisonous plants. But viewing and photos are, of course, encouraged, as the area is well-controlled and safe for visitors.
After getting your fill at the Poison Garden, your next stop should be Alnwick Garden’s 6,000-square-foot, cafe-equipped tree house. Amble across the treehouse’s various elevated walkways and bounce up the hanging rope bridges, before stopping for a coffee, a sit-down meal, or both. The Potting Shed sits atop the treehouse under a canopy of sunlit leaves and offers coffee, tea, and a variety of light snacks. Or there’s the Treehouse Restaurant, an eatery featuring twinkling lights, a roaring fireplace, a locally sourced menu, and various beers, wines, and cocktails.
While only a small portion of the castle’s more than 150 rooms are open to the public, there are a number of educational tours that guide visitors through the many accessible chambers. Check out the high-ceilinged State Rooms, with their ornate decorations, Italian Renaissance stylings, and diverse collections of fine art. The library, which contains a much-lauded collection of over 15,000 books of various vintages, is especially worth visiting. And for the Harry, Ron, and Hermoine fans out there, don’t worry: the castle also offers a tour of some of the most famous scenes from the Harry Potter films as well as other notable shows and movies filmed at Alnwick
Who doesn’t want to get married in a castle? Alnwick hosts weddings in two different venues. For indoor receptions, there’s the Guest Hall; Outdoor festivities can be reserved at the secluded Hulne Abbey. The Guest Hall holds up to 200 guests, while the Abbey stretches its capacity all the way up to 500. All of the offered catering is locally-sourced. Although Alnwick Castle doesn’t offer any accommodations, there are plenty of nearby hotels within walking distance.
Alnwick Castle turned into Brancaster Castle for two Christmas episodes of the smash-hit BBC series Downton Abbey. Much of the filming was done in the aforementioned open-to-the-public State Rooms, most notably the library, in addition to various other areas across the grounds. In fact, the Downton Abbey series finale was filmed at Alnwick, so for fans, a trip to Alnwick could double as a trip to where they last saw the Crawley family.
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