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Review: Alnwick

City/Town/Region/Island

Alnwick, United Kingdom

A beautiful small town with lots to offer!

  • By SilverTraveller PamWNorth

    154 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • 2014
  • Husband

69 people found this review helpful

Alnwick, a little town in North Northumberland is one of my favourite places to visit because of its beauty, history range of attractions and wide open spaces.

The town is easily accessible and well signposted from the A1. It is surrounded by rolling countryside, the Simonside Hills, The Cheviot hills – a Walkers paradise!. Nearby are unspoilt beaches on a beautiful coastline dotted with spectacular castles.

Alnwick was once an important staging post between Berwick Upon Tweed in the north and Newcastle Upon Tyne in the south. Today it is a thriving market town with its ancient history retained in its well preserved ancient buildings, its narrow alleys, cobbles and beautiful market place. It has many specialist shops and a variety of attractions of which many are in close proximity to one another making visiting them easy.

Driving into Alnwick from the North, the approach takes you through beautiful countryside. You will drive over the Lion Bridge, which was commissioned by the 1st Duke of Northumberland to replace an earlier bridge destroyed in a flood in the 1770s. Its design is 18th century Gothic "Castle Style" A large statue of the Percy Lion stands on the east parapet. Once over the bridge you will immediately see the magnificent Alnwick Castle.

The large, imposing Alnwick Castle is home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland and is one of the largest inhabited castles in the UK. It recent claim to fame was for its part in the filming of Harry Potter. It is open to the public and a visit is a must!. There are grand staterooms to see , cellars, re- inactments to watch, grounds to walk around, Allow half a day to see everything – there are lots to see!.

Beside Alnwick Castle is The Alnwick Garden, one of Europe’s newest gardens. It was once waste land, but the Duchess of Northumberland designed a rather unusual garden which today attracts visitors from around the world.

There are extensive grounds with many unusual plants. Water features predominately throughout the garden with the Grand Cascade spilling over 7260 gallons of water a minute. The garden provides plenty of seating so you can relax and enjoy the views. There is also a spacious gift shop, cafes and a rather special Treehouse restaurant known as one of the world’s largest walkways in the sky. The Treehouse is a rather magical place, fairy lights line the walkway to the restaurant which has handcrafted wooden furniture, a log fire and delicious food created using local produce. Allow half a day to visit The Alnwick Garden, but it is easy to spend longer there!.

Footsteps away, across the road, almost opposite the castle is The Baliffgate Museum which gives an interesting insight into the history of Alnwick, its surrounding area, its people, their cultures and lifestyles.

A little further along Baliffgate is St Michael’s Church, a 15th century Anglican church known as one of Northumberland’s architectural gems.

A short walk away is the town centre, walk along Narrowgate and you will pass Ye Old Cross public house, looking through the window is difficult, it is rather dirty, this is because it hasn’t had the inside of the window cleaned for 200 years!. However, you will be able to see in the window display area between the wooden shutters and the glass, a host of bottles from a bygone age – the bottles are as dirty as the window – in fact, the building is known locally as "The Dirty Bottles". Over 200 years ago the Innkeeper died suddenly when moving the bottles. His widow declared that anyone who touched the bottles would suffer the same fate, so for 200 years+ they have remained unmoved!

The town has a beautiful market place and thriving weekly market. The town has a host of cafés and restaurants many of which I have visited and they offer good food without exorbitant prices. The White Swan Hotel (which also offers accommodation) a 300 year old former coaching Inn, offers a rather special afternoon tea.

There are smaller galleries and museums in the town centre such as The Bakehouse Gallery which displays exhibitions from local artists and designers housed in what was once the town bakery

For theatre lovers there is the Playhouse Theatre, Shoppers have a choice of small specialist shops or larger chain stores. For the more active The Willowburn Leisure centre offers a range of sports activities and a 25 metre pool.

Barter Books is well worth a visit. Known as England’s largest second hand bookstore, it is situated in what was once an elegant railway station. The Railway station was built to an exceptionally high standard for a small town because Alnwick is the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland. The Station was closed in the 1960’s but the building has been lovingly restored. It houses over 350,000 books in what was once seven station rooms. The entrance is through the original ticket office from which you enter a comfortable reading area – with armchairs, a log fire, an a tea trolley with tea, coffee, soft drinks and an honesty box. For those wanting more than biscuits there is The Station Buffet serving meals. The Station Buffet is housed on what was once the station platform.

On the outskirts of Alnwick is Lionheart Station and visitor centre,which is part of a development to recreate the former rail link to Alnmouth. It is still in early development but railway enthusiasts have the opportunity to see its development, history and steam trains

For Walkers there are a variety of town walks for differing abilities, details of which can be obtained from The Tourist Information Office in the Market Place, not far from the Bus Station. Hulne Park Walk is one of my favourites.

The town has a good bus service to other areas of Northumberland, The nearest railway station is Alnmouth.

Alnwick is a compact town with a lot to offer, as does the surrounding area. Spending a day here is not enough!

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