alnwick castle
Destination, Travel

Alnwick Castle & Gardens: Harry Potter, History, and More!

March 30, 2022

Even if you’ve never had the chance to hear about Alnwick Castle, you have likely been there. Harry Potter fans know it as Hogwarts in the first two movies, however in reality it’s the home of the famous Percy family. For our benefit that they are able to share their home with the population for the majority of the year.

Yes, you are able to explore the gorgeous Alnwick Castle state apartments, experience riding a broomstick just like Harry Potter, and learn more about the past of the region in the museum. In addition, the stunning Alnwick Gardens are right next to the door.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an avid Harry Potter fan, interested in the past or the gardens, or simply love castles Alnwick Castle has plenty to provide. Through this article, you’ll discover details about Alnwick Castle history, its relationship with Harry Potter, what to visit when you visit Alnwick Castle and Gardens, and how to make sure you get the best out of your trip.

About Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle (pronounced ANN-ick) was constructed shortly following the Norman Conquest and quickly became a crucial fortress on the border. The castle was bought from Henry de Percy and has been one of the family’s residences since. It is situated in Northumberland in the northeast region of England just close to the Scottish border, which is why it was at the heart of many battles between English and Scottish

Through time, Alnwick Castle has been damaged, taken over from the Crown by the King, rebuilt and renovated. Alnwick Castle is the second largest castle that is inhabited in England and the only one being Windsor Castle is larger! It is currently the principal residence to the Duke of Northumberland and his family, and a well-known filming location and one of the most popular tourist destinations within northern England.

What’s the story behind the Percy Family

If you are studying English history it is not uncommon to see the Percy family is always mentioned! Their connections with England are traceable up to William de Percy, who was one of William the Conqueror’s knights. The most well-known member could include Harry Hotspur, who was immortalized in Shakespeare’s King Henry IV (Part 1). Harry was born at Alnwick Castle.

Some other important members of the family include:

  • Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland (1421-1461) was the Lancastrian leader of the Wars of the Roses
  • Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland (1449-1489) He sided against Yorkists and was during the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1449, where Richard III was killed.
  • Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland,(1528-1572) was part of the Rising of the North against Elizabeth I. After the war, the Earl was forced to flee Scotland but was ultimately executed.
  • Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland (1564-1632) was popularly known in the title “The Wizard Earl” and jailed in the aftermath of The The Gunpowder Plot.
  • Alnwick Castle has been home to the Percy Family for more than 700 years.
  • They also have an London residence known as Syon House.
  • In the medieval period they also had residences in Warkworth Castle and Prudhoe Castle.
  • These castles are now in ruins and
  • English Heritage properties.

Alnwick Castle and Harry Potter

Harry Potter fans are affluent at Alnwick Castle as it was used as a location for filming for a few of the films. In the two first Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s stone as it was known by the US) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets It was used for scenes outside at Hogwarts. There are several Harry Potter filming locations to visit at Alnwick Castle are:

    • It’s the Outer Bailey: Madam Hooch taught the children of the beginning years. To ride a broomstick during the very first Harry Potter movie in the grassy region in The Outer Bailey. It’s also the place where Harry Potter learned the rules of Quidditch. It’s a treat to receive the broomstick lesson (more about that later) at the same place!
    • The Inner Bailey: Ron and Harry crashed their car that was flying Ford Anglia car into the Whomping Willow.
    • Main Courtyard pupils are seen walking through and out of Alnwick Castle a few times for instance the time that Harry and Ron complain about Hermione and are heading to the Potions Class of Professor Snape.
    • The Lion Arch: Harry, Ron and Hermione leave The Castle to Hagrid’s hut , and The Forbidden Forest.

Alnwick Castle is featured in Other Films/TV

Harry Potter is not the only movie to utilize Alnwick Castle’s grounds. Alnwick Castle as a set. Indeed, a variety of films and tv shows have been shot at the castle in the past 50 years. A few of the more famous films comprise Downton Abbey, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Elizabeth, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Transformers: The Last Knight.

If you’re looking to learn more about the production at Alnwick Castle, check out the “On Location” tour that is part of admission. The times vary every day, so make sure to check the chalkboard at the entrance.

There are many things to do and See in Alnwick Castle

I’m not sure if there are any other castles in the world which offer as many options to do and experience such as Alnwick Castle. Make sure you grab maps at the time you arrive to assist you navigate your way to the castle.

State Apartments

The State Apartments located at Alnwick Castle are impressive. It’s kind of to the Percy family to welcome us to their home. (When it’s open to the public, their family resides in rooms not accessible to visitors.)

It’s not common to see so numerous rooms, but every room is stunning and filled with stunning furniture and art. It’s among the most important collection of private art in England with works from Canaletto, Titian, and Van Dyck. Pay particular attention to specifics in the ceilings as well as the fireplaces. There are also some intricate wood carvings.

There’s an exhibit at the State Apartments regarding the Pedigree Roll. I found it fascinating to look at this document from the 15th century. Through research the family discovered it was believed that William de Percy arrived in England along with William the Conqueror. In the past, it was believed that to be a year later.

Once you have seen your Pedigree Roll, go back to view your China collection. There is sufficient China for a full entire army! Following you have completed the China gathering, walk into the quarters of the servants until the exit.

During peak hours (10.30 am to 2.30 pm in summer and in August) tickets with a timed expiry date are required for entry into the State Rooms. Tickets are sold at the Drawbridge when you arrive at Alnwick Castle.

Note: Photography is not permitted inside The State Apartments and they ask that you turn off your mobile phones.

Dungeon

We passed right by the dungeon first, since it’s to the left when you approach the State Apartments. The dungeon isn’t in the cell, but instead you are in a tiny room directly above and look at it from the grates.

Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland

The Fusiliers Museum is situated within one of the towers at Alnwick Castle. It’s dedicated to telling the history of this historical unit from the British Army. The admission fee to the museum is free when you visit the castle.

The museum is comprised of three floors and is filled with fascinating artifacts. I found it fascinating to read a soldier’s bible that was literally his bullet. I was awed by the number of medals displayed, which were given to the Fusiliers as well as some Victoria Crosses – Britain’s Armed Forces which is the most prestigious award given to those who have shown bravery and courage. The exhibits made me think of the costs of the war. Not just the casualties, but also the hardships of families that were separated as well as the uncertainty of whether the soldiers were safe.

Duke’s Museum (also known as The Castle Museum)

The Castle Museum was founded by the 3rd Duke of Northumberland in 1826. It is located inside the Postern Tower and has an impressive collection of archaeological treasures over two floors. It is possible to spend up to an hour or two in the museum, however we only walked through it as we wanted to be sure we had enough time to do all the other stuff.

Constable’s Tower

The Constable’s Tower is close to the Duke’s Museum and has three levels that you can visit. The lower floor is kept the way it would have been when it was in 1314. It was probably used as a storage space. The middle level is full of interesting objects collected by the various Dukes of Northumberland as well as a short film about the history of the Constable’s Tower.

On the upper floor, you will be able to learn details about Percy Tenantry members. The group was established in response to threats of an French invasion through the ports of Northumberland. From the upper level, take the right exit to the wall and walk.

Rampart’s Walk

There’s a small portion of the wall that is close to the Castle Museum that you can stroll through. I love wall walks as they provide new perspectives.

Coach House

Coach House Coach House is not marked on the map. However, you’ll see it you walk towards the Artisan’s courtyard. It’s worth a visit. On display inside are the State Coach that was recently renovated to prepare for the Duke’s oldest daughter’s wedding.

Dragon Quest

With Dragon Quest, you get the chance to track down the dragon. The kids will be fascinated by this experience. In all honesty, even as adults, we were enthralled by this theme park as well. It’s fun and can get your adrenaline pumping quite a bit!

The video begins with a short introduction that explains the idea and then you’re sent to a task. You cross an unstable bridge that is swaying over (fake) flames, and later through a maze of mirrors to reach the dragon. During the peak season it is necessary to purchase tickets for timed entry to the Dragon Quest which you can purchase at the costume shop at the Artisan’s Courtyard. These tickets are sold out.

Artisan’s Courtyard

Alongside the Dragon Quest, there are some other things to take a look at in the lively Artisan’s Courtyard. You can sign up to the broomstick course and then capture broomstick shots. They also had a few activities and a space in which you could costumed in medieval attire.

Gun Terrace

Along the gun terrace there are a number of cannons which provide a reminder of the peace was not always there here. It’s the perfect location to appreciate the view of the countryside and along with the River Aln, and the landscaping created by Lancelot Capability Brown. Capability Brown also designed the landscaping for Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth House to mention a few.

Archery

Within the Inner Bailey, there are goals set up so that you could try archery with the weather permitting. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate on the day we went to Alnwick Castle.

Alnwick Castle Tours

All through the day, there are a variety of guided tours and talks of 10 minutes included in the admission cost. The schedule changes every day, so be sure to look at the chalkboard in the entryway.

Food and drink at Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle offers three cafes to choose from including the Courtyard Cafe, the Stables Fryery and the Armoury Takeaway. There is a variety of food options, such as sandwiches, fish and chips pizza, cakes, and pizza. I was impressed by their prices. Alnwick Castle food prices.

What can you expect to see at Alnwick Gardens

I was aware that the Alnwick Gardens were big, but I wasn’t aware of the variety of things to do there were. Based on the length of time you’re planning to stay the gardens, you’ll likely have to decide which attractions you want to see. It is important to consider what is likely to be blooming when you visit. We didn’t have time for many of the tourist attractions.

Water Features

The stunning Grand Cascade fountain that greets guests right in front of the entrance is breathtaking However, it’s far from the sole water attraction found in Alnwick Gardens. Behind the hedges on your right as you arrive at Alnwick Gardens Alnwick Gardens are some interesting fountains. These are modern artworks that showcase various water effects. If it was a hot day I’d love to splash around in the water!

Poison Garden

The Poison Garden in Alnwick Gardens is full of plants that are dangerous, and some can be dangerous. Due to the serious nature of the plants in the garden the garden, visitors can only go to the Poison Garden during a guided tour. There is no schedule that is published simply walk up to the gate to the garden and they’ll inform you of the exact times.

The tour starts with the safety information, which includes instructions to not be near, eat or breathe in one of the plant species found in the Poison Garden. I’m not familiar with the plants we encountered because I don’t believe there are any in the US However, Russell discovered some frightening facts about a variety of species that he saw – Foxglove, Yew, and Giant Hogweed that were in his garden as a child!

Bamboo Labyrinth

The bamboo labyrinth resembles an open corn maze that doesn’t have any map. It was a little confusing when we went around and round, and each turn seemed to be similar, but it didn’t take long before we were able to find the exit. We enjoyed taking photos here. I’m thinking that kids would like this too.

Other Attractions in the Alnwick Gardens

As I’ve mentioned earlier I mentioned earlier, we didn’t have enough time to explore all areas in the Alnwick Gardens. In addition, certain areas were not blooming. It’s another reason for us to return. There are other things that you should check out during your visit:

  • The Ornamental Garden The Ornamental Garden Grand Cascade is the entrance to the formal garden walled.
  • The Rose Garden: Past the bamboo labyrinth lies The rose garden. The garden wasn’t in full bloom at the time we visited, but I could only imagine the beauty it could be in summer.
  • The Cherry Orchard It is located in the Alnwick Gardens are known for the cherry blossoms that bloom, but unfortunately we have did not see the blossoms. In April, you can visit the gardens in the late stages to witness the peak.
  • Woodland Walk: The Woodland Walk area has a number of lovely pathways to explore, with lovely perspectives over Alnwick Castle and the countryside.
  • The Pond: When you come in from the parking lot The Pond will be to your left. Within Alnwick Gardens: As you walk into the Alnwick garden, one can can see the opposite side. Do not wake this sleeping monster!
  • Plants and Shoots Garden: In this garden, local schools are given plots where students can learn about the growth process and learn more about the place where food originates from.

Forgotten Garden Golf (Mini-Golf course) The area just in front of from the Alnwick Garden entrance is an impressive mini-golf course with 13 holes. It is not necessary to pay for a pass to Alnwick Gardens to play the golf course, however there is a small fee.

The tours at Alnwick Garden

Along with the guided visits to the Poison Garden There are other guided tours included in the admission fee. Learn more about exactly how Grand Cascade works on one of the Pump Room tours. They also provide guided tours through their Roots & Shoots Garden and the Alnwick Gardens. Talk to a member on staff for more information on times.

A Giant Adventure

In the garden there is a huge theme. For instance in the pond there is a gigantic sleeping. It was intended to be used in conjunction with the “a huge adventure” AR app that you can download for your smartphone.

Treehouse

The Treehouse located at Alnwick Garden is one of the largest in the world. It’s not quite as big as some of the other ones you’ve seen as a child. The one we visited offers a cafe and restaurant (The Potting Shed). The venue was hosting an event on that day we went there. If you visit the Treehouse make sure you don’t miss the bridges with wobbly swoops, which are accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.

Treehouse Treehouse is technically located outside from the gate of Alnwick Garden so you can go there without purchasing tickets. If you visit The Treehouse Restaurant for dinner you are able to place your vehicle in the accessible parking lot because the gardens and castle are closed. In other times, you can park at the front lot.

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