Where in the World is Connie? travel blog

Main Entrance to Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle and the Percy Lion

Ron, Hermione & Harry at Alnwick Castle

Hagrid at Hogwarts/Alnwick Castle

Original main gate into Alnwick Town

Amusing Alnwick market merchandise

St. Michael's Town Drinking Fountain (patron saint of Alnwick)

Dirty Bottles legend, in window at Old Cross Inn

Today I left Scotland. I didn't go far though; just 2 hours south of Edinburgh by bus to a town in the north of England called Alnwick (pronounced "Anick", don't ask me why). It's a cute little place, an old walled town, established over 700 years ago by the Percy family (the Duke & Duchess of Northumberland) who happen to reside, at least part of the year, at famous Alnwick Castle.

What's so famous about Alnwick Castle? Never heard of it?

Well, perhaps if you're a Harry Potter fan you'll recognize it by its stage name ... "Hogwarts School for the Magically Inclined". Yes, for the first two Harry Potter films, Alnwick Castle was magically transformed into Hogwarts. And let me tell you, sleepy little Alnwick town has certainly increased in popularity since Harry Potter hit the big screen.

The excellent condition and layout of Alnwick Castle with its surrounding gardens and forest area have made it a popular area for film locations over the years. In addition to Harry Potter, crews have rolled in to shoot scenes for movies such as "Robin Hood Prince of Thieves", "Elizabeth" and Shakespeare's "MacBeth". But even if you're not Harry, Ron or Hermione spotting, Alnwick Castle is well worth a visit as it's lovely both inside and out.

Because of its close proximity to the Scottish border, Alnwick Castle was originally built in 1309 as a stronghold to defend England against those feisty Scots. Over the years it was converted from a military defense into a lovely residence for the Percy family. Trees were planted. Gardens were developed. A chapel and library was added. Even the river was re-routed to alter it from a raging river to a more pleasing babbling brook. The parts inside the castle that are open to the public are very opulent; one can only imagine what the Duke's private quarters look like.

The castle gardens are massive and boast "some of the most admired and contemporary gardening in Europe". I didn't visit them though as they're presently in the midst of a major £6 million renovation with bulldozers on site and lots of mud puddles after recent rains. Once finished, however, I'd have to expect nothing less than magnificent with that kind of price tag!

Also because of its location, Alnwick town was an important staging post in the 17th century, being a day's horse ride south to Newcastle and a day's ride north to Berwick near the Scottish border. As a result, little Alnwick had over 50 inns in 1860. A couple of interesting ones still exist, my favorite being "The Old Cross Inn" which was long ago nicknamed the "dirty bottles" pub. Apparently the original owner died suddenly while dusting some whiskey bottles. Believing the bottles were jinxed and that a similar fate would befall anyone who touched them, the bottles were never dusted again. Sure, wouldn't we all like to use THAT excuse to get out of doing housework!

Alnwick is definitely a nice little place to snoop around for a day. In addition to the castle and garden upgrades, the whole town is very clean and seems to have been given a recent facelift with old buildings and historic attractions being restored to their former glory. It has certainly been developed into a tourist destination thanks, no doubt, to Hogwarts and Harry Potter fame, but it has done so tastefully and without becoming tacky ... despite the sale of Hogwart flying broomsticks, which apparently was a merchandising opportunity they just couldn't resist!

Entry Rating:     Why ratings?
Please Rate:  
Thank you for voting!
Share |