The last in my Northumberland travelogue posts! As I wrote here, the town of Alnwick (pronounced AA-nick) nestles around the walls of Alnwick Castle. As well as being a magnificent example of a fortified castle and keep, Alnwick Castle is also the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. It sits a short walk up from the enormous castle gardens, and you can buy a ticket to one or to both that will allow you to return anytime within a year. Here is the main gate in the town centre, with what look like guards standing on the ramparts – but they are actually statues:
The day that I visited the castle, I entered from the side where the gardens are:
You can perhaps see that the castle keep sits within a large fortified bailey. Here is the entrance to the castle keep, which sports a few more pretend guards on the roof:
Parts of the castle date back to just after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It has undergone many changes in the past millenium, as our guide explained. I was very taken by the barn swallows, that were nesting just inside the gateway in the photo above. In the photo below, you can see one of them swooping past.
Do you recognise the view here? It’s where they filmed the broomstick-flying lesson in the first Harry Potter film.
The sheer scale of the area covered by the castle and its fortifications is very impressive indeed. A gardener was weeding the immaculate lawn as we came past. Behind him you can see where the 19th-century chapel was added. You can also perhaps discern the crest with the lion that is carved into the side of the tower with the flag.
One of the main functions of Alnwick Castle was to guard against attacks from the Scots to the north. Alnwick is only about 15 miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, which is currently in England but has been assailed, captured, recaptured, and reassigned sides over the centuries. Having answered in the affirmative to the guide’s “Is anyone here from Scotland?” I inadvertently became the tour’s representative of The Enemy. I thought this was very funny, because although I do have some Scots in my family tree, I haven’t much information about them, and my own genetic makeup has more Welsh, Swiss and French in it than Scots. One of my ancestors, I believe, was on the losing side of the Cromwellian wars and fled to America. However, who knows? Perhaps some distant relations of mine were beating down the doors of Alnwick Castle – or failing to do so, as they are pretty attack-proof. Anyhow, for most of the tour, I was pointed out as The Woman Whose Ancestors [fill in the blank – broke through that wall, tried to cross the river, etc.!].
There is a beautiful view of the River Aln from the castle.
You’d have to have a closer look at the photo, but there is a statue of a lion on the bridge. It is fiercely facing marauders from the North. We were told that the lion is one of the symbols of the Percy family. Below is a photograph of another lion, on a Norman archway:
I didn’t have time to visit the inside of the castle, which is also a private residence. But as they don’t allow any photography inside, I couldn’t have shown you anyway.
And so, this brings my series of posts on our week in Northumberland to an end. Normal (sic) service will now resume! But before I leave Alnwick, I wanted to show you the rose that is named after it (another one of David Austin’s English roses). Here it is in my garden, in bud:
And in flower:
It was really nice to be able to see the place this rose is named after, and I hope it won’t be too long before I can return. In the meantime, I will enjoy the rose!