Posted by: christinelaennec | August 15, 2012

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

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 gate of Alnwick Castle, in the town centre.

The day that I visited the castle, I entered from the side where the gardens are:

Alnwick Castle – the other gate!

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:

Gateway into the keep, Alnwick Castle.

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.

Where the broomstick-flying-lesson scene of the first Harry Potter film was made. Alnwick Castle.  Note the swallow on the wing!

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.

A gardener tending the grounds. Alnwick Castle.

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.

View from the castle wall down to the bridge over the River Aln.

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:

Norman archway with lion head, Alnwick Castle.

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:

Rosebud of Alnwick rose, in my garden. July 2012.

And in flower:

The Alnwick rose fully open. My garden, July 2012.

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!



  1. Just lovely! I long to visit the UK some time so I can see beautiful places like this at firsthand! Your descriptions are excellent!

  2. What a wonderful trip and an excellent series of photos. I feel for that gardener though! Your rose is gorgeous, I can almost smell it from here.

  3. Lovely rose. I never used to go for roses, scared of them, well, killing them! Here we have roses and I am getting more and more interested.
    The photos were very interesting, as I have said before its one place I would like to return to. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for all the great info, I always learn new things when I visit your blog! Your rose is beautiful. There is something so special about roses. xx

  5. good thing you were such a good sport during the tour….thanks for sharing another fabulous place with us. I think when I was watching the Olympics that I saw Northumberland on the map! Was one of the events there? Anyways…your rose is gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful…so neat to know the story behind it’s name.

  6. Interesting information about this amazing castle! I can’t imagine having to hide inside the castle walls while those nasty Scots tried to invade! You would have to include me in the ancestral lineage, and yes we fight for what we believe in! Castles! They have always been in high demand. Kidding aside, your trip was lovely and thank you for sharing all of your beautiful photographs. Your rose is beautiful. xx

  7. What a gorgeous castle! Just added it to my Scottish bucket list, thanks so much for all the info and beautiful photos. 🙂

  8. One of my work tasks today is to entertain for an hour the mother-in-law of a visiting academic. She is from Portland, Oregon so I thought I’d better do a little more reading about the city. I discovered that your home city is famed for its roses!….and then I read this blog entry and I wondered whether your interest in roses came with you from Portland?

  9. What a lovely trip, and what great history this castle has! I thought I recognised it from somewhere 🙂 Yes the Harry Potter broomstick lesson!
    Hope you are having a lovely week 🙂

  10. Thank you for another great history lesson 🙂 and I am glad you had a lovely time xx

  11. Love this, Christine! I so enjoy your virtual (for me) field trips. And that rose is simply lovely!

  12. Both the castle and its namesake rose are stunning, Christine. Thanks for posting!
    I’m glad you enjoyed my picture of hazy Mt. Hood from the Hood River Bridge. It was over 100 degrees yesterday, but Mt. Hood still looks like an upside down snow cone. I never tire of viewing it.

  13. Dear all,
    Thank you so much for your kind comments, and for sharing my trip to Northumberland with me. I have to say that one of the things about blogging that I love is that wherever I go, I enjoy things more just thinking about how fun it will be to share them with my blogland friends! (Is this sad?)

    Anne – I hope you don’t have to wait too long to come to the UK.

    Lorna – well, at least he has a job, and I think rather a congenial one. I got the impression that weeds are simply Not Allowed at Alnwick – one difference between their gardens and mine!

    Jill – roses have a reputation as being fussy but there are many roses that are not difficult. For me, the work of tending them is far outweighed by the joy they give me. Also, they don’t all have to be grown in splendid isolation – as you can see from my garden.

    Tina – glad you enjoyed the tour!

    Lisa – There have been Olympic events across Britain so it’s quite possible some of them were indeed in Northumberland.

    Karen – I bet your ancestors WERE battering down the walls! 🙂

    Kia – Northumberland isn’t very far from the border, you should try to go.

    oldblack – boy those Oregonians get everywhere, even Australia! I hope you enjoyed entertaining her. Yes, I think my love of roses did come from the City of Roses. One of my favourite places in Portland is the International Rose Test Gardens.

    Suzy – I must watch the first HP film again, I think it would be cool to see Alnwick that way as well!

    karibu – you’re very welcome! Hope you’re having a good summer.

    Ellen – I’m so glad you enjoyed the “virtual field trips”! I hope your time in Maine is being perfect. Thanks for your comment since I know you are offline most of the time there.

    Gracie – my pleasure. Yes it’s incredible how the mountain retains its snow even in melting heat. Today in Aberdeen it is in the 70s and sunny – beautiful. A mini heat wave for us! Yesterday it poured from the heavens for most of the day and was in the 60s at best.

  14. So stunning, I think the rose is almost as amazing as the castle!

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