Alnwick – Day 3 | Travel Blog


Published: September 21st 2023

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Oh, no, we wet the bed! So, our teeny, tiny room has a teeny, tiny skylight window which we have been opening as wide as we can to try to let some air into our stuffy, windowless room. We had it open all night without any problem and headed down to breakfast leaving it open. While we were at breakfast, we were looking out the window at the deteriorating weather bemoaning the fact that it looked like we would be wearing our raincoats again when we headed out.

We finished breakfast and I headed up to our room while Bernie stayed behind to settle up our bill. I walked into the room and straight away I could hear it … drip, drip, drip. What’s dripping? OMG, the rain is coming in the skylight window and dripping straight onto the bed and there’s already a sizeable wet patch! I was trying to close the skylight with the hotel’s info guide when Bernie walked in and asked what I was doing. Um, closing the skylight to stop more rain coming in. I went downstairs to confess that we had wet the bed. The housekeeper I spoke to said not to worry about

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it, it happens all the time and said the bedding would be changed for us. Thank you.

Our first stop this morning was English Heritage site, Warkworth Castle. A fortified enclosure on this site beside the River Coquet is thought to have existed since the middle of the 12th-century. However, the earliest remnants that remain today are believed to have been raised between 1199 and 1214. During the 13th-century and early in the 14th-century the castle played an important role in the ongoing hostilities between England and Scotland.

In 1332 the castle’s long association with the Percy Family began. First Lords of the North, the later Percys were Earls and then later still, Dukes of Northumberland. Their history is chequered to say the least. They supported the king and then they plotted against the king and in 1403 the most famous, or perhaps infamous, member of the family, Harry Hotspur, was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury fighting against Henry IV.

The Percy Family was in and out of favour over the centuries. Sometimes they chose the right side and at other times they chose the wrong side. The title died out a couple of times but

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was repeatedly reinstated despite the family’s disputes with the crown. Obscure younger sons or nephews were repeatedly forgiven the transgressions of their forebears and endowed with the earldom/dukedom. Just how the title of Duke of Northumberland has managed to survive to this day is intriguing. Although the castle and barony of Alnwick was always the family’s chief holding, Warkworth was a favoured residence until the 17th-century.

By the time we had finished clambering around the ruins the rain had eased up and we asked the staff about visiting the priory which is co-located with the castle at this site. Alas, the hermitage is not currently accessible. That was unfortunate as the account I had read about it sounded amazing – being poled along the river to the hermitage carved directly out of the rock along the riverbank. The staff suggested that we walk down into the village instead as it is a good example of a mediaeval town.

The rain held off while we walked down into the town and back up to the castle car park. With our plan for the afternoon being to visit the Alnwick Garden and the Alnwick Castle we decided that we should

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do the garden while the sun shone. Bernie asked Google about eating options at the gardens and was told there were no eating options. This being the case we dropped the car back to the car park behind The Plough and we walked into town where we ate lunch at The Rolling Pin.

We walked around to the entrance for the castle and gardens and took the right turn towards the garden where there was, of course, a huge café/restaurant!! We purchased our tickets for the garden and found we were entitled to a discount with our English Heritage membership. Yay!

We entered the garden and could see people were clustered at the entrance to the Poison Garden. As we were keen to learn all about the sinister plants behind the gates, we hurried over to join the queue. Visitors are only allowed to enter this part of the garden with a guide who then regales the audience with all the morbid details of the deadliest plants in the collection and some entertaining stories about a few renowned poisoners!

The first plant insides the gate was rhubarb. Everyone knows that the stems are edible, but the leaves

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are poisonous said our guide BUT, would you believe that after WWI and indeed again after WWII the British Government told the populace to boil up rhubarb leaves as a vegetable because of food shortages. Whaaaaaat??! A number of plants are insides cages, inside the walled garden because they are so dangerous and/or they are classed as drugs. Then there’s the plant down the bottom of the garden inside a locked glass cabinet considered one of the world’s most venomous plants. Of course, it’s Australian, the Gympie-Gympie stinging tree that is a native of Queensland.

After the Poison Garden we made our way straight over to the ice-cream hut, as you do! Nothing like hearing about deadly poisons to whet your appetite. With our ice-creams we made our way through the Cherry Orchard and into the Ornamental Garden. The orchard must be spectacular in the spring and the Ornamental Garden must be glorious over the summer. Both were still impressive even in the early Autumn.

There were more perfectly symmetrical hedge corridors, ponds and fountains spilling down the slope on either side of the Grand Cascade. Just when we thought this garden couldn’t hold any more surprises, we

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found our way into the Serpent Garden which is more accurately a series of circular gardens or garden ‘rooms’ which house fountains designed by William Pye. Each fountain employs a particular scientific principle to do amazing things with water. We could have watched The Vortex for the rest of the afternoon it was so mesmerising. Like watching water going down the plug hole but on a grand scale!

With the afternoon running out we hurried over to ‘do’ the castle. Alnwick Castle has not fallen into disrepair the way Warkworth has and remains the winter home of Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke of Northumberland and his family. As we entered it was recommended that we head straight to the State Rooms as last entry to that part of the castle would be at 4.00pm. We had missed the last tour of the day but managed to catch up with the tour group in the Library and complete the end of the tour with them. So much history!

After the State Rooms we explored the rest of the castle grounds which are all really well preserved in stark contrast to Warkworth. Being so well preserved the castle has been

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a popular film location for more than 50 years. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was filmed here, and it has featured in Downton Abbey. We took photos looking down towards the River Aln and the Lion Bridge before exiting the castle and returning to the bridge with our ‘proper’ cameras seeing as we only had our phones on Sunday night.

From the bridge we hiked around to the Tenantry Column which we have driven past several times in the last couple of days. Like the bridge, the column features the Percy Lion. We thought it was going to be more of a walk, but it turns out that the column is much closer to The Plough than we had realised. The column was erected in 1816 by the tenants of Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland in thanks for his reduction of their rents in the post-Napoleonic depression.

Earlier this afternoon Bernie booked for dinner at The Market Tavern. When we arrived, it was packed again so it was just as well we planned ahead and booked a table. We were seated next to the gaming machine so thank goodness no-one played it while we were there.

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If anyone had wanted to play, they would just about have been sitting on Bernie’s left shoulder to do so! We both had the fish and chips that the menu said were sourced from Craster just out on the coast from Alnwick. They were good fish and chips!

Steps: 18,613 (12.32 kms)


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