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Visiting Alnwick Castle

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Located in northern England's county of Northumberland, stately Alnwick Castle annually receives around 600,000 visitors, drawn not only by its history and magnificent medieval architecture, but also its comparatively newfound fame as a filming location for the Harry Potter films and period drama TV series Downton Abbey.

Whether you're a Downton Abbey or Harry Potter fan, or just want to discover a significant destination in the UK's fascinating history, here's everything you need to know about how best to experience Alnwick Castle while exploring the UK.

 

History of Alnwick Castle

After Windsor Castle, Alnwick Castle is the second-largest inhabited castle in the UK. It dates from the 11th century after the Norman Conquest and over the course of its long history has served purposes from military outpost to film set. As a Grade 1 listed building, it's also considered among the most significant heritage destinations in northern England.

For the past 700 years, the castle has been the home to successive generations of the Percy family and continues to serve as the noble Northumberland family's residence. The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland reside in part of the castle but leave the remainder open for public tours and educational visits.

 


 

Top things to do at Alnwick Castle

Whether you love Harry Potter and want to escape into a fantasy world during your castle visit or discover its real-life history, you'll find no shortage of exciting ways to experience Alnwick Castle.

Take one of the Alnwick Castle tours

The castle offers a range of guided tours ranging from a historical tour of the grounds to a deep dive into the development and history of armor. Families with young children will especially enjoy the self-guided trails, which encourage participants to solve puzzles and seek hidden objects while touring the castle.

Visit filming locations from Harry Potter and Downton Abbey on a film-themed tour

Thanks to the castle's relatively recent emergence into pop culture as a movie and TV location, the "Alnwick on Location" tour that visits Harry Potter filming locations as well as others from Downton Abbey and Robin Hood, is especially popular. Fans of the Harry Potter movies will instantly recognize locations from numerous scenes and can recreate their favorite moments.

Explore the famous Alnwick Gardens

Covering 12 acres, the expansive Alnwick Gardens are famous for their trimmed topiary, elegant fountains, peaceful pathways and fantastical Treehouse Restaurant.

Take broomstick lessons

Have you ever dreamed of playing Quidditch? Make it a reality by taking broomstick training on the castle lawn, in the same spot in the grounds where Madam Hooch gave Harry Potter lessons in the first film in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Dive into history in the castle's museums

In three museums throughout the castle grounds, visitors can view artifacts, artwork and other valuables that shine a light on the castle's history. In the Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland interactive displays explore soldiers' lives, the Castle Museum displays collections of Roman and early British antiquities, while Constable's Tower features a basement room virtually unchanged since the 14th century.

Go back in time in the Artisan's Courtyard

Featuring actors in period costume, the lively Artisan’s Courtyard provides a taste of what life was like in the 14th century with games, crafts and fun family challenges like a dragon's quest alongside a famous English knight from the Hundred Years' War — Harry Hotspur.

 

When is the best time to visit Alnwick Castle?

While the exact dates may vary, the castle is open daily to the public from March to October. As a popular attraction, you can avoid the busiest times by visiting early or later in the day or on a weekday.

 

Top tips for visiting Alnwick Castle

Here's everything you need to know about visiting this iconic castle during your visit to the United Kingdom.

Take a tour

Visiting Alnwick Castle as part of a larger tour not only gives you more background information and context as to its historical and regional importance but also takes care of all the logistics and planning. Our Northumberland Coast and Castles tour dedicates an entire day to exploring this famous castle and its grounds during a multi-day itinerary visiting a number of castles and historic sites along the Northumberland coast.
 

How to get to Alnwick Castle

If you're traveling on your own, Alnwick Castle's location just off the A1 makes it easy to reach by rental car. Alternatively, Alnwick Bus Station, a five-minute walk away, is served by frequent X20 buses running to and from the city of Newcastle upon Tyne.
 

Where to stay near Alnwick Castle

The charming town of Alnwick has numerous places where you can stay close to the castle. The Hog's Head Inn offers cozy accommodations and pays tribute to the town's Harry Potter fame with its name, while the Cookie Jar has refined lodgings in a former convent just steps away from the castle.

 

Exploring Alnwick Castle is an essential part of any visit to Northumberland

While Alnwick Castle is one of Northumberland's star attractions, the county's dramatic coastline, rolling hills and wealth of historic attractions offer something for everyone, from walking tours to fascinating local culture.

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