As students in Durham we often forget that our university lies just below the beautiful Northumberland. It’s home to medieval castles, craggy beaches, rolling hills and charming towns. One of which is the picturesque Alnwick which is reachable by a train to Alnmouth.
Enclosed in eleventh century castle walls, this historic market town is an underrated local spot. A day can easily be spent wandering through its quaint cobbled streets lined with cafes, bookshops and antiques. Copperfields, The Origami Café and Sweet Solstice serve up breakfast, coffee and cakes with a warm smile. More local food can be found in Grannies Tea Room and Delicatessen. Its shelves flaunt time-honoured produce in an ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ style which are worth a browse.
Alnwick offers book worms a lot to chew on. Barter Books, based in the old Victorian Railway Station for Alnwick, is one of the largest second hand book shops in England. Browse over 350,000 books as well as its miniature railway, art murals and cosy café. Equally, The Accidental Bookshop, created to help boost independent bookshops after lockdown, has a beautiful selection and an extremely tall bookshelf.
A visit to Alnwick is not complete without a stop at the Castle. It has rich history as the home to the Percy family for nearly 700 years and showcases medieval towers, a 14th century dungeon and walls of magnificent art from Van Dyck and Canaletto. Interestingly, both Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets were filmed at the castle. The castle’s Outer Bailey was the set for Harry’s Quidditch lessons and Ron crashed his dad’s flying car in its grounds.
The Alnwick Garden lies close to Alnwick Castle and is one of the best-landscaped gardens to visit in the north-east of England. Marvel at its long cascading water fountain and learn the history and effects of different toxic and harmful plants in the tour of the Poison Garden. So too, among orchards, a rose garden and a pavilion stands Barbara Hepworth’s 1958 Sculpture ‘Ascending Form’.
The town hosts a variety of characterful and cosy pubs. Enjoy locally brewed ale next to the fireplace at the quirky Tanner’s Arms or at the vibrant micro-pub Harry’s Bar.
Book in advance to eat at The Tree House Restaurant. Set in Alnwick’s Castle garden up in the tree tops, this unique restaurant offers excellent food in a cosy wooden setting. Equally great food can be found on solid ground at atmospheric Adam and Eve which showcases produce from Northumberland.
A day in Alnwick is enough to soak up its charm but if you would like to stay a night, book one of the stylish rooms at The Cookie Jar.
From Alnwick lots of Northumberland’s beaches can be reached. Villages Cresswell, which sits at the southern end of Drurudge Bay, Alnmouth, Craster, Seahouses, Bamburgh, a village dominated by the mighty Bamburgh Castle, and the fishing town Amble all hug the coast. Following this path offers scenic walks and views over its untouched and idyllic beaches and coves.
Photography by: Alice Reynolds