privately owned
est. 1096


satnav NE66 1NQ
Alnwick, Northumberland
off the A1


combined w/garden


Alnwick Site
Alnwick Gardens
Heritage Trail
Castle Explorer
Medieval Castle Blog
UK Heritage


Alnwick Castle

I'm including Alnwick even though we didn't actually get to visit the castle-- just a quick drive-by -- because we a couple of weeks of amusement out of the name. Alnwick, despite the spelling, is pronounced "aah-nick". This led to us mangling the pronounciation of every other road sign we saw, dropping letters and adding random ones. Yes, we're weird.

I wish we could have visited - it's an absolutely stunning castle, used as a standin for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies (with a lot of CGI help, I imagine). One of the things that I realized as soon as we drove into Northumberland was, "wow! the castles here are HUGE!" I've been missing out! Of course, there's no way I could see everything in even a month-long trip.

the castle has been used as a stand-in for Hogwarts

Norman Invasions

The original cast here was built in 1096, as part of the string of castles along the Scottish Borders. It was besieged in 1172 and 1174, the latter attack (The Battle of Alnwick) resulting in the capture of the King of Scotland, William the Lion, just outside the walls.

Yves de Vescy, Baron of Alnwick built the first castle here. I tpassed to the hands of the Bishop of Durham at some piont during the 13th century, and was eventually bought by Hentry de Percy in 1309. The Percies -- Barons, then Earls, then Dukes of Northumberland -- have owned the estate ever since. The castle historians esimate that the sale price of the castle from the Bishop of Durham was somehwere between £2,666 and £6,666. A pretty hefty price, at the time.

painting of Alnwick, 1790-1810

That doesn't mean it was in their hands the whole time, of course. LIke nearly every castle, it was lost and regained several times. The family rebelled against Henvry IV, who took the castle, for example, and later it was surrendered to Kind Edward during the Wars of the Roses, in 1461. It was recaptured in 1462, and held out until mid-january against a Scottish and French fleet. Then nearby catles of Bamburgh and Dunsanburgh both surrendered. It wasn't until June that Alnwick surrendere to Warwick after a series of battles along the border.

The castle was abandoned and falling into ruin in the 17th century, but was restored by the first Duke and Duchess of Northumberland to a high gothic style residence. Sir Hugh Smithson, the first Duke, took over the estate in 1750 and begain restoration work immediately. The keep, reduced to foundations in some places, was rebuilt and many of the buildings wre replaced or rebuilt.


The castle was constantly renovated. The 16th and 18th centuries saw major renovations to the exterior and interior of the castle. Robert Adam, the reknowned architect, updated the interiors --although in a style much different tha his normal Classical style. The ostentatious deorations were replaced in the 19th century with a more subdued style. This, too, was replaced in most of the public rooms, although remnants of both Adam's work and later upgrades are still in the private areas of the castle.

The castle was one of the first homes in the northeast of England to have electricity -- a hydro-electric system was installed in 1898.


The castle has been used as a school a number of times, including as a campus of St Cloud University (of MN). The whole castle is now part of a huge tourist attraction, with kid's exhibitions, play parks, restaurants. Ther are extensive gardens (including a ovely garden landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century. Another large parkland on the grounds contains the ruins of Hulne Priory.

The brochures we picked up about the castle certainly made it seem as if we could spend the day walking the gardens along the River Aln, touring the castle, and wandering the museum displays. It is a popular destination for families, I have been told.

I'm really quite upset we didn't stop, and I wasn't able to convince Mark to go back the next day. Onward to Hadrian's Wall!