Poison and magic at Alnwick Castle and Garden

I love the town of Alnwick and have visited it several times over the years. The Barter Books shop is a firm favourite with my family and has always been our main stop off point in the town. I’ve just come back from a short break in Northumbria and was pleased to be visiting the town of Alnwick again, but this time even more excited to finally make it to Alnwick Castle and Gardens.

Don’t leave it as long as I did – if you are in the area, go. It’s not a cheap day out, but in my opinion it’s worth it. I love castles and stately homes, and as such before the trip was incredibly excited about the castle and not too bothered by the garden. By the end of the visit I had probably spent more time in the garden than anywhere else and would happily have spent longer if it wasn’t for the fact I had a train to catch and it was raining. I’d thoroughly recommend seeing and doing as much as you can, but to stop me from just wittering on, I’ve narrowed things down to my top 5.

The Treehouse/Potting Shed

If you are looking for somewhere to eat, this is the place to go. It is guaranteed that you will want a treehouse like this once you see it. Booking is essential for the Treehouse Restaurant, however you can still go up the stairs and see the view from the top even if you are not a customer. The Potting Shed is a cafe which serves light lunches and is part of the same structure as the treehouse. We enjoyed a lunch from the Potting Shed on the decking, and then had fun on the wobbly rope bridges before heading to the Gardens.

The Poison Garden

Tickets are free with admission but you will have to go and collect a timed ticket from the entrance as only small groups are allowed in. This is a fantastic informative tour that will leave you slightly concerned about what you may have growing in your garden… Our guide was excellent and I would thoroughly recommend it!

The Serpent Garden

Best for kids and big kids, the Serpent Garden has some interesting water sculptures to play with. If it’s a hot day you can also cool off by getting sprayed by multiple jets…

Cherry Orchard, Ornamental Garden and Grand Cascade

Ok, I’m cheating here as these are three separate areas on the map, however combined they make a lovely walk! Go up through the Cherry Orchard and relax by sitting on one (or several!) of the swinging chairs. Then make your way through to the ornamental garden which is home to some stunning flowers. Finally, walk down alongside the Grand Cascade, admiring it from top to bottom. If by the end of this walk you don’t wish this was your garden then I guess you must have the most amazing garden already!

The Castle

If you can eventually drag yourself away from the wonderful expanse of the gardens, make sure you visit the the castle. You can see where Harry Potter had his first flying lesson (and have a go at flying yourself if you wish), admire the landscaping of Capability Brown and visit the sumptuous state rooms. The state rooms are wonderful to look around, and at the moment you can see a Downton Abbey exhibition as Alnwick Castle featured as Brancaster Castle in the 2014 and 2015 Christmas episodes – great if you a fan like me!

Two things to watch on your visit… 1) Time disappears in this place so leave a full day (especially if you want to explore the town as well). 2) Dogs aren’t even allowed within the grounds. This was my only grumble about the day trip, but the gardens do look wonderful. Very glad my castle ticket lasts for a year as this is definitely somewhere I want to come back to!

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