There’s heaps for families to enjoy at Alnwick, from a famous Castle to an award-winning family-friendly museum!
As part of a family holiday to England we spent some time in the North East of the country where we visited Hadrian’s Wall and Northumberland but the highlight of our trip was definitely the day we spent in Alnwick and nearby. Here’s how we spent a marvellous family day out in Alnwick.
Family Day Out in Alnwick
We had a really great day out in Alnwick and surrounding areas with a variety of things to do near the town. In fact, if you haven’t visited Northumberland before, I’d really recommend it, there’s plenty of amazing places for families to visit.
Alnwick is a market town in the heart of Northumberland, situated about half way between Berwick-Upon-Tweed and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Famous for its Castle and Garden, in the centre of the originally walled town you will find a market place, with a market cross, and outside the walls, an old Victorian-era railway station, home to Barter Books, but more of that to come.
The iconic Alnwick Castle was a must-see on our visit, having featured as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films. It’s over 950 years old, and is the seat of The 12th Duke of Northumberland, still serving as home to the Percy family.
The second largest inhabited castle in the UK, Alnwick Castle plenty of history to discover, and the origins of the Castle date back to the Norman period. Because it is still inhabited, you only get access to selected State Rooms in the Castle but it’s still worth the visit and the guided tour, although we found the rest of the attraction, i.e. its ramparts, and activities and events taking place for kids around the walls and courtyard, much more interesting.
Book your tickets online and you’ll even get to visit for the rest of the year, as they have a Pay for the Day, Visit for the Year offer.
Things To Do at Alnwick Castle
As well as special events and performances, there are many fun things to do at Alnwick Castle including:
- Visit a Replica Napoleonic Cannon, and the Castle’s Museums including Constable’s Tower
- Stop by the Artisans Courtyard to enjoy medieval themed activities and meet townsfolk from the 14th Century
- Take the Dragon Quest! Are you brave enough to enter the Dragon’s Lair? This can be a scary for little ones but is great for families with children aged between 5 and 12 years old
- Broomstick Training – learn to fly a broomstick in the spot where Harry Potter first took flight! Sessions are free with your entry ticket, but require a free time-slot ticket, NB tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis, with a limited number of spaces available for each lesson.
- Have a go at some Archery
- Enjoy a 30 minute stroll outside the castle, along ‘Capability’ Brown Walk, enjoying views of Alnwick Castle and some of the features of the stunning Capability Brown designed landscape
The Alnwick Garden
You may be wondering why I am recommending visiting a garden, but The Alnwick Garden is truly amazing, full of imaginative, inspiring and fun spaces. The Garden is designed to be enjoyed by all ages, children can run freely throughout The Garden, and they will enjoy playing on the mini diggers or relaxing on one of 50 swinging benches throughout the Garden.
At the Garden you will find:
- a Grand Cascade (pictured) with 120 water jets
- the world’s largest Tai Haku Cherry Orchard
- a Bamboo Labyrinth
- The Serpent Garden with fun water sculptures
- one of the world’s largest tree houses
- and highlight of our own visit – the Poison Garden
There are plenty of food options, including the Treehouse Restaurant, where you really can dine amongst the leaves!
Barter Books is a large second hand bookshop located in a former railway station, just at the edge of Alnwick town. With plenty of books to browse, the bookshop also has some unique features including a model railway that runs high over your heads! There are open fires in Winter time, plenty of seating, and a big kids books room with toys ideal for allowing Mum and Dad time to browse. For eats, there’s The Station Buffet or Paradise, an ice cream parlour.
Bailiffgate Museum and Gallery
The Bailiffgate Museum is an award-winning people’s museum, celebrating 10,000 years of unique heritage. As well as a permanent collection of artefacts there’s a Gallery floor with exhibitions throughout the year. The Museum is housed in an historic building in the town’s Castle Quarter, close tot he Castle and Garden. It was winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2021 and hosts family-friendly events throughout the year.
We absolutely loved visiting Dunstanburgh Castle, a huge ruined castle right on the coast of Northumberland. Built by the Earl of Lancaster, starting in 1313, as grand castle, on a scale to rival the king at the time, King Edward II. Visitors would arrive at the castle from the sea, seeing dramatic views of its large twin-towered keep.
To find the Castle, head for the village of Craster and follow the signposts to the car park. There’s a shortish (1.3mi) walk along the coast perfect for a family walk. (The path crosses working farmland so remember to follow the countryside code.)
Dunstanburgh Castle is managed by English Heritage, book your tickets online and National Trust members can visit free by clicking ‘corporate members’ and entering membership number when prompted.