Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle: Exploring Northumberland's Iconic Medieval Castle

Alnwick Castle - A Timeless Northumbrian Treasure

Introduction to Alnwick Castle

Nestled in the picturesque town of Alnwick in Northumberland, England, Alnwick Castle stands as a magnificent testament to the rich history and architectural splendour of the region. This iconic fortification has captivated the hearts of visitors for centuries, offering a glimpse into the aristocratic lives of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland, who have called Alnwick Castle their home since the 14th century. The castle's imposing stone walls and towers, set against the backdrop of meticulously manicured gardens, create a breathtaking sight that has earned it a place among the most beautiful and historically significant castles in the United Kingdom.

The Castle's Enduring Appeal

Alnwick Castle's enduring appeal lies in its ability to transport visitors back in time, immersing them in a world of chivalry, romance, and intrigue. The castle's rich history is palpable in every corner, from the grand State Rooms to the ancient dungeons. Visitors can explore the castle's many chambers and passageways, each with its own unique story to tell. Whether admiring the ornate furnishings and artworks of the State Rooms or marvelling at the castle's impressive collection of medieval weapons and armour, there is something to captivate every visitor.

Alnwick Castle in Popular Culture

In recent years, Alnwick Castle has gained even greater fame as a filming location for major Hollywood productions. Most notably, the castle served as the backdrop for several iconic scenes in the first two Harry Potter films, where it portrayed the magical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Fans of the series can relive the magic of Harry Potter by participating in themed events and activities at the castle, such as broomstick training and costume exhibitions. The castle's association with the beloved franchise has only added to its timeless appeal, attracting a new generation of visitors eager to experience the enchantment of Alnwick Castle.

A crowd walking into Alnwick Castle

The History of Alnwick Castle - A Tale of Dukes, Wars, and Resilience

The Early Years

The history of Alnwick Castle is a tale of dukes, wars, and resilience that spans nearly a millennium. The castle's origins can be traced back to the Norman Conquest of England in the 11th century, when the first fortifications were erected on the site. Over the centuries, the castle has undergone numerous renovations and expansions, each reflecting the changing needs and tastes of its occupants. The earliest parts of the castle, including the impressive Norman keep, date back to the 12th century and serve as a testament to the castle's original function as a military stronghold.

The Percy Family and the Wars of the Roses

In the 14th century, Alnwick Castle came into the possession of the Percy family, who would shape its destiny for generations to come. The Percys, who hold the title of Dukes of Northumberland, have played a significant role in the political and military history of England, particularly during the tumultuous period known as the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century. During this time, the family's loyalty shifted between the rival houses of Lancaster and York, leading to a series of dramatic sieges and battles at Alnwick Castle.

Resilience and Restoration

Despite the many challenges and conflicts faced by Alnwick Castle over the centuries, the castle has proven to be a symbol of resilience and endurance. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the castle underwent extensive renovations and restorations under the guidance of the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. The couple commissioned the renowned architect Robert Adam to redesign the castle's interiors in the fashionable Gothic Revival style, transforming it into a lavish residence befitting their status and wealth.

Alnwick Castle in the Modern Era

In the 20th century, Alnwick Castle adapted to the changing times, serving as a temporary home for evacuated children during World War II and later opening its doors to the public as a tourist attraction. Today, the castle remains the seat of the Duke of Northumberland and is one of the largest inhabited castles in England. It welcomes thousands of visitors each year, offering a fascinating glimpse into the lives and legacies of the Percy family and the rich history of Northumberland.


The story of Alnwick Castle is one of dukes, wars, and resilience, a microcosm of the larger narrative of English history. From its origins as a Norman stronghold to its current status as a beloved tourist destination and iconic filming location, Alnwick Castle continues to captivate the imaginations of all who visit, a timeless treasure of Northumberland and a testament to the enduring spirit of England.

A body of water with Alnwick Castle in the distance

Alnwick Castle

Architectural Marvels - Exploring the Grandeur of Alnwick Castle

The Impressive Norman Keep

At the heart of Alnwick Castle lies the imposing Norman keep, a testament to the castle's origins as a formidable military stronghold. Constructed in the 12th century, the keep features thick stone walls, narrow windows, and a crenelated roofline, all designed to withstand the rigors of medieval warfare. Visitors can explore the keep's interior, which has been carefully preserved and restored, offering a glimpse into the lives of the castle's early inhabitants. The keep's impressive architecture and historical significance make it a must-see for anyone visiting Alnwick Castle.

The Opulent State Rooms

In stark contrast to the austere Norman keep, the State Rooms of Alnwick Castle showcase the opulence and grandeur of the castle's later periods. These lavishly decorated chambers were extensively renovated in the 18th and 19th centuries under the direction of the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, who commissioned the renowned architect Robert Adam to redesign the interiors in the fashionable Gothic Revival style. The State Rooms feature intricately carved ceilings, elegant furnishings, and a stunning collection of fine art and decorative objects, including works by such notable artists as Canaletto, Titian, and Van Dyck. Visitors can marvel at the beauty and craftsmanship of these rooms, which serve as a testament to the wealth and refined tastes of the Percy family.

The Serpentine Walls and the Attractive Courtyards

One of the most striking architectural features of Alnwick Castle is its intricate network of serpentine walls and attractive courtyards. The castle's walls have evolved over the centuries, with each generation of the Percy family adding their own unique touches and enhancements. The result is a fascinating mix of architectural styles and periods, from the sturdy medieval defences to the ornate Victorian-era embellishments. Visitors can wander through the castle's many courtyards, each with its own charming character and delightful landscaping. The Outer Bailey, for instance, features a beautiful Edwardian rose garden, while the Inner Bailey showcases the castle's diverse range of architectural styles, from the Norman arch of the entrance to the Gothic Revival flourishes of the State Rooms.

The Octagon and Bow Towers

Among the most distinctive architectural elements of Alnwick Castle are the Octagon and Bow Towers, which flank the castle's entrance and provide a striking visual focal point. The Octagon Tower, as its name suggests, is an eight-sided structure that was added to the castle in the 14th century as a means of strengthening its defences. The tower's unusual shape and crenelated roofline make it a standout feature of the castle's exterior. The Bow Tower, located adjacent to the Octagon Tower, is a more recent addition, having been constructed in the 18th century as part of the castle's Gothic Revival renovations. The tower's curved, "bowed" shape and decorative battlements add a touch of whimsy and romance to the castle's otherwise imposing facade.

An archway in Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle in a field

Harry Potter Magic - Alnwick Castle's Enchanting Connection

Alnwick Castle as Hogwarts

For fans of the Harry Potter series, a visit to Alnwick Castle is an opportunity to step into the magical world of Hogwarts and experience the enchantment of the beloved books and films firsthand. The castle's association with the Harry Potter franchise has made it a must-see destination for fans from around the world, who come to walk in the footsteps of their favourite characters and immerse themselves in the magic of the wizarding world. Alnwick Castle served as a filming location for the first two Harry Potter movies, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," where it portrayed the iconic Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Visitors can explore the castle's exterior, particularly the Inner Bailey, where Harry and his fellow students learned to fly broomsticks and played Quidditch.

Broomstick Training and Harry Potter Themed Activities

One of the most popular Harry Potter-themed attractions at Alnwick Castle is the broomstick training sessions, where visitors can channel their inner witch or wizard and learn to fly like a true Quidditch player. Led by costumed instructors, these interactive sessions take place in the same spot where Harry and his classmates had their first flying lesson with Madam Hooch. Participants are taught the proper techniques for mounting, hovering, and manoeuvring their broomsticks, just like in the films. Visitors can even don Hogwarts-style robes and have their photo taken while flying on a broomstick, creating a magical souvenir of their visit. In addition to broomstick training, Alnwick Castle offers a variety of other Harry Potter-themed activities and events throughout the year, such as wand-making workshops, potion-making classes, and special exhibitions showcasing props and costumes from the films.

Exploring the Castle's Harry Potter Film Locations

For die-hard Harry Potter fans, a visit to Alnwick Castle is incomplete without a thorough exploration of the castle's many filming locations. Visitors can take a guided tour of the castle's Harry Potter film sites, led by knowledgeable guides who provide behind-the-scenes stories and interesting trivia about the making of the movies. Some of the most iconic locations include the Outer Bailey, where Harry and his friends practiced their Quidditch skills, and the Inner Bailey, where Harry learned the Levitation Charm in Professor Flitwick's Charms class. Visitors can also see the spot where Ron crashed the Weasleys' flying Ford Anglia into the Whomping Willow, and the archway where Harry and his fellow champions assembled before the first task of the Triwizard Tournament in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Special Events and Exhibitions

Throughout the year, Alnwick Castle hosts a variety of special events and exhibitions that celebrate the magic of Harry Potter. During the summer months, the castle often holds Harry Potter-themed weekends, where visitors can enjoy a range of magical activities and demonstrations, such as wand combat lessons, creature encounters, and special effects shows. The castle also hosts regular Harry Potter movie screenings, allowing fans to watch their favourite films in the very location where they were filmed. In addition, Alnwick Castle occasionally displays original props, costumes, and other artifacts from the Harry Potter films, giving visitors a rare opportunity to see these iconic items up close and learn more about the making of the movies.

Alnwick Castle with broomsticks from Harry Potter

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle's Gardens - A Tapestry of Horticultural Delights

The Grand Cascade: A Symphony of Water and Greenery

The Grand Cascade is the crown jewel of Alnwick Castle's gardens, a breathtaking display of water and greenery that captivates visitors from the moment they enter the grounds. This magnificent water feature, designed by renowned landscape architect Wirtz International, comprises a series of 21 weirs that descend gracefully down a gentle slope, creating a mesmerising symphony of sight and sound. The Grand Cascade is bordered by immaculately manicured lawns and vibrant flower beds, which showcase a stunning array of colourful blooms throughout the seasons. Visitors can stroll along the edge of the cascade, admiring the intricate stonework and the artful plantings, or simply sit and bask in the tranquil beauty of the scene. The Grand Cascade is a true masterpiece of landscape design, and a testament to the skill and vision of The Alnwick Garden's creators.

The Cherry Orchard: A Haven of Tranquillity

The Cherry Orchard is a serene and picturesque corner of Alnwick Castle's gardens, offering visitors a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the castle grounds. This enchanting space features a collection of more than 300 Tai Haku cherry trees, a rare and beautiful variety known for its delicate white blossoms and graceful, spreading canopy. In the springtime, the orchard is transformed into a breathtaking display of pale pink and white, as the cherry blossoms burst into bloom and carpet the ground with a soft, fragrant snowfall. Visitors can wander along the orchard's winding paths, admiring the beauty of the trees and enjoying the gentle hum of bees and birdsong. The Cherry Orchard is also home to a charming tea house, where visitors can sit and enjoy a cup of tea or a light snack while taking in the peaceful surroundings.

The Poison Garden: A Fascinating Foray into the World of Dangerous Plants

One of the most unusual and intriguing features of Alnwick Castle's gardens is the Poison Garden, a one-of-a-kind collection of toxic and hallucinogenic plants from around the world. This educational and somewhat controversial attraction is housed behind black iron gates, and can only be accessed as part of a guided tour led by one of the garden's knowledgeable and engaging experts. The Poison Garden is home to more than 100 different species of dangerous plants, from the infamous hemlock and deadly nightshade to the exotic mandrake and castor bean. Visitors can learn about the fascinating history and mythology surrounding these plants, as well as their potential uses in medicine and industry. The Poison Garden is a thought-provoking and educational experience, highlighting the complex relationship between humans and the natural world.

The Rose Garden: A Fragrant Oasis of Colour and Charm

The Rose Garden is a classic and romantic feature of Alnwick Castle's gardens, showcasing a stunning collection of more than 3,000 rose bushes in a variety of colours and varieties. This fragrant oasis is designed in a traditional English style, with geometrically arranged beds and borders, intersected by grass pathways and adorned with elegant statuary and fountains. The Rose Garden is at its most spectacular in the summer months, when the roses are in full bloom and the air is heavy with their sweet, heady perfume. Visitors can stroll through the garden, admiring the different varieties of roses and learning about their history and cultivation from the informative signage and displays. The Rose Garden is also a popular spot for weddings and other special events, providing a picturesque and romantic backdrop for memorable occasions.

The Treehouse and Bamboo Labyrinth

One of the most unique and enchanting features of The Alnwick Garden is the Treehouse, a stunning wooden structure that seems to grow organically from the forest floor. Designed by the architects Peter Eistob and Gordon Glendinning, the Treehouse is the largest of its kind in the world, spanning over 6,000 square feet and rising to a height of 56 feet. The Treehouse is home to a restaurant, classrooms, and event spaces, all accessed via a series of suspended walkways that offer breathtaking views of the garden below. Another delightful feature of the garden is the Bamboo Labyrinth, a winding maze of towering bamboo plants that creates a sense of mystery and adventure. Visitors can wander through the labyrinth, getting lost in its twists and turns, before emerging into a tranquil central space that features a serene water feature and comfortable seating areas.

A family outing at Alnwick Castle

Exploring Alnwick Castle - Delving into History and Popular Culture

Guided Tours: Unravelling the Castle's Rich History

One of the best ways to explore the rich history of Alnwick Castle is through a guided tour led by one of the castle's knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides. These tours offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the castle's inhabitants over the centuries, from the mighty Percy family to the countless servants, artisans, and soldiers who called Alnwick Castle home. As you walk through the castle's grand halls, opulent State Rooms, and ancient dungeons, your guide will regale you with tales of battles and sieges, political intrigue and romance, and the everyday life of the castle's residents. You'll learn about the castle's architectural history, its role in the tumultuous border wars between England and Scotland, and the impact of historical events such as the War of the Roses and the English Civil War on the castle and its inhabitants. Guided tours are an excellent way to gain a deeper appreciation for the castle's rich history and the people who shaped its destiny.

Historical Reenactments and Living History Demonstrations

To truly immerse yourself in the history of Alnwick Castle, be sure to catch one of the many historical reenactments and living history demonstrations that take place throughout the year. These engaging and educational events bring the castle's past to life, showcasing the skills, crafts, and daily life of its inhabitants in different historical periods. You might witness a thrilling sword fight between medieval knights, watch a master falconer demonstrate the art of training and flying birds of prey, or learn about the intricacies of Tudor court etiquette from costumed interpreters. These hands-on, interactive experiences offer a unique and memorable way to connect with the castle's history and gain a deeper understanding of the people and events that shaped its development over the centuries.

Harry Potter Film Location Tours

For fans of the Harry Potter films, Alnwick Castle offers a special treat: the opportunity to explore the real-life locations where some of the most iconic scenes from the movies were filmed. The castle served as a key filming location for the first two Harry Potter films, standing in for the magical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On a Harry Potter film location tour, you'll visit the spots where Harry and his classmates learned to fly broomsticks, played Quidditch, and attended their first Potions classes. Your guide will share behind-the-scenes stories and interesting trivia about the making of the films, as well as point out the subtle differences between the real castle and its fictional counterpart. Whether you're a die-hard Harry Potter fan or simply curious about the castle's role in this beloved franchise, a film location tour is a must-do activity during your visit to Alnwick Castle.

Exhibitions and Displays: Showcasing the Castle's Collections

Alnwick Castle is home to a vast and varied collection of art, artifacts, and historical objects, many of which are showcased in temporary exhibitions and permanent displays throughout the castle. These exhibitions offer a fascinating glimpse into different aspects of the castle's history and the lives of its inhabitants, from the sumptuous furnishings and decorative arts of the State Rooms to the military memorabilia and archaeological finds that tell the story of the castle's role as a strategic fortress. Highlights of the castle's collections include a rare set of 17th-century Cucci cabinets, a stunning collection of medieval and Renaissance armour, and a series of portraits depicting generations of the Percy family. Be sure to check the castle's schedule of exhibitions during your visit, as there is always something new and interesting to discover.

A lion statue in Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle's Legacy - Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future

Preservation and Conservation Efforts

As one of the largest and most historically significant inhabited castles in England, Alnwick Castle bears a weighty responsibility to preserve and protect its architectural heritage and cultural legacy for future generations. The castle's stewards, the Percy family, take this responsibility seriously, investing significant resources in ongoing preservation and conservation efforts. These efforts include regular maintenance and repairs to the castle's physical structure, as well as the careful restoration of its historic interiors and collections. The castle's team of skilled craftsmen, conservators, and historical experts work tirelessly to ensure that every aspect of the castle is cared for to the highest standards, using traditional techniques and materials wherever possible. Through these efforts, Alnwick Castle is able to maintain its authentic character and historical integrity, while also adapting to the needs and expectations of modern visitors.

Modernising Visitor Experiences

In addition to preserving the castle's physical fabric, Alnwick Castle's stewards are also committed to enhancing and modernising the visitor experience, using the latest technologies and interpretive techniques to bring the castle's history and stories to life. This includes the use of multimedia displays, audio guides, and interactive exhibits that allow visitors to engage with the castle's history in new and exciting ways. For example, visitors can use augmented reality apps to explore the castle's architecture and art collections in greater depth, or follow themed trails that highlight different aspects of the castle's history and cultural significance. By embracing these modern approaches to interpretation and education, Alnwick Castle is able to appeal to a wider and more diverse audience, ensuring its continued relevance and popularity in the 21st century.

Community Engagement and Outreach

As a major cultural and economic asset in the region, Alnwick Castle plays an important role in supporting and engaging with the local community. The castle's stewards are committed to using the castle's resources and influence for the benefit of the surrounding area, through a range of community engagement and outreach initiatives. These include educational programs for local schools, apprenticeship and training opportunities for young people interested in heritage conservation and hospitality, and partnerships with local businesses and community groups. The castle also hosts a range of events and activities throughout the year that are designed to bring the community together and celebrate the region's rich history and culture, from food and drink festivals to live music performances and outdoor theatre productions. By fostering strong connections with the local community, Alnwick Castle is able to strengthen its position as a vital and valued part of the region's heritage and identity.

Sustainable Tourism and Environmental Stewardship

As a major tourist destination, Alnwick Castle recognises its responsibility to operate in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. The castle's stewards have implemented a range of measures to reduce the castle's environmental impact and promote sustainable tourism practices, from using renewable energy sources and eco-friendly cleaning products to encouraging visitors to use public transportation and support local businesses. The castle's gardens are also managed using organic and sustainable methods, with a focus on promoting biodiversity and protecting wildlife habitats. By demonstrating leadership in sustainable tourism and environmental stewardship, Alnwick Castle is setting an example for other heritage sites and attractions, and contributing to the long-term health and resilience of the region's natural and cultural resources.


Through its ongoing efforts to preserve the past, embrace the future, and engage with the community in meaningful ways, Alnwick Castle is securing its position as a vital and enduring part of England's rich cultural heritage. As the castle continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs and expectations of visitors and the wider world, it remains a testament to the enduring power of history, storytelling, and human ingenuity, and an inspiration for generations to come.

The sun setting over Alnwick Castle

Related Articles

Let us know you agree to cookies

We use marketing, analytical and functional cookies as well as similar technologies to give you the best experience. Third parties, including social media platforms, often place tracking cookies on our site to show you personalised adverts outside of our website.


We store your cookie preferences for two years and you can edit your preferences via ‘manage cookies’ or through the cookie policy at the bottom of every page. For more information, please see our cookie policy.