Alnwick Castle – Home of Witches, Wizards, & Mere Mortals Alike

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Alnwick Castle is one of Britain’s most iconic buildings. This stone fortress near the Scottish border was built in 1096 and still stands mighty as ever in all its charismatic glory. It has not only withstood the tests of time, but has also been part of numerous plots and rebellions.

Today, it is home to the Percy family (currently the 12th Duke and Duchess of Northumberland), whose ancestors have been residing there for 700 years. However, the fictional legacy of Alnwick Castle reaches far beyond its mortal existence. 

As a notable filming location for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter franchise, Alnwick continues to welcome witches and wizards to this day. In fact, Alnwick continues to open its doors to all visitors who have come a long way to learn the history that this castle has cemented over the years. Let’s take a look at it:

Apart from the Harry Potter series, movies like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Mary Queen of Scots were also filmed at Alnwick Castle.

Daffodils around Alnwick castle.
Daffodils around Alnwick castle. Alnwick Castle Daffodils flickr photo by WISEBUYS21 shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)
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Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

Origins and Early Action (11th-12th Centuries)

Alnwick Castle was the brainchild of Norman aristocrat Ivo de Vesci, the Baron of Alnwick. He commissioned castle’s construction in the 11th century (1096, to be exact) as a military post against the frequent bombarding carried out by the Scots who used to raid and plunder the area. At one point in 1136, it was even captured by David I, the Scottish king.

Alnwick Castle from the Lion Bridge by Mike Searle

Alnwick’s Predetermined Demise Thwarted (1215)

King John of England wanted to destroy Alnwick Castle as Ivo’s great-grandson, Eustace de Vesci, was plotting against him with the Scottish king Alexander II. Thankfully, the plans were never put into action. Later in the year, Eustace de Vesci was killed in a siege at Barnard Castle. As the last remaining heir of Alnwick, his demise resulted in the estate passing to the Bishop of Durham, Antony Beck.

The Beginning of the Percy Rule (14th Century Onwards)

Henry Percy bought Alnwick from Antony Beck in 1309–thus began the Percy legacy. When the 1st and 2nd Dukes of Percy inherited the fortress, they added several towers and baileys to strengthen the fortress even more.

The first Earl died at the beginning of the 15th century, and his son, Henry “Hotspur” Percy was jotted down in the pages of history as one of the most celebrated knights in England’s history. After his passing in the 15th century, Henry’s son inherited the estates.

Alnwick Castle Painting by Canaletto
An 18th-century painting of Alnwick Castle by Canaletto. [Public domain]

During the War of Roses

Alnwick Castle played a significant role during the War of Roses. Owned by the Percy family, it was used on the Lancastrian side along with Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh, and Warkworth Castles. 

For a brief period of time in the middle of the 15th century (1461), Alnwick Castle was commandeered by the Yorkists, but the tables turned in the winter of that year when the Lancastrians regained control. There was a constant back and forth of sieges between the two parties with Alnwick Castle at the center, but ultimately, it was the Yorkists who had to surrender it in the end.

Old drawing of Alnwick Castle gate
The old drawing of the gate from “The History of the Borough, Castle, and Barony of Alnwick.” [Public domain]

Revival & Glory Days (18th and 19th Centuries)

After the war, several parts of the castle proved irreparable. This is when its major renovation phases began. 

There were quite a few changes made to Alnwick Castle in the 18th and 19th centuries under the critical eye of Anthony Salvin, a popular architect of the era. He restored the exterior of the castle in the vein of original medieval fortress designs.

In contrast, the interior was carried out in sumptuous Renaissance style by the famous Italian master-assistant duo, Luigi Canina and Giovanni Montiroli. Together, these professionals transformed the old and beleaguered Alnwick into the one that we know and love today.

Alnwick Castle – Northumberland by Tim Felce
Isometric View of Alnwick Castle, 1866 [Public domain]

Current Times

Alnwick Castle is renowned for being the longest inhabited castle in Europe, right next to Windsor Castle. Its magic, prestige, and legacy are quite esteemed and have made it an excellent place for tourists to come and spend their days.

Alnwick Castle – Northumberland by Tim Felce
Alnwick Castle – Northumberland.Tim Felce (Airwolfhound) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Members of the Percy family continue to live in the castle, despite it being an attraction to many visitors all over the world. Visitors have access to several sections of the castle. Some popular ones include the gardens where the broom training lessons in Harry Potter were filmed. Then there’s the Poison Garden, host to a range of 100 toxic and narcotic plant species. It’s a morbidly fascinating place – one that is right on par with the fictional greenhouses of Hogwarts itself.

The Percy family wished to educate students of all ages on history, culture, and taxidermy. Thus, the royal family shared some parts of the castle with the students from St. Cloud University in the United States. There are also several museums that have been woven through the interior of the castle, where patrons can learn and celebrate the history of not just the Alnwick Estate, but also the greater Northumberland area.

Filming location for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts in Alnwick Castle
Filming location for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. “Alnwick Castle” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by mariosp

Until this time, the Percy family continues to repair and restore the castle, preserving its role in the history of Alnwick and the country. It is no wonder that Alnwick Castle is the best way to learn the story of Northumberland and the Percy family’s past.

Interesting Facts About Alnwick Castle

  • Alnwick Garden is famous for its poisonous plants that come in different kinds and colors. These plants are all collected for educational purposes. Although visitors are prohibited from touching, smelling, or tasting the plants–some still faint from the smell of the toxic fumes while touring through it.
  • This major fortress was besieged several times, first by King David I of Scotland in 1136 and then by the King of Scotland, William the Lion, in 1172 and 1174.  During the Battle of Alnwick, King William was captured outside the castle walls.
  • Apart from the Harry Potter series, movies like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Mary Queen of Scots were also filmed at Alnwick Castle.
  • Alnwick Castle has more than 150 rooms and only a few of them are open for public viewing. One of these must-see rooms is the library which contains 400 years’ worth of history.
  • Aside from the 16,000 books in the library, the castle also houses some ancient artifacts from Egypt, the Roman period, and also some frescos from Pompeii.
  • Alnwick Castle has the largest treehouse in the world. This treehouse currently hosts the Potting Shed, a famous restaurant and bar in the Alnwick Garden.

Visiting Alnwick Castle – Tips and Tricks

Alnwick Castle is one of the most popular tourist destinations in England. It’s got magic, it’s got history, and it’s got a contemporary charisma that is impossible to resist. If it’s on your bucket list as well, then here’s everything you need to know about visiting it:

Beautiful shot of Alnwick Castle
Beautiful shot of the castle. “Alnwick Castle” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Matthew_Hartley

How to get to Alnwick Castle?

There are a number of ways you can get to Alnwick Castle from London. The easiest one is the 3-hour journey from Kings Cross Station to Newcastle, from where you can take a 55-minute bus ride to Alnwick. It’s a 6-minute walk to the castle from the station. The whole journey might cost you somewhere between £41-£285 ($50-$350 USD).

The cheapest transportation option from London to Alnwick Castle is the National Express, but it will take you almost 9 hours to get to your destination. The cost would be somewhere between £13-£17 ($15-$20 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Alnwick Castle requires you to prebook your tickets for a fast and convenient entry. They seldom take walk-in visitors due to capacity limits.

The Alnwick grounds open at 10:00 am and close at 5:30 pm. The rest of the castle has various opening timings. Some of the museums open at 11:00 am while others open at 11:30 am. They all close up at 5:00 pm on the dot. The cafe and gift shop close at 4:00 pm while the fryery and stables close shop at 3:00 pm. The last entry to the castle is allowed at 3:45 pm.

Ticket prices for adults start at £19.50 ($24 USD), but senior citizens and full-time students can avail of a discounted price of £15.75 ($20 USD). Tickets for children aged 5-16 years cost £10.25 ($13 USD). If you’re a family of two adults and up to four kids, then you can avail yourself a group ticket of £53 ($66 USD). Kids under 4 can enter for free.

Up-Close Panoramic view of Alnwick Castle
Panoramic view of Alnwick Castle from up-close.

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

The Alnwick Tour takes around 45 minutes, but you can carve out an extra 30-45 minutes to explore the grounds yourself.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • There’s a free caregiver ticket option for visitors who come in with disabled guests, but you have to book a ticket for it.
  • There are 3 eateries at the castle and all of them have different closing times. From gyros to hog roasts and traditional fried fish and chips, you can enjoy your favorite meals here.
  • There’s partial wheelchair access in the grounds, but cobbles, flagstones, gravel, and other rough surfaces might make it difficult to maneuver a wheelchair in some spaces. 
  • There are a limited number of motorized scooters available for hire at the castle.

Virtual Tour of Alnwick Castle

Alnwick castle made it to our list of the best virtual castle tours. Tour around from the comfort of your own home and don’t forget to explore other castles on this list!

Quick Video Tour of The Main Alnwick Castle Areas

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Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

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