The beautiful town of Alnwick can be found in Northumberland, near England’s North East coast. This is an attractive small town that my family are planning on re-visiting next year (finally a family holiday after three years of waiting)! It’s the perfect place to stay if you want to experience all that Northumberland has to offer, it’s close enough to the sea, to several castles, a slightly long trip to Hadrian’s Wall and famous for a rather magical location it’s the perfect place to visit for your next family holiday.
Alnwick (pronounced: Annick) has plenty to suit every history lover, but not only that, being the home to the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick boosts spectacular coastlines, castles and cobbled streets. It’s the perfect location for either a romantic getaway with your partner or a place to take your kids on holiday, Alnwick has everything you would need for the perfect staycation.
Here are 5 things to do in Alnwick that you NEED to do (according to me, a history travel expert of course)…
No trip to Northumberland would be complete without a trip to Alnwick Castle, famous for being involved in the Harry Potter films, it’s also got 1000 years of history behind it, some incredible architecture and has been the seat of the powerful Percy Family, the Dukes of Northumberland, since the 13th century making it the largest inhabited castle in the UK after Windsor.
Whilst the Percy family still live in this castle, you can take a tour inside to admire the incredible carved ceilings and their collection of priceless art. But what is really incredible about Alnwick castle (and probably my favourite part) is the broomstick lessons that you can take and dungeon tours you can take, this is the perfect place to take your family!
If you’re more interested in the history of this castle then you’ll be pleased to know that the oldest part was built in 1096 as a Norman fortress and it has undergone multiple expansions over the years. Between 1364-1366, Alnwick Castle was home to one of England’s most famous knights, Harry “Hotspur” Percy, whose statue currently guards the castle’s courtyard.
Location: Alnwick NE66 1NQ
Price: Castle Adult is £18.50, Child (5-16 years) is £8.50
2. Alnwick Gardens: After the Castle
If you’re visiting Alnwick Castle, then you don’t want to miss out on the gardens in Alnwick. The gardens feature a waterfall, rose garden and cherry orchard. You can also test your skills in the bamboo maze!
What makes this garden extra special though, is its poison garden – kept behind locked bars of course – it can only be visited with a guided tour and you can’t touch anything! The poison garden features a collection of 100s of the world’s most poisonous plants that can kill! Through a set of black iron gates with ominous skull and crossbones warnings is this garden of deadly plants laid out in the Alnwick Garden in 2005 and has been described as the “world’s deadliest garden”.
If you’d rather not take your chances with the most poisonous plants, then you’ve still got 42 acres of Alnwick Garden to explore that was plotted by the Belgian landscape architects Jacques and Peter Wirtz, and feature topiaries and innumerable water features like a regal Grand Cascade.
There’s a peaceful Cherry Orchard, a Bamboo Labyrinth and a Serpent Garden with otherworldly water sculptures.
You should also make sure to check out the treehouse at Alnwick, it is one of the largest treehouses in the world, in a 560-square-metre complex housing the cafe – here’s a tip though, make sure to book a table well in advance!
Location: Alnwick Alnwick NE66 1YU
Price: Castle Adult is £16.75, Child (5-16 years) is £8.50
Note: You can book tickets for the castle and gardens AND pay for the day, visit for the year!
3. Barter Books: More Than Just a Bookstore
Book lovers will absolutely love Barter Books! This is more than just a bookstore, it’s a location and one of the top things to do in Alnwick. This is the town’s old railway station and is one of the biggest book stores in the United Kingdom.
This is quirky and attractive place to explore, with its cafe, colourful mural of 33 significant literary figures and toy train that rattles around the bookshelves, this is a place where you can easily spend an hour.
Barter Books opened up in 1991 by Mary and Stuart Manley, as a places where people could trade their old book for new ones. This is something which you can still do today, so if you have got books to trade head on over and enjoy the fact that you’ll have plenty of new ones to choose from. Rows and rows of a changing array of books are stacked high, representing just about every possible genre.
It’s not just books that this place is famous for, Barter Books is home of the iconic Keep Calm and Carry On poster. Back in 2000, in a box of old books purchased at an auction house, the Manley’s discovered an old WWII British propaganda poster that had never officially been released to the public.
They adored it, had it framed and put it up in the shop. It was so popular with the customers, they had copies made to sell and the rest, as they say, is history.
Location: Alnwick NE66 2NP
Price: Free (except the books)!
Hours: Barter Books is open everyday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m
4. Alnmouth Beach: Just Ten Minutes From Alnwick
This is only a ten minute drive from Alnwick town and offers stunning views of Northumberland coastline. If you like the feeling of sand between your toes, then kick off your shoes and stroll along the beach.
You’ll find that there is plenty of places along the beach to lay out your towel or have your own space for your family to play around on, even in the height of summer. If you manage to come here on a week day, you might even find that you get the place to yourself if you are so lucky.
And if you decide to head off the beach, then Alnmouth town is filled with quaint cottages that are well worth a wander around. It doesn’t just end there though, why not visit the 17th century Schooner Hotel, which is said to be one of the most haunted hotels in England (although there are several haunted castles that you can stay in up North)!
Location: Alnmouth NE66 2RW
Price: Free to wander round
5. Bailiffgate Museum: Family Friendly Museum in Alnwick
This is an award-winning family-friendly museum, that is perfect when the weather is wet in Alnwick. There are many activities inside the museum to keep your children entertained, including dressing up, arts and crafts, perfect for people planning their next family day out. The museum also features an exhibition called “Batteries Not Included”, which displays a history of toys.
This museum is not just for children though, the museum also displays a lot of the local history and heritage, including display items from local art and history. And it’s really not too expensive either, at just £4 per adult and £1 per child, so is perfect for families or local heritage fans who want a simple day out, particularly if the weather isn’t favourable.
Location: Alnwick NE66 1LX
Price: £4 for an adult, £1 for a child
Alnwick has so much more to offer than just these 5 locations AND Northumberland in general is just an incredible space to explore, you have several castles that are perfect for any history lover and they are all within easy drive. You’ve got Dunstanborough Castle, Warkworth Castle, plus so much more!
And it’s not just castles either, you’ve got Craster to explore (and you have to try the kippers there), Seahouses, there’s so much which makes Alnwick, or anywhere in Northumberland the perfect place to take your family for your next staycation!