For magical memories, in more ways than one, there’s a medieval marvel not too far from home that’s cast a spell on our young family.
Alnwick Castle keeps us coming back for more and the beauty is there is always another nook to be discovered.
It may be more than a thousand years old, but there’s nothing stuffy or boring about a trip to the jewel in Northumberland’s crown.
Of course there’s heritage running through everything at Alnwick and history buffs can while away the hours perusing the collections or soaking up the grandeur – but this is a family destination through and through.
Harry Potter has a lot to do with that, as Alnwick’s unofficial ambassador and most famous former, fictional, pupil. When the awe inspiring quad at the castle was pressed into action as the backdrop for quidditch scenes in the early films, it put what was already a popular tourist spot well and truly on the map of must-visit attractions. Real life Hogwarts.
It isn’t difficult to see why directors fell in love with the setting. On a sunny day the stone glistens and there’s a lovely, relaxed vibe. Picnics on the lawn, a stroll around the grounds – the only thing that breaks the tranquillity is laughter. Lots of laughter.
Most of that comes from the quad, where the broomstick lessons take centre stage. Nobody said it would be easy, but with some patient tuition from the incredible Alnwick team, not to mention a bit of theatrical flair, even beginners can master the art of flying. If you haven’t tried it already, it really is a whole lot of fun.
There’s more to Alnwick than Harry Potter though. Knight’s Quest, tucked away in an atmospheric courtyard, takes little visitors back to 1389 and brings history to life with costumes, games, crafts, displays and the occasional rat (just pretend, thankfully!). There’s the chance to become a knight, a princess, a king or queen – not to mention the dark recesses of Dragon’s Quest, an interactive walk through.
The only problem with Alnwick as a day trip is there’s more to do than there are hours to do it in, not least because the stunning gardens are worthy of a visit in their own right. Tickets for the castle and the gardens are available separately, though buying a combined pass does bring savings. Worth considering – but only if you have the time to take in both, you wouldn’t want to rush either.
The market town of Alnwick itself is also well worth a wander, with the eccentric Barter Books store, in the old station building, something of a landmark in its own right. With a well stocked kids section, there are bargains to be had for budding readers – including some of JK Rowling’s finest work, perfect for keeping the magical memories of Alnwick alive well after the trip is over.