Alnwick Castle was thrust into the limelight in the early 2000’s when Harry Potter arrived in movie format, and the castle took a leading role as a Hogwarts stand in when the directors discovered filming at Hogwarts was somewhat difficult given it doesn’t exist!
Alnwick Castle dates back to 1096, and today serves as not only a Hogwarts stand in, but one of the biggest tourist attractions in Northumberland. It has been used regularly for filming locations, but I will admit it was Harry Potter which got us to head there.
We arrived in the car park, which is situated across the road from Alnwick Castle Gardens, and this is where we hit problems. Walking out of the car park, our pre-booked tickets in hand, the signage starts referring to Alnwick Castle Gardens, which is a separate ticket, we had only paid for the castle.
Our little group got caught up with a few others in a confused huddle as to which way to go. In the end, a confused, now quite large group started walking up the busy road, which we discovered at the very top, we could have cut through the edge of the Gardens and done the 15 minute walk in less than 5.
Anyway, we eventually got there, and we had to queue to exchange our reference number for a ticket and we headed inside the castle.
First stop for us was the Lost Cellars, a free show but you need to pick up a timed ticket which are handed out on request at the entrance of the Cellars.
We were early enough to be in the first through the Lost Cellars, and it was a 20 minute-ish show of walk through rooms, led by an actor, with a few other actors in between, as well as lights and sounds. It all works together to create some mild jumps, but no all out scares meaning it is suitable for a family audience, however, some scenes may be a little too frightening for the youngest family members, hence my wife and I took turns while our son waited outside playing on the grass.
The next thing we headed to was the State Rooms, which is the usual warren of rooms, decorated with plush furniture, thousands of books, and other items which we won’t ever have the room nor money to ever own.
This is the point where our son got a little bored, afterall, he sees one historic house and he has seen them all, therefore we moved quickly through the rooms and back out into daylight.
By now it was getting on for lunch time and there are places to eat, either a full menu or a quick bite, however, we, like many others pitched up a sheet on the grass and ate a picnic in the glorious sunshine before having a bit of a game of tag before heading out to the rest of the castle.
We quickly found that the castle had all but been handed over to Harry Potter with shows and displays going on all themed around the movie franchise, and most of which done really well, including a large Broomstick Training session which will leave you with fantastic photos of you flying a broomstick.
The main stand out thing for our son was Knight’s Quest, a large courtyard which had a large dragon we could pet, dressing up as knights and princesses, medieval games and crafts, all led by attentive and friendly staff.
To one side, there is also Dragon Quest, a dark walk through dark experience where you come face to face with monsters and dragons, and something which was a little too frightening for our son, but he did pluck up the courage to walk through again a little later on, all be it with his eyes closed!
In all, we really enjoyed Alnwick Castle, it was a day we didn’t have too much hope for, but delivered much much more, with open spaces, history and fun. The staff were fun and really friendly and we wished we had gone a second day to explore the gardens too.