Northumberland has some of loveliest market towns and each one has it’s own distinctive character, history and charm and each one with it’s own unique offering for a perfect day out. A visit to North Northumberland and to the market town of Alnwick will not disappoint and although most famously known for it’s grand castle and wonderful gardens there is much more to enjoy when you visit this lovely medieval market town.
Take a saunter through Alnwick town centre and you will find cobbled streets, narrow alleys and old traditional stone buildings many of which many are home to independent shops and you will find a few high street names dotted about too as well as pubs and cafes in which you can sit and soak up the atmosphere of this thriving market town. The historic Market Square hosts a weekly market on Thursday and Saturday from end of March onwards and the Farmers’ Market is held on the last Friday of each month is you fancy picking up some local produce.
Also in the centre of Alnwick is the Bailiffgate Museum which is an award winning independent museum and gallery with exhibitions and displays showcasing 10,000 years of rich local history and culture. The museum is located in a Grade 2 listed former church and this would make a perfect starting point for if you wish to take in the rich history of Alnwick.
If you love books then a visit to Barter Books is a must, it is one of the largest second hand book shops in England with over 350,000 books to choose from. This huge bookshop is located in part of an old Victorian railway station and is made up of several rooms all with features from bygone days but all now fitting a very different purpose. The entrance is in fact the old Station Parcel Room, which still has the open window through which passengers would have bought railway tickets and further rooms mark the beginning of the outbound platform, with the buffers still remaining at one end. The old waiting room however is still just a place to sit, a place to read and in the colder months you will find yourself in front of an open fire. There is a whole room dedicated to antiquarian books and you will find the walls of this room lined with over forty glass cases full of these old gems. Of course an old railway station wouldn’t be complete without a train, which you will find running in miniature overhead and if you’re in need of refuelling then the station buffet will do just that. Top tip….the breakfast butties come highly recommended!
Alnwick lies in the midst of some of the beautiful Northumberland countryside and none more so than the historic parkland which was landscaped by Capability Brown and which surrounds Alnwick Castle itself. The park was once part of Hulne Priory and is one of two parks that was once associated with Alnwick Castle and was once the hunting ground of the Percy family. Today Hulne Park is open to the public from 11am-4pm each day and is great for a walk and includes extensive parkland, the impressive Priory remains, the gatehouse to Alnwick Abbey and two bridges. There are three clearly marked circular walking routes and each is between 4 and 6 miles and a map of the walks can be found here.
Although not in the very centre of Alnwick The Aln Valley Railway at the Lionheart Station is lovely way to combine a trip to Alnwick with a breath of sea air. The railway has a small shop and cafe and holds events throughout the year but gives the perfect opportunity to take a train ride to the charming village of Alnmouth on the stunning North East coast.
Of course we couldn’t write about Alnwick without including the monumental Alnwick Castle and the wonderful brainchild of the Duchess of Northumberland, Alnwick Garden.
Alnwick Castle dates back 950 years and is the second largest inhabited castle in the UK and is often dubbed as the Windsor of the North. As you would imagine there is a wealth of history to be discovered within it’s 2m thick walls and the setting and the features of this medieval stronghold are nothing short of magnificent and many of which you may recognise from the castle’s numerous stints as a film set.
Alnwick Garden is a wonderful combination of spaces, themes, quirkiness and play. From the tranquility of the Cherry Orchard and garden swings, the excitement of the Grand Cascade and the mysteries of the Bamboo Labyrinth, to the Serpent Garden’s spell-binding water sculptures, the intrigue of the Poison Garden, the delight of the Rose Garden and one of the world’s largest tree houses – there is lots to admire and plenty to enjoy and delight!
Alnwick is just one of the lovely towns you will find in Northumberland and if you’d like to discover more of these historic market towns then remember to check out Hexham, Amble, Rothbury or Morpeth to name just a few. We hope you have a great day out whichever town you choose to visit.