Tag: north northumberland

Visit Alnwick

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.

alt="Alnwick Market Square in sun"
Alnwick Market Square

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!

alt="bater books reading room in Alnwick"
Barter Books

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.

alt="Alnwick castle with blue skies behind"
Alnwick Castle

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!

When visiting the castle or garden please check the respective websites for opening seasons and times as these do vary.

alt="grand cascade at Alnwick Garden"
Alnwick Garden

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.

Charming Villages – Alnmouth

Alnmouth is a beautiful coastal village in North Northumberland that lies just 4 miles from the nearby town of Alnwick. Alnmouth is a pretty and sweet little village that offers fantastic views, a beautiful beach, a diverse selection wildlife and some wonderful walks that take in the stunning North East coastline.

Alnmouth is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it’s pretty obvious why as soon as you arrive. The village itself sits neatly within a sweeping curve of the Aln Estuary and is surrounded by a vast but very tranquil beach which is backed by golden sand dunes. The sand dunes are the perfect habitat for birds and that together with the mud flats that the tide creates mean there are superb bird watching opportunities. From Alnmouth there are views to Coquet Island which lies just a mile off the coast and is an RSPB wildlife sanctuary, as well as being home to over 35,000 seabirds it is the only UK breeding site for Roseate Terns. It is a protected site which unfortunately means the public are unable to set foot on the island but there are boats trips over to view the island from nearby Amble.

The village centre itself is home to a small selection of gift shops, a deli, a gallery and a small selection of pubs and restaurants too. Alnmouth is well known for it’s row of colourful houses which are an eye-catching sight, think the Tobermory of Northumberland, they are a favourite subject with photographers and artists alike. This little village boasts a lovely golf course which enjoys spectacular views over the coast and is one of the oldest golf courses in England, dating back to 1869 and it is also home to the smallest museum in Northumberland, The Ferryman’s Hut, which you will find in the harbour. It was originally used by ferrymen when they would row their passengers back and forth across the River Aln and it is thought that the last ferryman stopped working in the 1960s and the museum shows pictures and stories of him and his predecessors in this tiny piece of Northumbrian history.

Alnmouth has a few treasures too such as The Friary that holds open garden days and events throughout the year, Alnmouth Gun Battery dating back to 1881 which you may come across as you saunter along the vast sands. St Cuthbert’s Cross stands on the very steep Church Hill and looks out over the estuary and although little is known about the cross it is thought that it was the location where St Cuthbert agreed to become The Bishop of Lindisfarne. There is a walk which takes you up the hill to the cross although you may find it is more of a hike, if you do take the walk look out for the ruins of a small Mortuary Chapel.

If you really want to embrace those sea views then walk a stretch of the Northumberland AONB Coastal Path or enjoy the Alnmouth Circular Walk which takes in both coast and country.

Northumberland really does have something for everyone and the beauty of the County isn’t just found in the larger tourist attractions. If you’re looking for a quiet day away from it all then Alnmouth is definitely worth a visit and for more of Northumberland’s smaller hidden gems then take a look at our blog posts on the villages of Allendale and Otterburn.