Just off the present A1, Alnwick was an important staging point between Newcastle and Berwick and quickly became an important market town and is traditionally regarded as the historic County Town. That role has now been taken over by nearby Morpeth which is the administrative centre for Northumberland.
Alnwick has preserved its character over the years and is a very attractive town with cobbled streets and narrow alleyways, lined with C17th to C19th buildings. The Market Cross still stands in the market place, although the top was replaced in the C19th.
Although there are large Morrisons, Sainsbury, Co-Op and Lidl supermarkets, the centre of the town still retains a wide range of small specialist shops, many which have been trading for many generations. A walk along Bondgate Within, Market Street and Fenkle Street is shopaholic heaven. Alnwick is a bustling and thriving town.
“Turnbull’s Butchers”:https://www.turnbullsofalnwick.co.uk/ has been trading for 140 years and as well as selling very good meat also has an excellent selection of pies, pasties, cakes and biscuits. They also sell traditionally smoked Craster kippers. The “Cheese Room”:https://www.facebook.com/thecheeseroomatthealnwickdeli/ is a specialist cheese shop and deli selling a wide range of local and continental cheeses.
“Mojo Toys”:http://www.mojogifts.com/ is an old fashioned toy shop selling traditional toys which are so difficult to find now.
Not only does Jobson’s of Alnwick sell country cloths, it also has its own “saddler”:https://www.jobsonsofalnwick.co.uk/saddlers/ . This is the place to come to repair an old saddle or to have a bespoke one made.
The “House of Hardy”:http://www.hardyfishing.co.uk/ on the edge of the town manufactures fishing tackle and runs factory tours. It has a small museum covering the history of the company that started in 1872. Their shop has the best stock of rods and reels in the area.
There may no longer be a candle maker, but “Glendale Paints”:https://alnwick.cylex-uk.co.uk/company/glendale-paints-16154021.html is the kind of old fashioned hardware shop which was so common 50 years ago, but has virtually disappeared now. As well as paints it is an Aladdin’s cave of goodies selling everything from light pulls to walking stick ferrules. I bought a wonderful cotton apron decorated with sheep for only £9.
There is a “Saturday Market”:https://www.visitalnwick.org.uk/tourist-information/amenities/alnwick-markets/ in the Market Place and a monthly “Farmers Market and Craft Fair”:https://www.visitalnwick.org.uk/tourist-information/amenities/alnwick-markets/
on the last Friday of the month.
There are also charity shops selling good quality items, reflecting the affluence of the are. I was intrigued by book titles like “Cooking for your Cat’ and ‘The Secret Life of Cows’.
For second hand books, the place to go is “Barter Books”:https://www.barterbooks.co.uk/ in the old Station building on the edge of the town. A short branch line was opened in 1850 bringing visitors to the castle from the main line at Alnwick and the size of the station reflects its importance. The line closed in 1968 as part of the Beeching Cuts and is now home to the largest second hand bookshop in the country. There is a coal fire in the waiting room, lots of chairs to sit and read in as well as a cafe. A model railway runs round the top of the shelves.
“Tourist Information”:https://www.visitnorthumberland.com/tourist-information-centre/alnwick-tourist-information-centre is in the splendid Shambles building between Market Street and the Market Place. This was built by the third Duke of Northumberland in 1826 with butcher’s shops and a fish market at the end of the building and Northumberland Hall above. This now hosts weddings and events. ere were butcher’s shops below This was originally where the butchers shops were. Staff are knowledgeable and helpful and there is a very clear free map of Alnwick. This is also the place to buy tickets for Alnwick Gardens as they give a 10% discount on the price.
The Town Hall with its clock Tower dates from 1736 and originally contained the court room, council chambers and weigh house. It is now the home of the “Alnwick Gallery.”:http://www.thealnwickgallery.co.uk/