Alnwick Castle

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Family including children under 16

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Most of us are familiar with Alnwick Castle being used as a setting for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. But I think many people would be surprised at just how often this grand building has featured on our screens, with a few surprises among them. Robin Hood and more latterly Downton Abbey you might expect, but Star Trek and The Fast Show ! Maybe they wouldn't spring to mind quite so readily. The castle and stately home are the second largest inhabited after Windsor, but it's the Potter connection that really put the place on the map. 800,000 visitors come to this Northern outpost every year.

Needless to say, at over 1,000 years old the castle has towered over many historical events. It's been the backdrop for plenty of skirmishes between the Scots and the English and it also featured prominently in the War of the Roses. I say the backdrop because castles of this scale and strength were seldom openly attacked, they were just formidable. Often the battles would take place by agreement outside the walls.

On a more peaceful note, the gardens and parks surrounding the castle are superb. That's little more than you'd expect when you consider the two 'legends' who had a hand in creating them, Lancelot "Capability "Brown and the much more recent David Austin. The rose garden is one of my favourites not just in this country, but in the whole wide world. It's compact enough to take in with ease but has more than sufficient to keep ones interest for an hour or so. Longer if, like me, you decide to picnic here. For those who like to put things into numbers, there are over 3,000 roses to sniff, gaze upon and photograph.

The Grand cascade provides entertainment for young and old alike. It's described as the 'extraordinary centrepiece' of Alnwick and I wouldn't argue. It's huge, the biggest of its kind in the country and it combines a modernistic waterfall with dancing fountains. I returned to it several times during the day and it never failed to impress. The large lawned area in front of it provides an ideal spot to take refreshments.

Again on a massive scale is the tree house, one of the most enormous you'll find anywhere with rope bridges, skyways, an educational building, even a restaurant. All beautifully constructed from sustainably sourced Canadian cedar, Scandinavian redwood and English and Scots pine. Like most of Alnwick, wheelchair accessibility is excellent.

The castle is no disappointment either. There are sumptious staterooms, an enormous and opulent dining room, a cavernous dungeon like cellar and a host of exhibitions and collections – furniture, ceramics, silk. You really do get into an insight into how the othe other half lived and still do. Remember, this is someone's home even to this day. The lucky couple being no less than the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. Their library alone contains an estimated 14,000 catalogued books. And a television !

It's £13.78 for an adult ticket into the castle or £36.10 for two adults and two children. And you can use this to return within twelve months. The gardens are separate admission which presently cost £7.32 for an adult and £16.72 for a family. Note the garden price is for a one-off visit, is the current Winter price and needs to be booked in advance. Summer prices paid at the gate may be higher.

I would consider this to be a value package as you would certainly need a large part of the day to take everything in the castle, gardens and surrounding area has to offer. And unlike some attractions these days they don't frown upon you taking your food and drink on to the premises.

If you get the weather, and it is northern England, the whole family should have a wonderful, fun filled day.

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