The Alnwick Garden, one of Europe’s newest gardens is set in the grounds of Alnwick Castle which is home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. The rolling North Northumberland countryside and the historic town of Alnwick provide a suitable back drop to this beautiful garden. Inspired by the Duchess of Northumberland, what was once derelict land is now a magnificent garden for all to enjoy.
The Alnwick Garden can be accessed either from the Castle Quarter of Alnwick on Baliffgate (only street parking available) which is the first area you come across as you enter Alnwick from the North and where a bus will drop you off, or from the area just off Bondgate Without (Greenwell Avenue turn off) which also house The Alnwick Garden car park, or the Denwick Lane entrance (which has a dedicated blue badge car parking area). It is recommended those with mobility issues access the garden using one of the last two options.
As I have some mobility issues I always observe how well a place caters for disabled people or those less mobile and I am pleased to say The Alnwick Garden got full marks. I give details of facilities for disabled people in the body of my review and in summary at the end of it.
I visited The Alnwick Garden in March, a summer visit perhaps would have provided the opportunity of seeing more plants in bloom, however I still enjoyed a spectacular experience during a time when the gardens were less crowded.
There is so much to see and to do, you need at least a good half day to visit the garden with a full day’s visit perhaps being more preferable.
Entrance to the gardens at the door costs £13.75 per adult. £11.70 for senior citizens and concessions. Children age 5-16 £4.40 children under 4 free. A family ticket costs £33. Carers are admitted at concession rate with essential carers admitted free of charge.
I entered the gardens via the main car park accessed by following the directions from the Bondgate without turn off.
As I have some mobility issues, the first thing I noticed was the good level surface as I went through the ticket office into the gardens. The good quality level surface of the walkways continues throughout the whole of the Gardens, there are also ramps providing good wheelchair access to all of the garden. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters can also be hired free of charge (it is wise to book in advance). The Alnwick Garden prides its self on being fully accessible, including their famous Treehouse Restaurant. There are posters close to the ticket office advertising how their staff can assist the less mobile to enjoy their garden.
After leaving the ticket office I walked through to The Pavilion. The Pavilion houses a café, juice bar and is a place to sit and look out over the Grand Cascade.
Water features predominantly throughout the Garden. The Grand Cascade provides a riot of a water display which is fascinating to watch. The Grand Cascade is built into two listed earth banks from the 1850s. This magnificent Cascade involves 7260 gallons of water spilling down a series of 21 weirs every minute. The Water displays happen every 30 minutes, so The Pavilion is a good place to sit and watch these interesting displays.
The Serpent garden almost adjoins the Giant Cascade. Here a topiary serpent in holly snakes through the watery garden showing a different water sculpture in each of its coils.
The Poison Garden is accessed through a single gate. The idea of the Poison Garden came about because it is widely known that plants can heal so a garden showing plants that kill was created to provide an unusual feature. When I went into the Poison Garden I was taken into it with a group of others by a Guide who provided a wealth of information on the 100 plants with various levels of deadlyness that the garden houses.
The Rose Garden features 3000 roses. The Cherry Orchard have over 300 cherry trees, underplanted with over 600,000 tulips. The Woodland walk is popular because the area is known to be a home to red squirrels. The Roots and Shoots garden is a teaching garden within the walls of an old kitchen garden, it provides learning opportunities on vegetable growing for all ages and abilities. The Ornamental Garden has the largest collection of European grown plants in striking beds.
There are large picnic areas, seating is throughout the entire garden which I found useful. There is a huge shop selling a variety of Northumberland produce and gifts as well as everything for the garden. There is a plant centre selling plants and shrubs. There is a large building called Jamies Ministry of Food which provides courses on learning to cook a range of delicious dished using locally sourced ingredients many from the Roots and Shoots Garden. There are outdoor shops selling ice creams, juice and vintage sweets as well as cafes and the famous Treehouse restaurant.
The Treehouse is enormous, it is beautifully crafted and is known as one of the world’s largest walkways in the sky with wobbly rope bridges as well as secure solid and well lit walkways. It is wheelchair accessible.
The fairy lights along the walk ways make the Treehouse a magical place to be. This unique restaurant is in the heart of the tree house. The Treehouse Restaurant contains wooden hand carved furniture, there are tree stumps growing through the floor and branches lining the walls. In the Middle of the Restaurant is a huge log fire. The meals served use locally produced ingredients ,many from their own garden. The lunchtime menu which is posted outside the Treehouse is varied and costs approx. £17.95 for two courses around £22.95 for three courses. There is a good wine list and the restaurant is known for its wonderful cocktails It is wise to reserve seating. The Restaurant is wheelchair accessible, however there is no access to the upper level of the Treehouse called The Nest or to the roof top viewing area.
Time did not allow me to eat at the Treehouse Restaurant, however I did stop off a The Potting Shed, this is a café which looks like an upmarket Potting Shed and it is within the Treehouse. Here, tea and coffee can be purchased for around £2 and sandwich snacks for around £4.50.
The Alnwick Garden is open all year round, as well as the Garden it hosts a series of events, for example in the winter of 2013 it held a Christmas Market which was organised by the people who run the famous Edinburgh Christmas Market. The winter also brought a Lantern Parade.
The Opening times are Winter (until 27th March) Sunday to Friday 10-4 Saturday 10-7. Summer 28th March to 31 August. Monday to Saturday 10-7, Sunday 10-5.
The facilities for disabled people or those with poor mobility are in summary:
Pre bookable wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Friendly staff who are happy to help Large separate designated parking area Level/ramped wheelchair access to the venue, throughout the venue including to picnic tables and to the Treehouse. Wheelchair accessibility to interactive exhibits. Accessible cutlery Concessions to carers and free access to essential carers. fully accessible disabled toilets throughout the gardens, treehouse and cafes.
The Alnwick Garden can be reached by bus from Morpeth or Berwick Upon Tweed, The nearest rail station is at Alnmouth.
As well as Alnwick Castle which is alongside the Garden, The Baliffgate Museum is just steps away and is a fully accessible interesting museum illustrating Alnwick and Northumbrian Life. The shops, cafes and restaurants of Alnwick as well as hotels/B&B are in the immediate vicinity.
I would recommend the Alnwick Garden and look forward to returning.