Two days in Alnwick
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“I don’t care what we do, but we’re going to Hogwarts,” is not the kind of demand that every holiday starts with, but as an answer to ‘What are we going to in Northumberland, then?’ this seemed pretty conclusive. In this case, it meant we were visiting Alnwick, a town right in the heart of England’s least populated - and arguably most stunning - county. It is a town that on paper simply oozes rural charm and fairytale wonderment, so it made sense to make it a first port of call for a Northumberland adventure. Our stint in the town took in a comfortable stay at The Hogs Head Inn (see there were Harry Potter references from the off), which is well situated to both the town and the A1 for heading off to further explore the natural beauty of the county. The evening meal there set the tone for the meals throughout the trip, which provided top quality food in a pub setting, and at pub prices. They even accommodated for the gluten-allergies of our party, without any issues. Stepping out into Alnwick itself, whilst being a very lovely medieval town, it doesn’t immediately standout from similar towns around the UK. It has the cobbled streets, the old buildings and has maintained the local charm - it is not a place weighed down by chains, and has opted for independent local shops, cafes and pubs. Delving further is where the town offers its gems. One must-visit is Barter Books, which as one of the UK’s largest second hand book shops is a treasure trove for avid readers. Housed in the town’s old railway station it opens up a quaint world of literature to visitors. Our second day’s activities really put Alnwick on the map as a ‘special’ place to visit. There can be few views as breathtaking as the walk up to Alnwick Castle (even out of season, I can only imagine what it is like in the blazing sunshine). Dubbed the Windsor of the North, and still home to the Percy family (the Duke’s and Duchesses of Northumberland) and is the embodiment of the image conjured up when you think of a ‘castle’. Of course, these days, it is most recognisable as Hogwarts in the first few Harry Potter films and the site a Downton Abbey Christmas special, but it has also been the location across many other classic pieces of TV and film – including acting as Nottingham Castle in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the home of Blackadder in the first series of the classic comedy. The ‘On Location’ Tour points out the bits captured on film with some brilliant anecdotes that unravels the role the castle played in our favourites films. But it’s not just a bloody good castle that’s been in films and stuff, there’s also some serious fun to be had for everyone.
The magical setting is completed with a roaring fire and large selection of cocktails. Our first beverages were served in the quaint smaller bar, The Potting Shed, in a little green watering can and a plant pot. The food is renowned for its quality, and did not disappoint.
To be in such a setting, and for two people to get three courses and drinks for a price in the region of £70, makes this a must visit, especially for an out-of-town Londoner like myself.
All in all a short stay in Alnwich was a feast for the mind, imagination, eyes and stomach, providing history, fantasy and excellent food.
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