Hogwarts Castle is real! And it lies in England’s northernmost county, Northumberland.
Serious Harry Potter fans will know that Alnwick Castle, the second largest inhabited castle in the UK, was a filming location for the first two Harry Potter films.
But it’s not all magic and broomsticks. The castle is rich in British history, and today it’s home to the Duke of Northumberland and his family.
In fact, it’s so rich in history there’s no way we can uncover everything in a single blog, but let’s fast-track through the years and reveal why Alnwick Castle makes for one of the most fascinating and entertaining days out in North East England… even if you’re not a Potter fan!
The first parts of Alnwick Castle were built in 1096. It’s been renovated and remodelled several times, but the layout has stayed more or less the same since the 12th century. That’s what you call a #throwback
In 1174, it was besieged by William the Lion. The King of Scots was later captured by a small English army led by Ranulf de Glanvill during the famous Battle of Alnwick. Today you can experience the turbulent history first-hand with daily interactive entertainment in the castle grounds.
Alnwick Castle became a dominant fortress on the Anglo-Scottish border from 1309 when it was sold to Lord Henry Percy. Treason, rebellion, revolution - the history of Alnwick Castle and the Percy family go hand-in-hand. If you’re lucky, you might bump into one of the Percy family during your visit. Remarkably, part of the castle is still their family home.
During the 18th century, Robert Adam, a famous British neoclassical architect, put his stamp on it. And in the 19th century, an Italian architect designed the interiors inspired by 16th century palaces of Rome. The State Rooms still have richly carved, painted and gilded ceilings, and are open daily to visitors.
In 1997, the redevelopment of The Alnwick Garden was instigated by Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland. The garden now hosts one of the world’s largest wooden treehouses and the Poison Garden – home to over 100 deadly plants. The garden was designed for every season so no matter when you visit there’s something to admire.
Not only has the castle been used as a set for Harry Potter, but also other television favourites such as Downton Abbey. The ‘On Location’ tours (free with ticket entry) provide an engaging tour of where the action happens.
The history doesn’t just stop at Alnwick Castle. If you’re planning a trip, make sure to allocate time to explore what else Northumberland has to offer.
Here are some quick facts you might have not known about the region:
- It has more castles than any other English county. Alnwick is just one of 70 castle sites. Explore the romantic ruins of Dunstanburgh or wonder at fully-restored beauties such as Bamburgh.
- The Northumberland coastline is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with over 30 miles of beaches, castles, nature reserves and activities.
- It lies on the border with Scotland and was once the centre of many disputes between England and Scotland. The battle of Alnwick being just one of these.
- Parts of Hadrian’s Wall, a World Heritage Site since 1987, are in the most beautiful parts of Northumberland.
- The best views of Northumberland are from The Holy Island of Lindesfarne. Here you also find ruins of the Viking-raided Lindesfarne Priory, built by Monks nearly 1,400 years ago.
- Northumberland National Park is the least-populated of the National Parks and the most tranquil place in England.