With dungeon tours, haunted hotels, cursed pubs & broomstick riding lessons, these things to do in Alnwick are a fairy-tale just wait to happen!
In the heart of Northumberland sits the gorgeous market town of Alnwick. And when I say it’s gorgeous, I really mean it. I’ll even go as far in saying Alnwick is one of the most beautiful towns in all of England. Yep, I just went there.
Alnwick (pronounced: An-nick. Don’t say Aln-wick otherwise you’ll get very confused looks!) is home to the Duke of Northumberland. This county boasts spectacular coastlines, cracking castles and cobbled streets all just waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re looking for a romantic staycation or a place to take your kids on holiday, there are so many incredible things to do in Alnwick.
Harry Potter and Downtown Abbey fans will be delighted to see some familiar scenes at Alnwick Castle. There are a few tours that explore the filming locations of both here. Also, ghost hunters will be excited to check out the Schooner Hotel – it’s one of the most haunted hotels in Britain!
I spent 2 days in Northumberland and I had such an amazing time travelling around. I spent one day in Berwick-upon-Tweed, and one day in Alnwick.
Alnwick is one of those places that you’ll completely fall in love with. Whether it’s wandering around the ramparts of Alnwick Castle or losing yourself in the mazes of Alnwick Gardens, I had so much fun explore this pretty market town.
Whatever your reasons for visiting Alnwick, you won’t be short on fun things to do. To help plan your trip, I’ve created a list of what to do in Alnwick for you. If you tick off a few of these then you’re in for an amazing time. Just let yourself be enchanted by everything Alnwick has to offer!
Things to do in Alnwick
You will be forgiven for thinking you’ve seen Alnwick Castle somewhere before. In fact, you probably have as it’s been used as a film location in both Harry Potter and Downtown Abbey. For all of you Potterheads out there, this is the home of Hogwarts for the first two Harry Potter films.
I’m not going to lie, I am a huge Harry Potter fan, so when I found out they were offering broomstick lessons where you learn to fly, I signed up immediately.
The flying broomstick lesson takes around 30 minutes, and it’s a fun interactive lesson where you essentially “fly” around in the grounds of Alnwick Castle. It’s very cheesy, but it’s perfect for families with kids. Saying that, there were 12 of us in our lesson and only one kid!
For 700 years this glorious castle has been home to the succession of Dukes of Northumberland. While the Percy family still lives in the castle, you can take a tour inside to admire the incredible carved ceilings and their collection of priceless art.
There are a number of interactive tours at the castle where you can learn all about the history, explore the dungeons, or see where they filmed certain scenes. Oh, all of the tours are included in the price of the ticket which is brilliant.
Admission costs £ 18.50 for an adult, or £ 50.50 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 4 children). Pro tip: buy the tickets online before you visit to save 10% off entry.
A trip to the recently restored Alnwick Gardens is perfect on a sunny afternoon. The gardens feature a waterfall fountain, rose garden and cherry orchard with swings in them
No surprises here, but my favourite spot in Alnwick Gardens was the giant bamboo maze. It’s massive, and it can get quite dark in the centre. If you’re with the kids, they will love this spot.
One of the most fascinating things to do in Alnwick Gardens is visiting The Poison Garden.
This garden, kept locked behind bars, features a collection of over 100 of the worlds most poisonous plants. Due to the nature of these plants, you can only visit this section with a guided tour which takes around 25 minutes. But no touching!
If you’re planning to visit the castle as well, grab yourself a combined entry ticket for £ 28.70 per adult. You can purchase your tickets online here.
Formerly the Alnwick train station, this building has taken on new life as the beloved Barter Books. This is actually one of the largest second-hand bookshops in the country.
With aisles and aisles of second-hand books and manuscripts – all organised by topic – Barter Books is a treasure trove just waiting to be discovered.
You can cuddle up in one of the armchairs or sit next to a fireplace and leaf through one of your finds. There is also a model train zooming around the tops of the bookcases in keeping with this being the old railway station.
Barter Books has a great kids section too. This section includes ride on toys, so it can be a great place to bring your young ones on a rainy day.
As the name may suggest, the store is opening to bartering, so bring your pre-read holiday reads to trade for something new.
The Treehouse restaurant
There is no shortage of options when you’re looking for where to eat in Alnwick. For those looking for pub grub, The Joiners Arms has a great atmosphere and serves all your pub favourites. Head there on a Sunday to get a proper Sunday roast and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
If you’re in Alnwick gardens, The Treehouse is definitely worth the visit.
Enjoy delicious meals from locally sourced ingredients, washed down with a selection of cocktails which were created in collaboration with Duchess of Northumberland.
For lunch I had the double baked cheese soufflé and the tempura broccoli with beetroot puree and pickles. It’s hard to pick a favourite but the cheese soufflé was so decadent.
Beautifully crafted, decorated with fairy lights and with sections connected by suspended bridges, dining here makes for a magical experience. It genuinely feels a bit like Disneyland. As you can imagine, this restaurant can get busy, so be sure to book in advance!
Alnwick is an old market town, so it’s no surprise there is still an incredible market here.
You can find Alnwick Market in the centre of town, and it is on every Friday and Saturday.
During summer, there are usually 35 stallholders selling everything from artisan soap to local landscape photography to scrummy treats.
Obviously I was most interested in the food, and there was a lot on offer! Geordie Bangers are famous for their sausages, but my favourite stall was Eggs R Us. They sell unique scotch eggs, pies and pasties. Naughty, but so delicious.
A Taste of Northumbria
If you’re looking to pick up a memento from your weekend in Alnwick, look no further than A Taste of Northumbria.
Found in the main square, this is a shop selling a wide range of products from across Northumberland. This includes the legendary Alnwick rum, Lindisfarne mead, ales, wine, teas and tray bakes.
Basically, it is a shop full of your favourite stuff all in one place. Be warned: it’s impossible entering without leaving with something.
Pig in Muck
Looking for the best bar in Alnwick? Then say hello to Pig in Muck.
Also found in the market square, this is such a beautiful place on a lazy sunny afternoon.
This place is really famous for its cocktails. With a salter caramel espresso martini and a lemon meringue pie cocktail, it’s well worth staying for a least two. Or three…
The Cheese Room
Whenever I’m exploring a new county in England, I always pick up a few of the local cheeses. I find it’s a great way of getting to know a region, and it supports the local businesses and farms too.
The Cheese Shops is great for two reasons. Firstly, they have a great cheese counter with dozens of different cheese from all over the world.
Secondly, and almost my favourite reason, is you can have lunch here. At The Cheese Shop you can order scones and sandwiches, but it’s all about the cheese boards in my eyes.
If you love cheese as much as I do, then you’ll love it here!
Walk the streets
If you’re wondering what to do in Alnwick when you’ve got a spare hour, I’d really recommend walking around the streets.
Alnwick dates back to 600 AD, so there’s some serious history here. The town hasn’t changed that much over the years, and it’s a beautiful place to explore. I mean, just take a look at this winding street? It’s so pretty here!
The Origami Cafe
Personally, I would say this is the best coffee in Alnwick. The coffee is spot on and very fresh which I was surprised about, so make sure you add this to your Alnwick itinerary.
Also, if you’re up for it, they do mega ice cream milkshakes with chocolate bars and sweets spilling out over the sides. Calorific, but it definitely hits the spot.
If you’re spending the weekend in Alnwick, the Playhouse is one of the top theatres in Northumberland.
Alnwick Playhouse has played a major role in the life of the town since 1925, and has been a vibrant arts centre since 1990.
From theatre performances to local gigs to indie films, you’re always guaranteed to find something interesting going on at the Playhouse. This is definitely one of the top attractions in Alnwick, that’s for sure.
The Ale Gate
The Ale Gate is the newest micropub in Alnwick and it is the perfect place to stop off at for a pint. Not only do they have a fridge packed full of craft beers, but they have a number of unique guests ales on draft. They really champion local breweries in Northumberland too which I liked.
I know coming from London I don’t have a leg to stand on, but a pint was only £3.40 which was a bargain. If I didn’t have to catch my train home I could’ve happily up my feet up and settled in for the evening.
The Hotspur Gin Emporium is where you’ll find the local favourite gin. This is distilled directly in Alnwick, and each bottle comes with its own batch and bottle number. Because they’re such small batches, it makes the perfect souvenir to take away.
The primary Northumbrian botanicals of heather, bilberry & rose petals inﬂuence the distinctive ﬂavour. These are expertly blended with juniper, orris root, angelica, Nutmeg and pink peppercorns.
Basically, what you’re getting is a gin that’s very distinctive to Northumberland. I just love the connection to the county here.
For things to do in Alnwick at night, be sure to check out some of the excellent pubs the town has to offer. And trust us, there are so many different places to choose from.
If you’ve ever fantasised about being on the Titanic, make sure you head to the White Swan. The White Swan has been decked out with many of the fittings from the SS Olympic, the sister ship to the Titanic, following its dismantling in the 1930s. It’s a really cool place for afternoon tea, but it still has a lot of old school charm to it too.
Alternatively, newly established The Dirty Bottles, which local folklore believes to be cursed, is another great place to spend your evening. Featuring an excellent cocktail menu, changing guest ales and a self-service tasting wall, you’ll be feeling merry in no time. Just don’t test the curse!
Set in a former church, this museum is one of the best wet-weather family activities in Alnwick. There are many activities to keep children entertained, including dressing up, and arts and crafts. The museum also features an exhibition called “Batteries Not Included”, which displays a history of toys.
Not just for children, this museum displays much of the local heritage and displays items from local art and history. At £4 per adult and £1 per child this is a great place for those looking for cheap things to do in Alnwick.
Things to do near Alnwick
Alnmouth beach, an easy 10-minute drive from Alnwick town, is what to do in Alnwick if you want to experience the breathtaking scenery the Northumberland coast has to offer. The beach is broad, so you’ll always find places to lay out your towel, even in the height of the summer holidays. Come here on a week day though and sometimes you’ll have the place to yourself.
Just off the beach is Alnmouth town filled with quaint cottages and is well worth a wander through. While you’re here, why not visit the 17th century Schooner Hotel, which is said to be one of the most haunted hotels in England. If you don’t fancy scaring yourself still, you can play a round of golf at Alnmouth Golf Club, England’s 4th oldest golf course?
Stargazing in Northumberland
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For those looking for some romantic things to do in Alnwick, this sparsely populated area is one of the best stargazing spots in the whole country!
Northumberland has the largest ‘Dark Sky Park’ in Europe, an area of 572 square miles which are dedicated as lights free. Because of this, on a clear night you can see over 2,000 stars with your bare eyes. The views of the night skies really are something special here.
Grab yourself a picnic blanket, a nice bottle of wine (or a thermos of hot chocolate in winter!) and marvel at the amazing show the night sky has to offer. Download an app or two on your phone to help you identify the planets, galaxies and constellations, or simply lay back and take it all in.
The 1st Duke of Northumberland had the Brizlee Tower constructed in the memory of his wife Lady Elizabeth Seymour in 1781. Situated in Hulne Park, this Gothic revival style tower is 26m (6 floors) high. You can almost imagine Rapunzel at the top of the tower, can’t you?
The tower is generally closed to the public. However, it is opened for tours for special occasions. If you visit on one of its few open days, you will be gifted with stunning views as far as the Scottish hills! While you’re here, take a wander through Hulne Park to see the ruins of a 13th century Carmelite friary.
From humble wooden fort beginnings, following upgrades in the 13th century, this hilltop castle held its own against two Scottish sieges! Today, Warkworth Castle is one of the top places to visit in Northumberland.
Following the English Civil War the castle was left to crumble. However, in the mid-19th century parts of it were restored and uncovered. Visitors today can enjoy walking around the towered walls, admiring the cross shaped keep or taking an extra adventure upstream to the hermitage.
During the school holidays activities such as adventure quests and knights’ tournaments are held here, so it’s a great place to bring the kids. Entry is £7.20 for an adult or £18.70 for a family ticket (2 adults, 3 children).
If dramatic, untamed coastlines are your thing, get yourself down to Embleton Bay. Here you can enjoy a walk along the arced beach while taking in the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance. Due to its large size and low population, Embleton Bay is a great place for families to spread out.
The beach is bordered by dunes, which are the breeding grounds for many types of birds and at low tide there are rock pools to explore. During the summer this is a great natural spot to come and relax. In winter, enjoy wandering along the coastline – then retreat to one of the friendly local pubs to warm your cockles!
Howick Hall Gardens
The tea lovers among us can enjoy the experience of visiting the creation place of Earl Grey tea – and of course, sitting down to enjoy a cup. The name of the tea is derived from the Earls Grey, who hold the ancestral seat of Howick Hall – one of whom had tea specially blended for him to complement the local well water.
Visit in the spring time to wander around the beautiful display of flowers in the gardens. Followed, naturally, by sipping on an Earl Grey tea in the resident tea room.
Hotels in Alnwick
If you’re looking for a fantastic option, especially if you’re driving around Northumberland, then I’d really recommend The Hog’s Head Inn.
This modern inn on the edge of Alnwick is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring the town and the surrounding countryside.
Also, Harry Potter fans will recognise The Hog’s Head Tavern from the books – I love how the whole of Alnwick is Harry Potter mad up here!
This pub with rooms is part of the Inn Collection and they have loads of great places to stay across Northumberland.
What are you looking to do in Alnwick? Any of these things jump out at you? Let us know in the comments below!
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