A Visit to Alnwick Castle

Sunday, 12 June 2016

As I've mentioned before, Blair and I are currently doing "Alphabet Dating", so each month one of us organises a surprise date starting with a different letter of the alphabet.  We started in October when I organised date A (a weekend in St Andrews including a visit to an aquarium and fish & chips in Anstruther), and in May we were up to date H.  

H was Blair's turn so a few Saturdays ago I was told I needed to be ready to leave the house at 8.30am(!) for a surprise adventure which would involve us driving "for a couple of hours".  Oooh the mystery!  After a fun journey annoying him with my fake guesses (is it something to do with horses? or hills?) we eventually arrived in the beautiful wee town of Alnwick.  We've spoken about taking a trip to Alnwick a few times but it's never happened for some reason or other, so I was dead excited about the prospect of spending a day there.

In case you're wondering - the H stood for History (and Hogwarts, as it's where they filmed some of Harry Potter.....also an H!).  

There's two main attractions in Alnwick - the castle and the gardens.  We decided to just visit Alnwick Castle on this occasion as it was quite expensive to do both (would have been about £50 for the two of us).  It meant as well that we wouldn't have to rush our way around and could take the day at a leisurely pace.  

As mentioned above, Alnwick Castle was used as a filming location for some of the Harry Potter films - so hopefully you HP fans will spot some familiar sights in my photos!  The external shots for Harry Potter & The Philosophers Stone were filmed here, with the entrance to Hogwarts then recreated in a studio for later films.  The broomstick training scene in the first film was also shot here - our tour guide told us how Matthew Lewis who played Neville Longbottom was up on a crane being flown about the place for his out-of-control broomstick scene.  Apparently he had a serious fear of heights but didn't tell the crew, so Nevilles look of terror was genuine!  

We were also told where all they used to CGI to turn the castle into Howarts - so for example the window into Professor McGonagall's office which looked down onto the broomstick training ground was added by CGI onto a blank wall of the castle.  Also, the grassy area with tents in the photo below was where the flying car crashed into the tree in the Chamber of Secrets - the tree was CGI but the car was real (they had about 16 different prop cars).  We also saw the edge of the Forbidden Forest (and where they build Hagrids Hut) which was bulked out by CGI.  So if you're a Harry Potter fan then I'd definitely recommend giving it a visit as there's a lot of really recognisable bits, and hearing the stories behind those famous scenes is really fun!

It's not all about Harry Potter though obviously, there's a lot of interesting history to be discovered at Alnwick Castle (there's a tiiiiny dungeon which I found really creepy just thinking about the fact that real people will have been left down there).  I also didn't realise until we went on a tour of the state rooms that the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland still actually live there part of the year!  You weren't allowed to photograph the state rooms (which were used to film a Downton Abbey Christmas special a few years ago btw) but as we were walking around I was confused by the little flashes of modern life amongst the grand traditional castle....like a flat screen TV in the library.  It all made sense once I overheard a member of staff telling someone that they live there from October to March!  How weird to be walking round someones actual home though eh, it appeals to me nosey side!

We had such a lovely time in Alnwick and it's somewhere I definitely want to visit again - we both want to go see the gardens and I really fancy having a meal at the Treehouse (I read this blog post from Emma Griffy this week which makes me want to go back asap as it looks amazing!).  I definitely recommend Alnwick for a wee day trip this summer!

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