Picturesque and virtually unspoilt, it is no wonder that in recent years Alnwick has been voted not just the best place to live in the UK, but also holds the honour of being home to the best shopping street.
Built along the banks of the equally scenic River Aln, the town is dominated by the medieval Alnwick Castle, home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland as well as witches and wizards (it doubled as Hogwarts in the early Harry Potter films).
The second largest inhabited castle in England after Windsor, this magnificent fortress has been in the hands of the Percy family for over 700 years and is famous for its stunning private art collection, including works by Canaletto and Van Dyke, sumptuous state rooms, and collection of weapons held in the Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland, which has its base here.
Time has not stood still at Alnwick Castle, however, and just as past Percy’s made their mark on the world, so are the present incumbents. The Duchess is the brains behind the new contemporary Alnwick Garden, a floral wonderland that has been designed to appeal to horticulturists and families alike.
There’s the famous Poison Garden, water sculptures where children (and grown-up kids) are encouraged to get themselves wet, the Grand Cascade, the sensuous Rose Garden, the Bamboo Labyrinth and the world’s largest tree house with rope walkways and a restaurant.
Alnwick – historically the county town of Northumberland – was a prosperous medieval settlement and still retains many of its cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and imposing buildings, many of which now house specialist family run retail businesses.
It was Alnwick’s plethora of independent stores set on one of the UK’s most attractive thoroughfares that helped Bondgate Within beat off stiff competition from the likes of Edinburgh, Leeds and even London to win the title of the UK’s best shopping street.
Bibliophiles will fall in love with Barter Books, one of the nation’s largest second hand book stores which operates from Alnwick’s old railway station, while fishing enthusiasts will want to make a visit to the House of Hardy.
The world famous firm has been making fishing tackle since 1842 and now has an onsite museum and shop.
Add to this the delights of the 3,000 acre walled Hulne Park with its ruined priory, a theatre, pubs aplenty (including the Old Cross Inn in Narrowagte which is home to the infamous Dirty Bottles, said to have lain untouched for 200 years due to a superstition that anyone who moves them will die) and top class self-catering, bed and breakfast and hotel accommodation and you’d be mad not to give Alnwick a day or two of your time.
Where is Alnwick?:
See the map on our Northumberland maps page.