A local

A local's guide to Alnwick

Ed Roberts 23 June 2023

Set midway along the Northumberland coast, Alnwick is an ideal base for day trips up and down the coast as well as west towards the national park. It is a beautiful, historic town in the heart of Northumberland and is a popular destination for those looking to enjoy some downtime in a gorgeous setting. 

With lots to do on the bustling doorstep yet close to the surrounding countryside, Alnwick offers the best of both worlds. The town is easily accessed from the national road network (the A1) and there is also a railway station in the village of Alnmouth (4 miles). 

If you are interested in staying here, don’t forget to check out our Alnwick cottages which offer the perfect base for explorations or read our guide to things to do in Northumberland for more inspiration. 

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Historic places to visit in Alnwick

Pottergate Tower

Dating back to the 7th century, the town of Alnwick started to grow after the development of Alnwick Castle, an impressive medieval structure overlooking the River Aln. Due to the number of raids by the Scots, a high wall was built around the entire town to protect it from future invaders. This wall had four gateways, and just two of them stand today. Strangely enough, one of them has been turned into a holiday home which is available to rent – through us! Pottergate Tower (pictured above) was rebuilt in Gothic style in 1768 and today offers luxury accommodation with amazing views of the castle. It sleeps two and would make a lovely romantic retreat.

Alnwick was a market town that developed considerably after the castle was acquired by the Percy family. They built the defence wall and there were several medieval churches constructed over time too including the church of St Michael which you can visit today. The town was bustling with domestic shops, and housing was built for workers and villagers alike. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the town was an important staging point on the Great North Road and many inns and pubs were opened to accommodate and feed travellers. Textiles and leather were important industries here and other crafts including rope making and fishing tackle were common – some skills which are still around to this day.

Best for history buffs - Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle, made even more famous through the Harry Potter movies

Alnwick Castle is probably the biggest attraction in this market town. It has been home to the Percy family since 1309 when the Bishop of Durham sold it to Henry Percy. Today, the family still inhabits the castle and it’s open to the general public to come and explore. You can take tours of the castle, admire its beautifully kept gardens and experience a broomstick flying lesson in the impressive courtyard. Thanks to Harry Potter, the castle gets fans visiting from all over the world since it was imagined as Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry in the blockbuster movies.

Whilst visiting the castles, you don’t want to miss the gardens (which you will need to buy separate tickets for) – they will take your breath away. You will discover everything from marvellous water features to picturesque cherry blossom gardens. Learn more about Alnwick Castle in our helpful guide.

Good to know

  • Address: Alnwick Castle, Alnwick, NE66 1NQ 
  • Facilities: Parking, WCs, limited disabled access, shop, café, assistance dogs only
  • Prices and opening times: Please visit the website for current information
  • Stay nearby: Clematis Cottage Escape | sleeps 2

Best for architecture enthusiasts – St Michael's Church

Best for architecture enthusiasts – St Michael's Church

St Michael’s Church dates back to the 12th century but the building that stands today dates to the 15th century, after being built up from the original Norman chapel. You can come and visit the church and admire the meticulous stonework, beautiful, beamed ceilings, and impressive stained-glass windows. The graveyard surrounding the church is neatly kept and you will often see flowers placed at headstones by loved ones.

Good to know

  • Address: St Michael’s Church, Bailiffgate, Alnwick, NE66 1LY 
  • Facilities: Nearby parking, dogs permitted in the graveyard
  • Opening times: 10am–3pm, visit the website for times of service
  • Stay nearby: Pottergate Tower | sleeps 2

Best for culture buffs – Bailiffgate Museum

Sheep by the coast

Bailiffgate Museum is a museum found in a 19th-century church, just a short distance from the gates to Alnwick Castle. If you want to find out more about the history of Alnwick and the surrounding area, this is the place to come. As well as general and farming history, you can read fun stories about historic football in the area as well as local community tales. It is an award-winning museum, renowned for how child-friendly it is in its learning communications.

Good to know

  • Address: Bailiffgate Museum, 14 Bailiffgate, Alnwick, NE66 1LX 
  • Facilities: WCs, disabled access, assistance dogs only
  • Opening times and prices: £5 per person, £4 concessions, 90p kids | Tues-Sun 10am–4pm (opens at 11am on Sundays)
  • Stay nearby: Thornbrae Apartment | sleeps 2 

Visitor attractions in Alnwick

The visitor attractions in Alnwick are pretty numerous considered its size. Spend a day at Alnwick Castle, Hulne Park, Alnwick Garden, and Alnwick Playhouse.There is also lots of interesting shops, the most interesting of which is just below. Read on to find out about some of the things you can do and see in the wider area including Alnwick in our guide to Northumberland

Best for bookworms – Barter Books

Explore Barter Books, Alnwicks very own antique book store

Barter Books is perhaps an unusual place to feature in an attractions list, but it is the most fascinating library/antique bookstore that you will come across. Set inside an old train station, this library is one of the oldest in Northern England and provides visitors with every genre of book imaginable. As well as its tremendous book collection, you will find a model train set suspended above the bookshelves which have little trains travelling about on them, open fires with cosy seating areas, a stationhouse café, and even an ice cream parlour!

Good to know

  • Address: Barter Books, Alnwick Station, Alnwick, NE66 2NP
  • Facilities: Café, ice cream parlour, WCs, dogs welcome
  • Opening times: Daily 9am–7pm (except Christmas Day)
  • Stay nearby: Lower Lodge | sleeps 2 + 1 dogs

Best for budding horticulturalists - The Alnwick Garden

Best for budding horticulturalists - The Alnwick Garden

The Alnwick Garden stands close to Alnwick Castle and is one of the best-landscaped gardens to visit in the north-east of England. It is divided into different sections to visit including the sinister-sounding Poison Garden, or the luxuriant Grand Cascade, a rose garden, the Serpent Garden, orchards, a pavilion, a Barbara Hepworth Sculpture, and an ever-changing rotation of beautiful blooms and trees to see. The garden is never the same on any two visits.

Good to know

  • Address: The Alnwick Garden, Greenwell Rd, Northumberland, NE66 1HB
  • Facilities: Parking, WCs, restaurant, café, disabled access, shop, garden centre, assistance dogs only
  • Opening times and prices: Daily 10am–5pm. Please visit the website for entry prices
  • Stay nearby: Hedgehope | sleeps 3 

Best beaches near Alnwick

Beach in Northumberland

Alnwick is set inland, so it is not one of the Northumberland towns that has its own beach. However, there are a few beaches within easy reach which would make for a lovely day out. Pack up your beach bag, and sun cream too, and head to the coast for a day of sandy fun. The Northumberland beaches are tremendous in the summer; long stretches of golden sand, dunes filled with wildlife, nice sea temperatures for swimming, and easy access to local towns. You won't regret spending a day by the ocean here.

Best for dunes – Alnmouth Beach | 5 miles from Alnwick

Alnmouth beach is under 5 miles from Alnwick and makes for a lovely day out.

Alnmouth Beach is excellent for bird and wildlife spotting in the large dune system that runs along the beach’s fringe. Sat at the Aln Estuary, the sandy beach follows a wide crescent shape. The inland views are gilded by the red rooftops behind the dunes of the village. Alnmouth isn’t a swimming beach or known for water sports; this is due to the proximity of the river, which can make the currents and sea behaviour unruly. However, Alnmouth Beach is a great place for beach fun and nature spotting in the dunes. It is also a great Northumberland spot to enjoy sea fishing.

Good to know

  • Address: Alnmouth Beach, Alnmouth, NE66 2RW
  • Facilities: Car park, café, WCs, local shops, no lifeguard
  • Is Alnmouth Beach dog friendly? Yes, there are no dog restrictions
  • Stay nearby: Lodge Cottage | sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Best for rock pools – Craster Beach | 7.5 miles from Alnwick

Best for rockpools – Craster Beach | 7.5 miles for Alnwick

Craster is well-known for a few cool things. Foodies know it for its smoked kippers, music lovers appreciate it for the long-running soul weekender, culture buffs love it for the nearby galleries, beach lovers adore it for its endless rock pools, and offshore fishers can angle in peace. These days, Craster is a sleepy village, but it was once a major centre for kipper and herring export and fishing. The place’s focal point is the harbour which is next to the small sandy beach and the rocky shoreline.  Enjoy a coastal walk to the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle from Craster too.

Good to know

  • Address: Craster Beach, Craster, NE66 3TR  
  • Facilities: Café, parking and pubs (in the village), no lifeguard
  • Is Craster Beach dog friendly? Yes, there are no dog restrictions
  • Stay nearby: Beech Cottage | sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Best remote beach – Embleton Bay | 9 miles from Alnwick

Best remote beach – Embleton Bay | 9 miles from Alnwick

If you feel like you want to get away from it all, Embleton Bay offers a large unspoiled wild beach backed by dunes and a golf course. Making up a part of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), you can enjoy walks along this beach to spot birdlife and wildflowers galore – Embleton Bay is also popular with windsurfers, rock poolers and kite surfers. At the top end of the beach is a tiny village called Low Newton, which has a pub and a shop. It’s really beautiful if you are looking for an escape to the beach.

Good to know

  • Address: Embleton Bay, Low Newton, NE66 3XQ
  • Facilities: None, no lifeguard
  • Is Embleton Bay dog friendly? Yes, there are no dog restrictions
  • Stay nearby: The Bothy | sleeps 4 + 1 dog

The best walks in and around Alnwick

Take a stroll through Hulme park and enjoy woodland and gardens designed by Capability Brown.

During any holiday, it is nice to get out and explore a new area on foot. There are so many more things you experience when walking: new smells, a slower pace, and mental stimulation. Walking is great for the mind, body and soul, so make sure you factor in some time to get out and explore by foot.

There are lots of walks near Alnwick to pick from which will take you on different adventures into the wilderness, or through more of the local towns. There are also some great Alnwick dog walks to try so this would be a nice dog-friendly place to visit too. For more places to visit and things to see with your pets, read our handy guide to dog-friendly Northumberland.

Best for long trails and dog walks – Hulne Park | 5.5 miles – easy

Best for long trails and dog walks – Hulne Park | 5.5 miles – easy

Hulne Park is one of the most popular walking routes and was once the hunting grounds of the Percy family. As residents live inside the park, it is open to the public between 11am and 7pm daily. 

The main walk is an easy-going 5.5 miles and there are two other marked trails too if you want to come back and experience more. The landscape throughout the park was designed by Capability Brown, the famous British landscape designer, so you can expect nothing less than amazing scenery, beautiful woodland, and lots of flowers.

Good to know

  • Address: Hulne Park, Alnwick, NE66 1NQ
  • Facilities: Parking, cyclists welcome
  • Is Hulne Park dog friendly? Yes
  • Stay nearby: The Cook's Cottage | sleeps 4 

Best for natural water features – Linhope Spout | 0.5 miles (each way) – easy

Linhope Spout

Linhope Spout is a lovely waterfall walk at the end of the Ingram Valley (18.5 miles from Alnwick) which must not be missed. If you like getting out into the wilderness, this lovely manageable 0.5-mile-long walk is one to do as it takes you to the foot of a charming, hidden waterfall. 

Linhope Spout is a 60-metre-high waterfall that lands into an impressive plunge pool that is 6ft wide and 16ft deep – perfect for jumping into. If you go early in the morning, or late afternoon, you are likely to hit a quieter time of day when you can sit and take in the sounds of crashing water and rustling leaves, not to mention the surrounding birdsong. We challenge you to jump in – you can warm up with a thermos of tea afterwards.

Good to know

  • Address: Linhope Spout, Linhope, Ingram, NE66 4LZ
  • Facilities: Parking and cafe in the village
  • Is Linhope Spout dog friendly? Yes
  • Stay nearby: Alnwick Fox Wood | sleeps 5

Best for castle baggers – Embleton to Craster walk | 2.5 miles – easy

Embleton Bay is a gorgeous stretch of sand on the Northumberland coast

If you fancy a Northumberland coastal walk during your holiday, then why not take on the Embleton to Craster walking trail? It is an easy 2.5 miles each way, suiting all ages and taking in the beautiful coastline and beaches along the way. If you want to make it longer, you can loop back inland to take it up to 7 miles. 

This is a great trail for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts as it lies in an acclaimed Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You will come across many species of sea birds and, if you are lucky, you may see some seals in Craster Harbour. Dunstanburgh Castle sits proudly on this route too, making the landscape even more impressive. Stop for a bite to eat in a local pub before heading back – a dreamy day out.

Good to know

  • Address: Embleton Bay, Low Newton, NE66 3XQ
  • Facilities: None
  • Is the Embleton Bay to Craster walk dog friendly? Yes, there are no dog restrictions
  • Stay nearby: Tom's Cottage | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Best places to eat and drink in Alnwick

Places to eat and drink in Alnwick

We like to feature places to eat in our guides as we know food plays a big part in anyone’s holiday, and Alnwick does not fall short of great places to eat. Whether you are looking for a cosy café, a laid-back pub, or a fine-dining restaurant, there will be something to suit you in this market town. You will also find great bistros, tearooms and takeaways. For more ideas, make sure you check out our guide to the top ten pubs in Northumberland.  And for those with pups, read our guide to dog-friendly places to eat and drink in Northumberland.

Best for formal dining – The Tree House, The Alnwick Garden | £££

The Tree House in Alnwick gardens is a unique place to enjoy a nice meal out.

Serving a set three-course or two-course menu, the food at The Tree House in The Alnwick Garden is delicious and the setting is unique. You will literally be dining in a treehouse, surrounded by woodland. Constructed out of sustainably sourced Canadian cedar, it sits high in the treetops and welcomes you in for a delicious meal. Inside, you will find log fires, hand-crafted furniture, and décor created from fallen branches – just magical! This is a popular restaurant that requires you to book ahead.

Good to know

  • Address: The Treehouse, The Alnwick Garden, Denwick Lane, Alnwick, NE66 1YU
  • Opening times: Visit the website for details as business hours are seasonal
  • Is the Treehouse dog friendly? No, dogs are not permitted
  • Stay nearby: Lobster Cottage | sleeps 5 + 2 dogs

Best gastropub – The Market Tavern Steak House & Lodge | ££

Enjoy a steak dinner during your Northumberland holiday.

This is a contemporary establishment serving up delicious home-cooked food in a trendy setting.  The Market Tavern is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike and serves everything from burgers to pies and chips. You will find vegetarian and vegan options here too which is great for those with special dietary requirements. The interior vibe is welcoming and friendly and the nice lighting design creates a lovely atmosphere.

Good to know

  • Address: The Market Tavern, 7 Fenkle St, Alnwick, NE66 1HW 
  • Opening times: Noon until late every day
  • Is the Market Tavern family/dog friendly? Yes
  • Stay nearby: Town Square Apartment | sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Best for a lively meal – The Pig in Muck | ££

Best for a lively meal – The Pig in Muck | ££

The Pig in Muck is an intimate pub that celebrates everything local and serves all sorts of dishes from light snacks to sharing platters. It also has a great variety of local beers and ales on tap for you to sample during your visit. Book a romantic meal or a group banquet and enjoy good food in a fun and lively atmosphere.

Good to know

  • Address: The Pig in Muck, Market Square, Alnwick, NE66 1HS
  • Opening times: Visit the website for details as business hours are seasonal
  • Is the Pig in Muck family/dog friendly? Yes
  • Stay nearby: Ravenslaw House | sleeps 18 + 2 dogs

Other Alnwick places to eat and drink

Alnwick restaurant

  • Caffe TirrenoA quaint café specialising in chicken, fish, steak, pasta and pizza
  • Strawberry Lounge: A bijou café perfect for light lunches, cakes, coffee and tea
  • Dirty BottlesA cool freehouse gastropub for ale lovers and wine drinkers

Map of places to visit in Alnwick

Find the location of all the places mentioned above in this handy map.

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Places to stay in Alnwick

If we have inspired you to come and stay in Alnwick, then make sure you browse our self-catering cottages and pick from some of the best accommodation. From small apartments with hot tubs to larger houses with games rooms, we have something that will suit everyone. 

Pick from coastal cottages with sea views and harbour cottages on cobbled streets. We have properties large and small in and around Alnwick for you to choose from so that you can get to know this lovely part of the Northumberland AONB and coast.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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