A local

A local's guide to Alnwick

Jemima Kirkwood 13 July 2021

Alnwick 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 historic town centre of Alnwick in Northumberland

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History of Alnwick

Dating back to the 7th century, the town of Alnwick started to develop after the development of Alnwick Castle, an impressive medieval structure overlooking the River Aln. Due to the amount 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. Excitingly, one of them has been turned into a holiday home which is available to rent – through us!

Pottergate Tower, sleeps 2, Alnwick.

Pottergate Tower 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 which developed considerably after the castle was acquired by the Percy family. They built the defence wall and there were a number of 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.

Today, you can come and enjoy everything this town has on offer. Read on to find out about some of the things you can get up to. If you are interested in staying here, don’t forget to check out our Alnwick cottages which offer the perfect base for explorations.

Attractions to visit and things to do in Alnwick

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. 

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

Whilst visiting the castles you don’t want to miss the gardens – they will take your breath away. You will discover everything from marvellous water features to picturesque cherry blossom gardens.

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 beautifully kept and you will often see flowers placed at headstones by loved ones.

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 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.

Explore Barter Books, Alnwicks very own antique book store

Barter Books is perhaps an unusual thing 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!

Beaches to visit from Alnwick

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, 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 will not regret spending a day by the ocean here.

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

Here are some beautiful beaches to visit:

  • Alnmouth Beach (4.7 miles)
  • Craster Bay (7.3 miles)
  • Embleton Bay (9 miles)
  • Low Newton by the Sea (10 miles)

If you fancy staying by a Northumberland beach, make sure you check out our coastal cottages which come with amazing sea views and easy access to the sand!

The best walks in Northumberland

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.

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

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 5.6 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. No dogs or cyclists are permitted on the grounds.

Linhope Spout is a lovely waterfall walk at the end of the Ingram Valley which must not be missed. If you like getting out into the wilderness, this lovely manageable 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 which lands into an impressive plunge pool which 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 where you can sit and take in the sounds of crashing water and rustling leaves, not to mention the surrounding bird song. We challenge you to jump in – you can warm up with a thermos of tea after!

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

Embleton to Craster - 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 2.2 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 bird watchers 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!

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 dog-friendly place to visit too.

Places to eat 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! Here are some of Alnwick’s restaurants:

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

The Tree House, Alnwick Gardens 

Serving a set three-course or two-course menu, the food here is delicious and the setting completely 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 which requires you to book ahead.

The Tavern Steak House & Lodge

This is a contemporary establishment serving up delicious home-cooked food in a trendy setting. One of Alnwick’s finest pubs, it is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike and serves everything from burgers to pie 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.

Enjoy a steak dinner during your Northumberland holiday.

Pig in Muck 

This 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.

This is just a small sample of Alnwick restaurants, pubs in Alnwick and places to eat. It is worth pottering about and looking at the menus before you commit to one place or find somewhere to go for every night you plan to stay there. Alnwick pubs and restaurants tend to support local companies and stock locally grown produce, but staff are always happy to let you know where the food comes from.

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 in Northumberland

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. Here are some of our highlights…

Thornbrae Cottage, Alnwick, sleeps 4

The Thornbrae Cottages

This is a set of four holiday cottages which are within the same complex, set just outside the centre of Alnwick. They are comfortable and stylish inside and all of them come complete with a hot tub. There is also a joint games room which has a mini gym in it, table football and a home-cinema screen. You can find all four individual cottages here: Thornbrae Apartment, Thornbrae Retreat, Thornbrae Lodge and Thornbrae Cottage.

Clematis Cottage Escape, Alwick, sleeps 2.

Clematis Cottage Escape

This is a beautifully presented romantic cottage with a gorgeous garden and seating area, ideal for visiting the countryside and coast. The garden has a gorgeous summer house which is a lovely spot to sit in during the evening with a glass of wine, or during the day with a good book. Sleeps 2. 

Ravenslaw House, Alnwick, sleeps 18.

Ravenslaw House

This is a Victorian period property in the heart of the town. This would be the perfect house for a group of friends or a large family who are looking to explore the town and the surrounding area together. It is within walking distance to pubs and major attractions as well as being close to the beach. Sleeps 18, 2 dogs welcome. 

For more options of places to stay browse our full collection of Alnwick cottages.

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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