The magical Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in the UK and has a rich history that dates back to the 14th century. This famous Northumberland castle has survived War of the Roses battles in the 15th century, housed Oliver Cromwell’s prisoners in the 17th century and more recently has been used as a film set for Downton Abbey, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Transformers: The Last Knight.
Alnwick Castle’s most famous film appearance, however, has to be as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter film series, and you can follow in the famous wizard’s footsteps during a short break or holiday to Northumberland.
Here’s our guide to having a magical Harry Potter adventure at Alnwick Castle:
Hogwarts and Harry Potter
Alnwick Castle was first transformed into Hogwarts back in the autumn of 2000 for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The following year, the cast and crew returned once more to film the second film in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Areas of Alnwick Castle that were featured in the Harry Potter films include:
The Outer Bailey
Used for Harry, Ron and Hermione’s first broomstick lesson and where Harry Potter learned the rules of Quidditch.
The Inner Bailey
This is where Harry and Ron crashed the Weasley’s flying car during Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
The Lion Arch
The Lion Arch was the Hogwarts entrance and exit which led Harry to the Forbidden Forest and Hagrid’s cabin.
The various courtyards of Alnwick Castle may also feel familiar as you look around - they were used to film students and professors walking to and from their Hogwarts classes.
Unleash your inner Harry (or Hermione)
Add a sprinkle of extra magic to your day out by dressing like Harry, Hermione, Ron or Professor Dumbledore. It’s up to you whether you go the whole hog with Hogwarts robes for everyone or simply pay homage by wearing ties in Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or Slytherin house colours. Children will love bringing a magic wand to cast some spells along the way or they can simply don a red and yellow scarf Harry Potter style.
We recommend re-watching the first two Harry Potter films to really get everyone into the Hogwarts spirit then seeking out all the locations used during your visit.
Take some broomstick training
One of the most popular activities at Alnwick Castle are the daily broomstick training classes which take place in the Outer Bailey - the exact place where Harry himself learned to fly.
Trainee wizards (and witches) can learn how to mount, dismount, accelerate and take a corner under the tutelage of a resident wizarding professor. After mastering the broomstick basics, there will be a photo opportunity to capture your family magically soaring through the air.
Broomstick training is included with admission to Alnwick Castle - tickets are on a first come, first served basis so we recommend booking your slot on arrival to secure your spot.
Plan a Harry Potter picnic
There are lots of spots within the grounds of Alnwick Castle where you can enjoy a picnic and we think this is the perfect opportunity to sprinkle a little more Hogwarts magic onto your day out.
Here are our suggestions for some Harry Potter themed food and drink items for your picnic:
- Mini scotch eggs make an excellent ‘Golden Snitch’
- Magically transform sandwiches into witches hats with a cookie cutter
- Cheese and breadsticks can be turned into broomsticks. Half the cheese slices, cut some fringing into them then tie to the breadsticks with either chives or ribbons of spring onion.
- Take treacle tart for dessert - it’s Harry Potter’s favourite after all.
- Cream soda works well as butterbeer - you could even add some butterscotch syrup and squirty cream for the full effect.
- Pick up some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jelly Beans for an authentic Hogwarts treat (or trick).
Other Alnwick Castle activities
Make the most of your visit to Alnwick Castle with a raft of activities that are all included with the cost of admission! Here are some of our favourite to try:
Defeat a dragon
Take part in a Dragon Quest with legendary knight (and 1st Earl of Northumberland) Harry Hotspur. There’s a range of obstacles to conquer before defeating a terrifying dragon in Alnwick Castle’s Artisan Courtyard.
Play dress up
You’ll find a range of medieval costumes at Alnwick enabling children (and adults) to transform into brave knights and princesses before taking part in some traditional games and craft sessions. As a medieval artisan apprentice, you could make anything from a magic wand for a Harry Potter adventure to an illuminated manuscript.
Take aim, fire and discover who is the best shot in the daily have-a-go archery sessions at Alnwick Castle. Trained instructors are on hand to help you find the bullseye.
Take a location tour
Find out more about some of the film and TV appearances that Alnwick Castle has made through the years. You’ll hear special behind-the-scenes stories and discover the locations used for TV shows and films such as Downton Abbey, Elizabeth, Blackadder and of course, Harry Potter.
Where to stay for your Alnwick Castle adventure
There’s lots to do in and around Alnwick including the popular Alnwick gardens and a lovely sandy beach at nearby Alnmouth. Here are just some of the family-friendly Alnwick cottages that are perfect for a short break or holiday:
Thornbrae Retreat - sleeps 4
A 2-bedroom Alnwick holiday cottage that comes with its own hot tub.
Alnwick Fox Wood - sleeps 5
This contemporary 3-bedroom property has a spacious enclosed garden.
Fox Cottage - sleeps 6
A spacious dog-friendly holiday home that’s a short walk from the centre of Alnwick.
Wesley House - sleeps 10
This fabulous former Alnwick chapel is an ideal base for larger groups.
For even more family-friendly holiday inspiration, read our guide to 10 things to do on the Northumberland Coast and browse our range of Alnwick holiday cottages. We also have a fantastic collection of cottages across Northumberland for you to choose from too!