About once or twice a month a group, Fast Friends, at Northumbria University organizes day trips for students. These trips are particularly geared towards those who are international and may know little about the area surrounding Newcastle. The first trip of the year was to Alnwick (pronounced like Ann-ick). Alnwick is about 40 minutes by bus north of Newcastle. Armed with a bevy of new friends and amazing weather, I set off for a fun day of exploring Alnwick, particularly its gorgeous castle- Alnwick Castle!
Alnwick Castle is owned and operated by the 12th Duke of Northumberland, Ralph Percy and his family. The castle is still fully operational and inhabited, so no pictures inside… But their hanging picture collection is amazing! The collection is very extensive in Italian late Renaissance and Baroque art, as well as Northern European city scenes. I’m please to report the paintings looked to be in great condition- freshly cleaned and dusted. The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland are obviously committed to conservation! Some may better recognize the castle from its many uses in movies including Elizabeth and, perhaps more importantly, Harry Potter! The building was used for some initial exterior shots of Hogwarts, as well as many of the learning to fly on a broom scenes and early quidditch matches from the first few movies. The field you see above is where Harry first set foot on a broom- of course they offer daily broom lessons as part of your ticket if you wish to partake!
The castle also features an extensive garden cultivated by the Duchess of Northumberland. I didn’t get the memo that the gardens are awesome until I was leaving (it’s a separate ticket), so I missed seeing them this time. I’m sure I’ll be back since a ticket into the castle is good for a full year. The Percy Family seems really dedicated to engaging and giving back to the local community, not just the 1 stop tourist, which is refreshing to see. They offer lots of changing seasonal programming- ghost tours in the fall and Christmas markets in the winter. There are also a dragon show for children and an exhibit highlighting the recent wedding of one of Lord Percy’s daughters. They even explain the horse carriage conservation carried in preparation for the ceremony. Overall, the exhibits are well done and truly feature something for everyone. I’m looking forward to going back to Alnwick Castle soon!
The rest of the day was spent exploring the town of Alnwick. I had a phenomenal sandwich for less than 2 pounds at a cheesemonger shop tucked on a back alley. Definitely looking for that place again! While in Alnwick, I visited a couple of antique shops/flea market/junk shops looking for a damaged painting to work on in my painting conservation class next semester. While I did see something that would fit the bill, it didn’t feel quite challenging enough for me, so I’m still on the hunt for my damaged painting.