Alnwick is another one of those places that is a little bit English and a little bit Scottish. It is located in the county of Northumberland, a place where the border between England and Scotland has been somewhat mobile over the centuries. Yet anyone who comes to Northumberland should make a point of visiting the pretty town of Alnwick while they are here. One of the biggest attractions in the town is Alnwick Castle, set within its fabulous gardens and boasting its very own poison garden. You could be mistaken for thinking that you have been to the castle before as it may appear very familiar, but this is because it was used as the setting for Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Magic in the Harry Potter films and not because of some strange sense of déjà vu.
Alnwick Castle & Abbey
The story of the town of Alnwick is interwoven with that of the castle, the castle which for the past seven hundred years at least has been in the hands of the Percy family, known as the earls and then the Dukes of Northumberland. The town is believed to have come into existence back in Anglo-Saxon times, situated at a crossing point on the River Aln, with a Norman motte and bailey castle being built here following the Norman Conquest.
It was during the first battle of Alnwick that King Malcom III of Scotland met his fate. Following an uprising against King William II the estate and land of Alnwick was awarded to Ivo de Vesci who became the first Baron of Alnwick. It was during this time that the castle was rebuilt in stone. Parts of the castle that you can see when you visit date back to this time in the 1100’s. There is more than just the magnificent castle to see here, Alnwick Abbey was also founded in the 1100’s, though it was practically destroyed during the reformation. Today you can still see the gatehouse and part of what was once a magnificent structure of the abbey and the priory that was also on the site.
Alnwick was invaded several times and at least two Scottish Kings were killed or captured here. Due to the numerous raids that took place across the centuries on 1433 the town was granted the freedom to wall the town and install battlements in order to protect itself from raiding parties. However the building was slow and the town continued to be raided. Bondgate Tower is the most impressive remnant of the walls that can be seen today, it cannot fail to be missed as you travel into the town. Having the walls meant the town could finally prosper and accumulate wealth. The castle passed into the hands of the Percy family in 1309, and the family took it upon themselves to develop the castle into more or less what you see today. Major renovations took place during the 1700’s which shaped the castle into what it is today, complete with beautiful landscaping and parkland.