Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England, and has been home to the Duke of Northumberland’s family, the Percys, through 700 years of drama, intrigue, tragedy and romance. Nicknamed ‘The Windsor of the North’, it has a turbulent past just waiting to be discovered. The Castle’s unique history features kingmakers, rebels, a gunpowder-plotter and passionate collectors, as well as Harry Hotspur, the most famous of all Percys. Most famous as a shooting location for the Harry Potter movies.

A castle has been recorded on this site for an incredible 1000 years. Situated near the volatile border between England and Scotland, the castle was built in the classic Norman motte and bailey style, to defend the town against attacks from marauding Scots. When the 1st Lord Percy of Alnwick purchased the castle in the early 1300s, he upgraded all its defensive features, turning it into an impenetrable fortress. You can still see parts of this extensive renovation today, as the Abbot’s Tower, the Middle Gateway and the Constable’s Tower have all survived as reminders of the castle’s gruesome past.

Since then, generations of Percys have continued to make their mark. By the 17th century, the political atmosphere of the border areas had stabilized, and the defensive function of the castle was no longer a priority. The castle fell into decay, until it was inherited by Elizabeth Seymour and her husband Hugh Smithson, later the first Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. Intent on transforming a cold and draughty medieval castle into a palatial family home worthy of this wealthy family, they embarked on an extensive restoration. This was done in the fashionable “gothick” style of the period, with the help of architect Robert Adam and the famed landscape designer Capability Brown. Even this restoration was replaced a century later by the Fourth Duke Algernon and the architect Anthony Salvin. It is thanks to these Percys that that Alnwick Castle has the best of both worlds/something for everyone; a defensive exterior worthy of knights and dragons, and an extravagant interior filled with beautiful objects.

Modern comforts that we take for granted, like heating and electricity, have since been added, to turn the castle into the comfortable family home that it still is today. Alnwick Castle was amazingly one of the first homes in the North East to have electricity. Installed in 1889, it was run by a recently restored hydro electric system which produced enough power to run only 100 electric lamps.

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  1. Jim, 4 years ago

    An excellant castle, large, diverse, familly friendly. Sitting in wonderful grounds and gardens, with a selection of different visitors attractions, aimed at all ages. A full days visit is well spent, especially with the broom stick training sessions for the kids, right where Harry learned in the films.

    Jim (London)

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