During our stay at Slaley Lodges during the Easter holidays, we took a drive up to Alnwick Castle. Although we went to Northumberland for a wedding a few years ago, we didn’t have time to visit Alnwick Castle but I knew it was somewhere I really wanted to visit – mainly because of the Harry Potter connections. As soon as I started making plans for our trip, the iconic Alnwick Castle was top of our priority list.
Although it was absolutely freezing and threatened to rain for most of the day we still had a fantastic day and I wanted to share some of our highlights and top tips with you!
1. The staff
Every single member of staff we spoke to was warm, friendly and helpful – they went out of their way to ensure we enjoyed our visit (and the smiles on their faces clearly belied how flipping nithered they were!) Particular shout outs to Peterkin the Jester and Professor Bottomley
2. Broomstick training
This was absolutely my favourite bit of the day. Harry Potter fan or not, you can’t fail to enjoy learning to fly on the very spot that Harry himself had his first flying lessons. The broomstick lessons are open to everyone so on arrival we picked up tickets for everyone except Granny & Grandad who took charge of the camera and Amy! At the start of our allotted session, neither child was really convinced that they wanted to do it – I think they were genuinely frightened that we were actually going to be flying . . . with a little coercion from us, Ben and Chloe warmed up to the situation and joined in, they were soon giggling their heads off at the Professors who were poking fun at grown ups and generally being thoroughly entertaining. Professor Bottomley was an extremely commanding character and his broomstick training really shouldn’t be missed!
3. Dragon Quest
This is not for the fainthearted – we took Chloe in and she really wasn’t keen, she basically had her Grandad carry her back out as quickly as possible. Ben on the other hand thought it was ace, he particularly loved the rolling tunnel and the hall of mirrors. Aunty Nic may have screamed very loudly when she disturbed a dragon and he made his displeasure known! This dark and scary quest is definitely not one for those who are of a nervous disposition but for my 7 year old boy? So much fun he had to go through again!
4. Downton Abbey Exhibition
Now I’ve never watch an episode of Downton Abbey in my life so I can’t say that this particular exhibition held much interest for me however I was pleased to be in the warm and still enjoyed looking at the costumes and the various rooms. Mum on the other hand is a huge fan and hadn’t realised that there was a connection between Downton and Alnwick Castle (it was the set for two Christmas specials) so she was in her element. Unsurprisingly most of this exhibition passed the kids by, they’re a little young to appreciate the history and grandeur however Chloe did think the staircase was something special and said she could imagine a princess walking down the stairs. Sadly you’re not allowed to take any photographs within State Rooms.
5. Peterkin the Jester
Although in reality it felt much too cold to be standing still for very long, Peterkin soon distracted us with his comical performance. Wobbling around on stilts, eating fire and commanding the involvement of two poor Dads who happened to catch his attention – Peterkin kept us all entertained. Ben and Chlo were still talking about him days later.
6. The Lost Cellars
Mum, Dad and Nic went to investigate The Lost Cellars whilst we were watching Peterkin with the kids. The came back full of tales and encouragement that we should leave the kids with them to experience it for ourselves. Unfortunately we had just missed the next performance so I can’t describe it to you in any detail however Dad said it was an excellent diversion for the grown ups which brought history to life. The excellent acting of the staff made the experience something special and whilst it will make you squeal, it won’t leave you with nightmares.
7. Knight’s Quest
With a wide range of costumes for young and old alike to dress up in medieval finery, Knight’s Quest provides a range of traditional games and activities for children to get involved in. Whilst Chloe’s favourite thing was clearly getting dressed up as a princess, I rather liked chucking rats at Dave whilst he was in the stocks!
8. Courtyard Cafe
Although we had taken a picnic with us in an attempt to be reasonably frugal, we were extremely grateful for the opportunity to stop and warm up with a hot drink after our broomstick training. The prices were reasonable, I think we spent about £20 on hot drinks for 5 adults and 3 children. (It’s worth a mention that if you have a dairy intolerance there is no soy alternative for your hot chocolate)
Top tips for visiting Alnwick Castle
1. Wear comfy shoes – you will be doing a lot of walking (it’s also worth considering a pushchair if you have a little one, we regretted leaving ours at home!)
2. Pre-book your broomstick training session on arrival as this can get booked up quickly – book tickets for both adults and children, it’s much more entertaining all round if you all get involved.
3. Be prepared for the elements – a day out at Alnwick Castle can be fairly exposed so think about wrapping up warm (or making sure you have plenty of suncream!)
4. Make a note of timings of events so you can plan your day around them – it’s also worth checking in advance what’s going to be on when you’re visiting
5. Be aware that some things are not suitable for children eg The Lost Cellars
6. Get your ticket validated on entry and you can visit as many times as you want over the coming year
7. If you book tickets for the castle and gardens together you get a discounted rate (we did this but actually shouldn’t have bothered with the gardens as we were far too cold and tired to make the most of them – I wish we were more local so we could visit again another day as they were stunning!)
8. Charge your camera up! (I had planned to vlog our day but my camera battery ran out almost instantly!)