A September 2005 trip
to Alnwick by moatway
Quote: The town of Alnwick lies off the A1 in Northumberland. It is the home of Alnwick Castle, the home of the Dukes of Northumberland, and the beautiful Alnwick Gardens.
Attraction | "Alnwick Gardens"
There is so much to see here and this is a garden in progress… a new visitor centre is currently under construction on the grounds and should open in 2006. A cascade has been built… it undulates down a hillside with steps up either side beyond which lie paths hidden in bowers. Over the cascade is a wonderful, classical ornamental garden. It is quite large and all the exhibits are labeled… a gardener’s dream. There are large water features as well and those are the hallmarks of this whole complex.
The water features are fantastic… there are those that shoot water into the air, but many simply allow water to caress chrome sculptures. There are so many, and they are so cleverly done that you will have a difficult time selecting favorites.
While the entire gardens are a maze of paths, leading from one feature to even better features (You will need the map.), the actual bamboo maze is still too new to be difficult, but someday, getting in and out will present a challenge. The serpentine garden of winding hedges is filled with water features and there is even a poison garden.
One of the newer features of the site is the Treehouse. My wife commented that it looked like Disney World, and it really is a Disney kind of creation. It includes a bar/restaurant, a couple of suspension bridges well above the ground and a not-particularly-interesting walkway that traverses the roof. In other words, Alnwick Garden is trying to amuse everyone at every level… and they’re doing a good job of it. But no matter how fun-oriented it becomes, one will always find solace and peace in the beautiful rose garden. Good fun – good visit. To see more, go toGardens.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 29, 2005
The Alnwick Garden
+44 (0)1665 511350
Alnwick is, of course, the home of one of England’s most celebrated families, the Percy’s, Dukes of Northumberland. Henry, the first lord, acquired the barony in 1309 and his grandson, Henry "Hotspur" (1364-1403) still lives in legend as one of England’s greatest medieval heroes. The Percy family would play a role in almost every momentous political event through the 15th and 16th centuries. The castle has always been in their hands and while substantial renovations were done in the 19th century, they didn’t actually turn it back into a family home until 1940. Opened to the public in 1950, it is now the home of Ralph, the 12th duke.
It appears as a really complete medieval pile and has everything that a castle should have, but its staterooms, the section open to the public, are anything but medieval. Having passed through gates and courtyard, you will find a sign directing you to a stairway with walls of marble and Georgian paneling and gilding. At the top of the stair you are directed to a clearly medieval Gothic chapel--but a chapel that is 19th century. From there, it is into the guard chamber which is hung with portraits and has two large statues by Giuseppe Nucci, who handled most of the sculpture during the restoration.
The staterooms seem to go on and on--incredible ceilings, all of which are 20 feet high or more, beautiful marble fireplaces and wall coverings. There is a wonderful library with two floors of books, two marble fireplaces, massive desks and comfortable seating in two lounge areas. It is obviously a place where the present family gathers. Across an anteroom there is a 19th century saloon finished in the regency style with an 1857 fireplace in marble and hung with formal portraits.
The state dining room occupies the place of the former medieval great hall, and as a consequence, is even more expansive than the other rooms. It features a ceiling that is woodcarved and displays the arms of the baronies of the Percy’s. The extra height in this ceiling allows a series of over-sized portraits to adorn the walls.
There is no doubt that the staterooms in this castle are really over-the-top, but the visit here isn’t terribly extensive. This is, after all, still very much a family home so you won’t be poking about in the bedrooms, but what you will see is wonderful.
Other parts of the castle include the Duke’s archeological museum in the Postern Tower and a museum commemorating the Duke’s own infantry and cavalry, which were charged with protecting Northumberland during the wars of the early 19th century. There is also the Museum of the Fencibles of Northumberland. The castle, incidentally, also serves as a teaching campus for students from the University of St. Cloud, Minnesota and there is also a large play area with a medieval theme for children called Knights’ School. There is also the usual gift shop and cafeteria… it all makes for a good visit. For more information, seeAlnwick Castle.
Just off the A1 Road
Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1NQ
+44 (1665) 510777
Riverview, New Brunswick