on May 17, 2012
Alnwick Castle is in Northumberland in the town of Alnwick just off the A1. It is sort of half way between Newcastle and Edinburgh to give you an idea. I would suggest that you would need a car to get there as public transport would involve local buses as there is no train station in the town and the nearest one is Alnmouth which is 15 minutes away by car .PRICES AND ADMISSION TIMESWe were quite shocked when we saw the price of tickets. I believe we paid $14 each for the Castle and £12 each for the garden. This ticket does however allow us to go back as often as we like for one year from date of purchase however the castle is not open all year and I understand they are closing early this year for some renovation work at the end of September. This price is fine if you live locally but not quite so handy for us as we live too far away to make this a day visit so chances are we won’t take advantage of this! The opening season is from the 31st March through till the 30th September when the family return to the castle to live in the winter months. My husband did get a slight reduction as he is over 60 but it was only a pound or so. I also discovered that the tickets are cheaper if you buy in line which is useful to know and once again we didn’t check this before we went. The times of admission are from 10 am until 6pm but they don’t let anyone actually come in to start their visit after 4.15pmTHE GARDENSWe weren’t going to bother with the gardens but then we were told that the cherry blossoms were out so decided to go and look.The most impressive feature is an enormous cascade with comes down through several pools through the centre of the garden. It rivals the cascade at Chatsworth in that it may not be a long but all the side pools also have fountains and features. The fountains change with different parts performing at any time you look; you cannot fail to be impressed by these displays which take place every half hour. This cascade dates back to the 1850s and is quite a feat of engineering as 7260 gallons of water come down through the various pools and 21 weirs every single minute. I presume they capture this water and send it back up again rather than let it go to waste.As you enter the garden gates this is the first thing that you see. Around the entrance area is a cafe and posh restaurant and shops. You get a great view of the gardens from both the cafe and the restaurant. We didn’t visit either as we went to the garden as we arrived so didn’t need refreshment at that stage.Around the shop and cafe area is all tiled and in front of the cascade as you go down the steps is also all paved. In front of the cascade on this paved area were a large number of ride on toys for young children. If you lived locally this would be a lovely place to bring young children to have a good run around and play.We made our way to the right in order to see the Japanese garden with the cherry blossoms. I must admit I was a little disappointed as the trees are still very small and although there are quite a large number going up a big hill which you walk up by a very long zigzagging path the display was not that impressive. I think once the trees grow a bit more then they might look a bit more colourful but that could take a few more years. Under the trees were lots of tulips but sadly these were also not quite out and had we been a week later the display might have been better but still you can’t have everything and the huge black cloud did only sprinkle us and it could have drenched us.We walked across the top of the garden to the ornamental garden which was again a bit underwhelming as the roses were not in bloom, the bulbs were not out and none of the summer plants were blooming either. We them made our way down through the sides of the cascade to the serpent garden.The serpent garden had a number of different water features which were very nice but you were firmly warned NOT to play in the water features despite the poster near the entrance which showed children playing in a water feature which I thought was a little stupid if they didn’t want people to do just that.The next garden we went into was actually a bamboo maze which looked good but we didn’t feel like trying to find our way through a labyrinth so we moved on and across to the poison garden. We could have gone on to explore the rose garden but as no roses were in bloom we thought it wasn’t really worth bothering with on this visit.This was very well done as it has a locked gate so you could only enter with a guide at specific times. Just outside the gate was a small hut with a log fire inside which looked a bit like Hagred’s hut only far smaller. Our guide explained this was not a medicinal garden but that all plants in the garden were poisonous in some way or other. We followed her down a corridor or covered walkway of ivy which all added to the sense of darkness as you went into the garden. The guide was excellent and explained which parts of the plants were poisonous and what happened if you did eat or even touch certain parts. Many of the plants were not at their best as it was early in the season but it was a very interesting tour froma knowledgable and entertaining guide. We finished the tour by walking through a second corridor or tunnel of ivy and out through the gates. Interestingly this garden has a special license to grow both cannabis and coca behind bars in giant cages! Strangely also many of the plants with poisonous parts I have in my garden as do many others in our country, some I knew were poisonous like Laburnum but others I was not aware of and will now treat with caution. The gardens are lovely and I think if you went in each seasons what you see would be very different. There is plenty to keep children busy and of course adults can admire all aspects of the gardens.
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