Alnwick Castle, with its many turrets and towers, may look familiar to you. Imagine an aerial view of it from the vantage point of a flying broomstick and you will probably recognise it as Hogwarts as seen in the first two Harry Potter films.
The first parts of this splendidly sprawling fortress in the Northumberland town of the same name were built by Yves de Vescy, the Baron of Alnwick, to protect England’s northern border after the Norman Conquest. It’s been renovated, expanded and remodelled several times since and is now a Grade I listed building. Responsible for much of the upgrading was Henry Percy, who bought the barony of Alnwick in 1309 after the Vescy family became extinct. His building programme transformed Alnwick from a fairly modest castle into a major fortress along the Anglo-Scottish border. His son, also called Henry, carried on the good work, adding The Abbot’s Tower, the Middle Gateway and the Constable’s Tower. Their improvements set the benchmark for the so-called palace-fortresses of northern England in the 14th century. The current Duke and his family have living quarters here, making Alnwick the second largest inhabited castle in England, after Windsor Castle.
Alnwick Castle has one of the best private art collections in Britain, accumulated by generations of the Percy family on their travels around the world. As well as the beautiful furniture, sculpture and plasterwork, visitors have the chance to gaze upon paintings by a variety of acclaimed artists, from Canaletto to Turner. There is also a portrait of the 10th Earl of Northumberland by the royal artist Van Dyck, most famous for his painting of King Charles I, now in the Louvre. Look out too for the priceless Cucci cabinets, made in the late 17th century for the French ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV, for his Palace at Versailles.
Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1NQ
Tel: 01789 204 016