You know that Alnwick Castle featured as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, right? (gulp, me neither) but in fact the most amazing thing about Alnwick is how absolutely wizard its gardens are.
I know, I know, the heart of a keen gardener might sink a little at the prospect of a garden attached to such a global tourist attraction and in truth the frankly amazing water feature, zany mazes, talking trees and vast treehouse restaurant are a little as though Disneyworld had a baby with the Palace of Versailles, but believe me, it’s high calibre fun.
Alnwick crouches just south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, some 40 miles due north of Newcastle. There’s loads of parking (£3 – not too bad) right next to the garden, and it’s cleverly designed so you don’t need any ticket at all if you just want lunch in the treehouse (quite a hoot, especially re-living your seven-year-old self on the surrounding bouncy rope bridges).
Created by iconic Belgian designers Wirtz International, the garden is huge and like a Haunted Castle, is set out in a labyrinth of rooms all orbiting the grandeur of that vast water feature. The planting is profuse and clearly labelled and although largely the staples of any British garden – delphiniums; roses; acanthus etc, the design definitely isn’t. In Harry Potter fashion it is absolutely precise in its eccentricity. Hugely high, pleached crab apple trees frame squares of wild herbaceous perennials, while bamboo mazes and dense yew hedge ‘walls’ make a perfect setting for games of hide-and-seek which are fun for kids and aesthetically gorgeous for adults. It won’t feed your horticultural education as an RHS garden would but it is abundant, brilliantly executed and above all fun, with a wonderfully welcoming team running it.
Alnwick Gardens are run as a charity and have specific sections devoted to gardening therapy for those needing a bit of help – dementia sufferers, struggling youngsters etc. While dedicated horticulturalists might want to avoid the days when events like Prince Amir Camel and Granny Turismo are on (see the website) the actual garden is definitely worth the visit.
We didn’t manage to get to the guided tour of the poison garden or explore the Fairy Tale attic – that’s for next time and there definitely will be a next time. Do go along – it’s magic!
Summer opening times: – 10.00 – 18.00.
Entry: Adults – around £11.50; Children 5-16 – around £5; Under four – free (all a bit cheaper if you buy online in advance).
You need a ticket to go around the poison garden but there is no additional fee.
No dogs allowed apart from assistance dogs. There is a ‘doggy day care’ facility but it must be pre-booked.
Address: off the A1 north of Alnwick. The garden car park is off Denwick Lane (B1340). Post code NE66 1YU. Nearest railway station is at Alnmouth – four miles away.
Best to check this info before setting off:
Tel: 01665 511350