Alnwick Castle dates right back to the Norman period. Owned by the Percy family, it has been a military outpost, a teaching college, a refuge for evacuees and more recently a film set.
Situated in glorious Northumberland, the English county with the most castles per square mile Alnwick castle is a real fairy tale place. The second largest inhabited castle in England (after Windsor Castle) it is the current home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland and their family.
Ralph George Algernon Percy, is the12th Duke of Northumberland. He is ranked at number 248 in the Sunday times Rich List with an estimated wealth of £315 million.
Alnwick castle – a fabulous film set
Alnwick Castle is visitor attraction in its own right. It is also very popular as a film set with its grand turrets and sweeping grounds. It has featured in Transformers: The Last Knight and as the magnificent Brancaster Castle in Downton Abbey’s 2015 and 2016 Christmas specials.
The castle appears in Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, starring a very un English Kevin Costner. He was also to be seen striding across Hadrian’s wall in another scene supposed to be in Sherwood Forest. TV series such as Blackadder and Famous Five have also been filmed here.
Harry Potter at Alnwick Castle
One of the most famous uses of the dramatic views which Alnwick Castle offers is its use as Hogwarts, the wizard school in the first two Harry Potter films.
Memorable scenes filmed there include the flying lesson in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone and the crash landing of the flying Ford Anglia in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. This is a big deal for Potter fans across the globe and there are Potter themed goings on throughout the year including Broomstick Training for the apprentice wizards among you.
Alnwick Castle and Downton Abbey
Alnwick Castle starred as the magnificent Brancaster Castle in two Christmas specials of Downton Abbey, which took two weeks to film throughout July and August 2014. The first episode featuring the castle saw the Crawley family attend Lord Sinderby’s shooting party, where a scandal erupts. The State Rooms inside the castle provided a spectacular backdrop for a number of scenes. The episode highlighted the grounds of the castle and the nearby Hulne Abbey, nestled in the Northumberland countryside.
The final-ever episode of Downton Abbey was also shot in the grand state rooms of the castle. Additional filming also took place on the ramparts of the castle, Bow Alley and St. Michael’s Church Hall nearby, which you can discover for yourself on a visit to Alnwick.
Alnwick castle – a money spinner
Films and shows shot here have won 179 awards. Contributing the most to the total is Downton Abbey, winning 57 awards including 3 prestigious Golden Globes.
Castles make great film set backdrops. Films shot at Alnwick Castle however, have grossed the highest amount globally. They have racked up £2,935,772,241.00 at the box office. This was largely fueled by the two Harry Potter movies filmed here (accounting for £1,857,553,207 collectively) and the Transformers: The Last Knight movie (£605,425,157).
The Alnwick Garden
The Duchess of Northumberland is well known too. Her creation of the Alnwick Garden has made it a top attraction in Northumberland. This large ornamental garden adjacent to the family seat is now a top tourist attraction in its own right. It has become a firm family favourite. There are lots of events happening over the summer to keep the kids amused too.
One particularly interesting feature of the garden is the ‘Poison Garden.’ This garden hosts plants which are deadly poisonous, but are also often used in medicine to cure. Foxgloves produce Digitalis which is very poisonous, but is also used as the base of a heart drug.
Other Species of the Poison Garden include Strychnos nux-vomica (source of strychnine) and hemlock. Ricinus communis is a source of harmless castor oil but also deadly ricin. Atropa belladonna, commonly called Deadly Nightshade is here. As are Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpets) and Laburnum.
The Percy children
Their younger son, is the dashing George Percy, a sometime escort of one Pippa Middleton whose sister Kate married rather well. Their daughter Lady Catherine, shunned a life of meaningless socialising with the wealthy and worked as a motorcycle mechanic, racing driver and gunmaker. Now happily married to a city financier I’m not sure she still changes her own spark plugs!
Have-a-go archery returns to Alnwick Castle!
Back this summer is archery on the green. Take a strong stance, steel your arm, steady your aim and try to hit the bullseye! Archery sessions are from 10:30am to 3:30pm daily, weather permitting. Open to everyone aged 13 years and over.
I love a bit of archery myself. My prowess with a bow and arrow may well be due to my 1% Native American DNA which was revealed when I had my genetic profile analysed!