A Magical Visit to Alnwick Castle
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 20 years, then you will be aware that there is a rather famous boy in the wizarding world by the name of Harry Potter. However, what many people may not be aware of is that a lot of the outdoor filming in the first two films took place at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.
Located just off the A1, Alnwick Castle is situated in the heart of Northumberland.
First of all I have to say the castle is nothing short of stunning. As we followed the path up from Alnwick Gardens – which is a seperate visitor attraction – it made a spectacular sight. We were even more delighted that our visit coincided with their Wizarding Week. With two children who has recently been introduced to the Harry Potter films, we were excited to say the least.
GETTING BOOKED IN
Now, I have to say straight off that is was busy. As in VERY busy. I expected that to a certain extent as it’s such a popular visitor attraction but despite getting to castle for 10:30am, the earliest slot we were able to get on broomstick training was for 3:30pm. One of one two time slots remaining which was impressive considering the castle had only been open for 30mins.
Considering this we decided to spend the first part of our visit booking any activities we wanted to do. This turned out to be a good move as we also managed to squeeze on to an early afternoon slot on the Dragon Quest.
That left us with quite a few hours to fill. We needn’t have worried though as fill them we did!
GETTING IN THE WIZARDING MOOD
First off we found ourselves in the Artisans Courtyard which was a lovely space to be in. It is clear that it was home to the Dragon’s Quest, but it was also home to a number of traditional games. Something my kids had a great time playing with. Think quoits and skittles.
For Wizarding week, it was also home to a fabulous craft activity to make your own wand. Now I’d say it was a kid’s craft activity but to be honest, here were as many big wizards taking part as there were little ones!
I have to give special mention to the team running the activity here too. They had such a great way to keeping the activity moving while never feeling like they were rushing you. Things like “remember the wand chooses the wizard so the first one you touch, is your wand to make” when picking sticks, and the fact the feathers were phoenix feathers which would fly back to their bird if not chosen and grabbed hold of quickly. Very cute, very funny and very clever!
Add that to the dragon snot adhesive and magic glitter and both my kids and I were suitably charmed and entertained.
MEETING HARRY AND DUMBLEDORE
There we were, sat in the inner bailey enjoying a bit of lunch and out strolled Dumbledore. Yup DUMBLEDORE!! I won’t lie, I had a little fangirl moment – especially over how well he was looking all things considered – and gathered my tribe up for a closer look.
Dumbledore was soon joined by Harry himself and what followed was a rather lovely magic show. The kids were utterly captivated having easily fallen under their spell. Filled with simple tricks for the kids and plenty of humour aimed at the little ones and us big kids in the audience, it was a wonderful way to spend 45 minutes.
Both stayed on to have their photograph taken with their fans which was a wonderful touch and well received by the many MANY people who waited in line.
Before we knew it, we were finishing off lunch and heading back to the Artisans Courtyard to embark on our Dragon Quest. My dinosaur mad boy was so excited by the thought of this and was asking when we could go from the moment we booked our slot.
It was dramatic, it was exciting, and it was met with a mixed reaction from my two. Henry loved it, Darcie hated it and screamed in terror the entire way through. Now to be fair, it’s not particularly scary per se, but it is a loud and immersive experience. At 3 Henry loved it and still talks about it now weeks later, but for her it was just too much despite being almost 2 years older than her brother. It really does depend on your child!
Much to her relief, it doesn’t last long, but I would say it’s worth a closer look as it’s well constructed and a fantastic idea.
TAKING THE TOUR
By this time, we’d been at Alnwick Castle for hours and the time had literally flown by. We still had an hour until we needed to be back for our broomstick training, so we decided to pop along to the locations tour.
Alnwick Castle has been a filming location for so many films. For Harry Potter of course, but also as Brancaster Castle in Downton Abbey’s 2015 and 2016 Christmas specials, Transformers: The Last Knight, Elizabeth and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It even played a part in the Black Adder television series. What the tour does is give you a little peek behind the big screen as to where some of the iconic scenes were shot. Let’s just say it’s amazing some of the tricks that clever filming can do!
The tour was interesting, and our guide was both fun and knowledgeable – worth hopping on to. There were also historical grounds and state room tours available as well as 1o minute talks that we just didn’t have time for. If they were anything like the locations tour though, they’d be worth checking out.
GETTING BROOMSTICK READY
We saved the best for last though as it was time for our broomstick training. The idea is a simple one. It’s a new school year and – just like Harry in the first film – it’s time for our first broomstick lesson. We learned the commands, practiced and then off we flew!
Such a simple idea but so effective and SO MUCH FUN. I can hand on heart say that the grownups were having just as much fun as the children.
By now we had tired legs and tummies that were starting to get hungry again, so it was time to leave on a high. I will say that parking – which is for both the castle and Alnwick Gardens – is a bit of a trek from the castle. It was around a 15-minute walk for us, though I’m sure that legs that are longer and quicker than our two would have been able to do it in less time. Both the kid’s little legs did manage it easily, though by the end of our visit they were getting tired.
Alnwick Castle was nothing short of spectacular. Dating all the way back to the Norman period, it has such an interesting life. It’s been a military outpost, a college, a home to evacuees as well as a film set. This diversity means that there really is something for everyone to see and explore regardless of your personal interests.
For us, it was filled with magic. Not just because of the wizarding theme – which without a doubt was well planned and spectacularly executed – but there was something rather wonderful about Alnwick Castle.
If you enjoyed this post, then why not check out our days out section for more inspiration?
DISCLOSURE: we were invited along to Alnwick Castle and provided with entry to the attraction. However, there was no obligation to provide this blog post. The decision to do so was entirely our own as a result of how much we enjoyed our visit.