Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

The History

The first part of Alnwick Castle was built in 1096.  The Percy family has owned and lived in the castle since 1309.

A bit of an aside for my fellow fans of Tudor history:  When Anne Boleyn first caught King Henry VIII’s eye, she was romantically involved with a Henry Percy.  In fact, they were betrothed, although Henry failed to ask permission from his father and from the king before popping the question.  Young Henry’s father (the 5th Earl of Northumberland) did not find Anne a suitable match for his heir.  In fact, he considered her the daughter of a mere knight, not a member of the nobility.  He refused to give his permission for a marriage between Henry and Anne, and called for Henry to return home to Northumberland at once.  Henry packed up, headed home, and left poor Anne at court with a broken heart.

The current (12th) Duke of Northumberland, Ralph Percy, has held the title and land since his elder brother’s untimely death by drug overdose at age 42. The current Duchess of Northumberland was responsible for the renovation of the beautiful Alnwick Garden, which also draws thousands of visitors each year.

The castle is big – in fact, Windsor Castle is the only inhabited castle in the UK larger than it.  It is impressive from the moment you approach the main arch:

alnwick castle filming location for harry potter movies northumberland

Passing through to the outer bailey, it seemed even bigger.

alnwick castle filming location harry potter movies hogwarts

The castle offers many tours with varying themes, as well as activities in which visitors can participate.  We took the “Alnwick Castle in Film” tour, which highlighted the various ways we have seen this castle before. (Quite a few, as it turns out!)

The Filming Locations

Alnwick Castle’s inner courtyard served as the courtyard of Nottingham Castle in the 1991 film, “Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves” starring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman.  Fun fact:  There is a very ornate exterior light in the courtyard that does not fit the medieval time period of the film.

alnwick castle northumberland filming location robin hood prince of thieves

In the courtyard shots, the film crew covered the light to conceal it from view.  However, when Robin and the priest fought and the priest jumped out of the window, they had to show him having fallen into the courtyard below.  In that shot, you can see part of this light peeking out from under the brown cloth meant to obscure it.  Just look for the green spikes at the bottom of the screen when the camera cuts to the priest’s lifeless body on the stones below.

More recently, Alnwick Castle doubled as Brancaster Castle in the final season of “Downton Abbey.”  Lady Edith’s love interest, Bertie Pelham, inherited the property and the title Marquess of Hexham.   Here you can see the cast in the library.

alnwick castle northumberland library downton abbey filming location

And another shot of Bertie Pelham and Henry Talbot in the Dining Room.

alnwick castle northumberland dining room canes filming location downton abbey

The collection of canes on the left side of the photo is stunning.  The handle of each cane is an intricately hand-carved animal. The level of detail was amazing!

In the first two Harry Potter films, Alnwick Castle was the filming location for many of the Hogwarts scenes, including Quidditch practice with Madame Hooch.

alnwick castle northumberland filming location harry potter movies quidditch practice

alnwick castle northumberland filming location harry potter movies hogwarts

But these are not the only appearances Alnwick Castle has made on film.  It has also served as a filming location in the first Blackadder series starring Rowan Atkinson, the movie “Elizabeth” starring Cate Blanchett, and the Shakespearean miniseries “The Hollow Crown” starring Tom Hiddleston.  There are many others as well.  You can read the whole list on the Alnwick Castle web site by clicking here.

The State Rooms

After we went on the filming location tour we toured the State Rooms.  By far, the library was my favorite. I could have spent hours in there, just looking around. I saw a multi volume set of The State Papers of Henry VIII on one shelf. What I would have given to be able to look through them!  There were two floors of non-stop bookshelves – about 16,000 volumes in all.  If I lived there, I doubt I would ever leave the library!

Other rooms were almost as impressive.  I particularly liked the brilliant green wall covering in the Dining Room, and the impressively set, very long table.

alnwick castle dining room northumberland

The Grounds

The grounds of the castle were also enjoyable. The famous British landscape architect, Lancelot “Capability” Brown, was responsible for their design.  He did such a marvelous job, one Duchess of Northumberland ordered the removal of a connecting wall of the castle because it interfered with her view of the landscape.

alnwick castle northumberland

We had a lovely day at Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Garden.  Highly recommend this for history buffs, film enthusiasts, and families.

Alnwick Castle in Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1NQ.  Telephone +44 01665 511 100.  The castle is open late March – late October.  Hours vary.  Check the web site or call for more information when planning your visit.

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