Friday, February 29, 2008

A Gem Of A Medieval Castle – Alnwick Castle

Alnwick is a small and very characterful town in Northumberland not far from the coast of North East England. It is perhaps most famous for its medieval castle but well worth a visit in its own right.

Of particular interest to fans of maritime history (as is the case with my family) is the White Swan Hotel, a 300 year old coaching inn. It has one of the most interesting and attractive dining rooms I’ve ever seen, being furnished with original fixtures and fittings from the RMS Olympic, sister to the RMS Titanic. When you walk into the room it’s like walking into the past; the carved, oak panelling, mirrors and stained glass windows leap out at you as if from James Cameron’s award-winning movie (for which I understand a research team was actually sent to the hotel to make detailed studies because the Olympic’s fittings were identical to those on the Titanic). I’m digressing here from the point of this article (sorry!) but if you ever go to Alnwick, don’t forget the White Swan Hotel!

My family and I visited Alnwick recently; we had been to the town before but on that occasion there wasn’t sufficient time to visit the castle, so this time we were determined not to miss it.

It was a week day and therefore should have been quiet in terms of visitors but no, it was really busy! Since being featured in the Harry Potter film series, Alnwick Castle has attracted thousands of visitors from all over the world. As we walked into the inner part of the castle, my son and I, having read all the Harry Potter books and seen all the movies, immediately recognised the Hogwart’s lawn from where Harry launched himself on his first broomstick flight (see photo).

Having got over that bit of excitement we then went on an excellent, guided tour and heard about the thrilling history of the castle, its key architectural features and points of defence. The earliest parts of the castle were built by Yves de Vescy the Baron of Alnwick in 1096, just 30 years after the Battle of Hastings. If it helps put the age of this magnificent castle into perspective, we’re talking about a generation before the birth of Ghengis Khan!

My family and I have visited a lot of castles over the years and we all agreed that Alnwick Castle has a very strong, ‘individual’ air about it; its architecture and layout and the carved stone figures set randomly on top of the high walls all give it a unique character and one can easily see why moviemakers favour the place.

To read about the movies filmed at Alnwick Castle go to:

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