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A weekend in Alnwick, Northumberland: A 48-hour itinerary

How to spend a weekend in Alnwick in Northumberland, England, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink on a 48-hour escape to this beautiful stretch of coastline with its castles, beaches, gardens and seafood.

Rolling hills, sandy beaches, tiny islands, medieval castles and fantastic seafood – just a few of the reasons Northumberland is one of my favourite places in the UK. This part of northern England is home to one of the UK’s most beautiful stretches of coastline – so you’d think it’d be packed with people too. But there’s so much space you’ll have no problem finding a peaceful spot – whether you’re soaking up the sun or hibernating by the fire. So relax, take a deep breath of fresh sea air and join me for the perfect weekend in Alnwick in Northumberland.

Read more: Five of the best castles in Northumberland

How to spend a weekend in Northumberland

Seabirds in Northumberland, England

Seabirds at Dunstanburgh

Friday evening

Check into the gorgeous Cookie Jar in Alnwick, a former convent converted into 11 luxurious rooms and suites. The interior designer worked for Hotel du Vin and it has that same luxe feel with dark walls, stylish prints, classic furniture and interesting curios. Rooms start from £160 or splash out on the Chapel suite, in an old chapel with arching ceilings and stained-glass windows. They also have a small bistro with a creative three-course dinner menu for £39.50.

Or if you’re on a budget, The Plough in Alnwick is a historic coaching inn which dates back to 1896. Inside it has a hunting lodge meets contemporary style décor. Its seven rooms start from £99 a night, bed and breakfast, and come with free cookies on arrival. The inn has a comfy bar with 40 different gins on the menu, and a restaurant which serves dishes using seafood sourced by their sister pub in nearby Craster and game from local Northumberland estates.

Barter Books in Alnwicjk, Northumberland, England

Brilliant Barter Books

Saturday morning

Start the day with a trip to Barter Books – ‘the British Library of secondhand bookshops’. After the local railway line closed in 1968, Alnwick’s Victorian train station was transformed into a book-lovers’ paradise, decorated with extracts of poems and a miniature railway. There are thousands of books, maps and manuscripts covering every subject you could think of.

It’s a real warren of a place, with lots of cosy nooks, fireplaces and armchairs to curl up in with a book (and if you want to take one away then you can either pay or barter with another book). The old station waiting room has been transformed into a café which is a great place for a late breakfast or an early lunch – the Northumbrian rarebit is a favourite.

Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland, England

The Alnwick Garden

Next head over to Alnwick Castle and Garden (entry £26.10 for adults, £22.20 for concessions and £11.15 for children 5–16, but you can save a bit by booking online and tickets are valid for a year), starting off in the Alnwick Garden. The gardens were originally designed by Capability Brown for the Dukes of Northumberland in 1750. But they were dug up to plant fruit and veg during WWII and ended up overgrown and abandoned by the end of the 21st century.

In 1997 the current Duchess of Northumberland oversaw a complete restoration, redesign and replanting. The contemporary Alnwick Garden features a rose garden, cherry orchard, giant waterfall, water sculptures and bamboo maze. Don’t miss the fascinating Poison Garden – a chance to get up close (but not too close) to some of the world’s deadliest plants.

Alnwick Garden in Northumberland

Gardens and fountains

Saturday afternoon

Then spend the afternoon at Alnwick Castle – one of the England’s biggest and most impressive castles in England. It’s been home to the Dukes of Northumberland for over 700 years. From outside it’s a perfectly preserved, storybook castle, all golden stone turrets, towers and lush green lawns. So perfect it’s a been a filming location for Downton Abbey and Harry Potter.

Potter fans can take broomstick-flying classes in the same spot as Daniel Radcliffe, or there’s Dragon Quest, dungeon tours and archery sessions. Inside the castle is just as lavish, and a tour of the state rooms takes you past priceless artworks, sparkling gilt and carved ceilings. But the castle is still the family home of the Percy family so it doesn’t have that dry, museum feel.

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England

Alnwick Castle

Pop into the White Swan in Alnwick for a pre-dinner drink – the unlikely resting place for interiors from the Titanic‘s sister ship. Some of the Olympic‘s fittings were bought by the pub’s owner when it was dismantled in the 1930s. The two ships were almost identical so it’s the nearest you can get to being on board the Titanic, with the ship restaurant’s revolving door, its grand oak staircase and wood panels and stained glass from the first-class lounge.

The head back to Anwick Gardens for dinner at the Treehouse Restaurant, set among the branches in one of the world’s largest treehouses (make sure to book in advance). Climb up through wobbly bridges and twisting tree trunks into a magical woodland wonderland which is draped in fairy lights. The menu features local fish, meat and seafood – and don’t miss the ‘Deadly Jane’ cocktails, created by the Duchess of Northumberland.

The treehouse restaurant at Alnwick Castle and Garden

The Treehouse Restaurant

Sunday morning

The following morning, blow away any cobwebs with a morning walk along the coast to Dunstanburgh Castle. Where Anwick Castle is picture-perfect, Dunstanburgh is a total contrast – remote, ruined and windswept. To reach the castle you follow the path along the coast for about a mile and a half from Craster, seven miles north-east of Alnwick.

The castle was one of the grandest in England in the 14th century, but the War of the Roses left it worse for wear, and the Northumberland weather finished off the job. Now it’s an atmospheric ruin that’s inspired writers and artists including JMW Turner. Entry is £5.90 for adults (£5.30 concessions, £3.50 children and free for English Heritage or National Trust members). Opening hours vary through the year, but if it’s closed you can still take a look from outside.

Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland

The walk to Dunstanburgh Castle

Back at Craster, refuel with some of the area’s fresh seafood. The town is famous for its crab, so grab a picnic table with a sea view in the garden at the Jolly Fisherman pub and choose between their rich crab soup or a doorstop-thick crab sandwich packed with silky crab meat.

Just across the street you’ll find another of Craster’s fishy specialities – kippers from L Robson & Sons. This fourth generation family business have been smoking herring and salmon in the same smokehouse for over 130 years. They have a shop where you can buy some to take home.

Craster crab sandwiches in Northumberland, England

Craster crab sarnies

Sunday afternoon

Then head three miles south to finish off your weekend in Alnick at Howick Hall Gardens and Arboretum (entry £8.80 for adults, £7.70 for over 60s and children free). The estate has been the ancestral seat of the Earls Grey since 1319 – including the second, tea-loving, ex-prime minister Earl. You can’t go into the house but you can take a walk around the gardens and arboretum.

And of course there has to be a cup of tea in there somewhere. The Earl had his special tea blend made with bergamot to hide the taste of lime from the well water on the estate and it was a big hit (though not with me, I think it tastes like soap!). But the Earl never trademarked the recipe, so he never received any royalties from it. The hall’s Earl Grey Tea House in a former ballroom serves up soups, sandwiches, scones and cake along with cups of Earl Grey.

Cup of Earl Grey

Earl Grey tea

Have you visited Northumberland? Do you have any tips to add on what to see, do and eat?

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How to spend a weekend in Alnwick in Northumberland, England, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink on a 48-hour escape to this beautiful stretch of coastline with its castles, beaches, gardens and seafood | Weekend in Northumberland | Northumberland travel guide | Weekends in England | Visit NorthumberlandHow to spend the perfect weekend in Alnwick in Northumberland, England, a 48-hour weekend break packed with castles, beaches, gardens and seafood | Weekend in Northumberland | Northumberland travel guide | Weekends in England | Visit Northumberland

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Noelle
    February 28, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    I really want to visit Alnwick Castle! All the Harry Potter related activities are right up my alley! Great write up on Northumberland.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      February 28, 2018 at 8:09 pm

      I probably shouldn’t admit this but I’ve never read the books or seen the films! One day I’ll finally catch up – and spot lots of places I’ve visited!

  • Reply
    Confuzzled Bev
    March 1, 2018 at 9:11 am

    YAY, Northumberland!
    One of my cousins had a birthday party in the tree house at Alnwick Gardens. I think he was 6 or 7?

    I think Early Grey tea tastes (and smells) like perfume.

    What to see in Northumberland? SO much! Hadrian’s Wall, all the castles, the Farne Islands (although I haven’t been for years), Lindisfarne, Cragside House and Gardens, Roman forts – Vindolanda is my favourite, Wallington Hall (my dad used to work there!). Go hiking around Rothbury. I could go on, but I won’t. And eat stotties (special type of bread) – to be full on traditional they should be filled with ham and pease pudding 🙂

    • Reply
      Nicola
      March 3, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Ooh you’ve mentioned a lot of my favourite places! I love Cragside, particularly when the flowers are in bloom. Seahouses is also my absolute favourite for fish and chips!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 5, 2018 at 11:24 am

      That’s an amazing birthday party venue! Definitely so much to see in Northumberland – I’ve still to make it to Vindolanda and there’s a few more to add to my list there, hopefully it won’t be too long until I can make it back up again.

  • Reply
    kelly
    March 3, 2018 at 8:01 am

    Thank you so much for this! I’m going to head up this way once I’m back from New Zealand so this guide is perfect – no further research is necessary…yay! xx

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 5, 2018 at 11:27 am

      Fab! Hope it comes in useful – and have an amazing trip home.

  • Reply
    Nicola
    March 3, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    I love Northumberland and Alnwick is one of my favourite places to go. Barter books is great and Alnwick Garden is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve still not made it to Howick Hall but think it will have to be next in the list.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 5, 2018 at 11:28 am

      I could just move into Barter Books and never leave! Love this part of the world and hopefully can make it back up soon to explore some more.

  • Reply
    Bama
    March 8, 2018 at 10:00 am

    I know I sound like a broken record, but I do admire your photo consistency — they always look sharp and crisp with vivid colors! I have to admit that this part of England was a place I didn’t really know much about, but your photos and description make it go up on the list of places I want to visit should the chance to go back to the UK arise.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 9, 2018 at 9:07 pm

      Ah thank you! It took me a bit of time to get to grips with changing camera but I really love the XT-1 now and so pleased with the results. There’s such great light in Northumberland too (if you can avoid the showers!).

  • Reply
    Thrifty Mumma
    March 8, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Oh I love Alnwick and the castle is so beautiful. It sounds like you had a wonderful time exploring Northumberland. It really is a beautiful part of the country to visit. Great post!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 9, 2018 at 9:08 pm

      Love this part of the world – just wish it was a bit closer!

  • Reply
    Sara @ Travel Continuum
    March 9, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    Oh wow! Northumberland is home to Northumberland International Dark Sky Park – the largest Dark Sky Park area of protected night sky in Europe & I’m planning a visit soon. What I hadn’t considered was a ‘cosmos and coast’ twin-centre break, as I knew nothing about the coast – so thanks Lucy, you’ve given me a fabulous idea!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 9, 2018 at 9:31 pm

      Ooh that sounds like a great plan! I haven’t been to the Dark Sky Park yet but that’d one for next time.

  • Reply
    amanda obrien
    March 10, 2018 at 9:13 am

    So many great things to do in this post! I love the sound of the book shop like a train station and nothing like a boutique hotel in a former convent! Thick crab soup also sounds delicious!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 15, 2018 at 11:24 pm

      Barter Books is so amazing – I could just move in!

  • Reply
    Kathryn @TravelWithKat
    March 11, 2018 at 10:46 am

    As you say, there are so many reasons to go yet I’ve still never made my way here. There’s so much of the UK I’d love to see (let alone the rest of the world) but how I’m going to fit it all in!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 15, 2018 at 11:22 pm

      I know what you mean – cross one place off the list and add five more!

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    March 11, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    The light in Northumberland is exquisite! You’ve outlined so many reasons to spend some time here. I think Dunstanburgh castle would be at the top of my list and I would love to wander the grounds and then have a picnic of coaster crab sarnies with a lovely bottle of wine!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 15, 2018 at 11:21 pm

      That sounds like a fabulous day! The light up there really is lovely – it’s a wonderful place to photograph.

  • Reply
    Victoria @TheBritishBerliner
    March 20, 2018 at 7:59 am

    ‘Love this. Really nice!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 23, 2018 at 7:52 pm

      Thanks – it’s a fab place!

  • Reply
    Sanne
    March 25, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    I’ve never been to Northumberland, but now I know I definitely need to visit Alnwick Castle!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 28, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      Hope you get to make the trip sometime soon!

  • Reply
    Amy
    May 7, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    Great post! I can’t believe I’ve never visited Northumberland, it looks fab. I love discovering new places in the UK, they’re often overlooked in favour of more exotic foreign locations but there are so many nice places to visit. I’ll definitely be looking into that treehouse restaurant, that’s right up my street!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      May 8, 2018 at 10:30 am

      The treehouse is amazing! Northumberland has so many fab places to explore – just wish it was a bit closer to home for me!

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