Skip to Content

A weekend in Northumberland: 2-day Alnwick, Northumberland itinerary

How to spend a weekend in Northumberland: Discover the best things to see, do, eat and drink in and around Alnwick in this two-day Northumberland itinerary, featuring castles, beaches and seafood.

* This site contains affiliate links, where I get a small commission from purchases at no extra cost to you.

A weekend in Northumberland: 2-day Alnwick, Northumberland itinerary

Sandy beaches, 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 has 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.

So relax, take a deep breath of fresh sea air and join me for the perfect weekend in Northumberland, with details of what to see, where to eat, drink and stay. This two-day itinerary is based in the town of Alnwick, known for its grand castle and garden, which makes a convenient base whether you’re travelling by car or public transport.

How to spend a weekend in Northumberland

Seabirds in Northumberland, England
Seabirds at Dunstanburgh

Friday evening

Once you’ve checked into your accommodation, start your weekend in Northumberland with a pre-dinner wander around Alnwick. The town (pronounced ‘anick’) has lots of historic charm, with cobbled streets and stone buildings. Look out for the memorials to various wars between the Scots and the Percy family (owners of Alnwick Castle) too.

Head to Caffé Tirreno for dinner, a relaxed Italian bistro opposite the Alnwick Playhouse. There are classic dishes like pizza, pasta and risotto on the menu, with plenty of vegetarian options. You can’t reserve tables though so it’s a good idea to get there early.

The market cross in Alnwick on a weekend in Northumberland
Alnwick’s market cross

Saturday morning

Start the day with a trip to Bailiffgate Museum & Gallery. Anwick’s community-run museum is located inside a former church. It takes you through 10,000 years of local history, from archaeological finds to industrial heritage, with two floors of permanent collections and temporary exhibits on diverse subjects like Vikings, toys and textiles.

Then head 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.

Barter Books second-hand bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland
Barter Books

The shop opened in 1991 and now stocks thousands of books, maps and manuscripts, covering every subject you could think of. It’s a real warren of a place, with cosy nooks, open fireplaces and armchairs where you can curl up with a book – and if you want to take one away then you can either pay for it or barter with another book.

The old station waiting room, which was discovered hidden away behind a wall, has been transformed into a café. The Station Buffet is a great place for an early breakfast or late lunch – their bacon and egg butties and Northumberland rarebit are favourites.

Next head over to Alnwick Castle and Garden – the town’s two biggest attractions (note the castle is closed to visitors from late October to late March and the garden has limited opening hours in winter, so you’re best visiting Alnwick from spring–autumn).

Fountain in the Alnwick Garden in Northumberland
The Alnwick Garden

Start at the Alnwick Garden – tickets for the castle and garden need to be bought separately, and it’s advisable to book ahead in peak season as walk-in tickets are limited.

The gardens were originally designed by Capability Brown for the First Duke of Northumberland in 1750. But they were dug up to plant fruit and veg during the Second World War, 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 modern 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.

The Alnwick Garden
Gardens and fountains

Saturday afternoon

Spend the afternoon at Alnwick Castle – the second-largest inhabited castle in England, beaten only by Windsor. The castle was built after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century and later passed to the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland. They’ve lived in the castle for over 700 years, with the 12th Duke and his family in residence today.

From outside, Alnwick is a perfectly preserved, storybook castle, with golden stone turrets, towers and lush green lawns. It’s been a filming location for Downton Abbey and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but is best known as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

Alnwick Castle, filming location for Harry Potter
Alnwick Castle

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 as it’s still a family home it doesn’t have a dry, museum feel.

Later call into the White Swan in Alnwick for a pre-dinner drink. This pub is the unlikely resting place for interiors from the Titanic’s sister ship. Some of the RMS Olympic’s fittings were bought by the pub’s owner when she was dismantled in the 1930s.

Lavish interiors inside Alnwick Castle
Inside Alnwick Castle

The two ships were almost identical, so it’s the nearest you can get to being on board the Titanic. You can see the ship’s grand oak staircase as well its revolving restaurant door and stained glass from the first-class lounge in the pub’s Olympic Suite restaurant.

The head back to the Anwick Garden 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 meat, fish 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. To reach the castle, you follow the coast path for 1.3 miles from Craster. Craster is seven miles or a 20-minute drive north-east of Alnwick. Or if you don’t have a car, the Arriva X18 and Travelsure 418 buses run connect Alnwick and Craster.

Where Anwick Castle is picture-perfect, Dunstanburgh is a total contrast – remote, ruined and windswept. The castle was one of England’s grandest in the 14th century, but the War of the Roses left it worse for wear, and the Northumberland weather finished the job.

It got a second life as a WWII fortification, helping defend the Northumberland coast from German invasion. But now it’s an atmospheric ruin, which has inspired writers and artists including JMW Turner. Opening hours vary through the year, but even if it’s closed the coastal walk is lovely and you get a good view of the castle from outside.

Walk along the coast from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland
The walk to Dunstanburgh Castle

After visiting the castle, head back to Craster to try the area’s fresh seafood. The town is famous for its crab – grab a picnic table with a sea view in the garden at the Jolly Fisherman pub and enjoy one of their doorstop-thick sandwiches, packed with silky crab meat. Or try a seafood platter with lobster, oysters, crayfish, prawns and mussels.

Just across the street is another of Craster’s fishy specialities – kippers from L Robson & Sons. This fourth-generation family business has been smoking herring and salmon in the same smokehouse for 100 years. You can buy them to take home in their shop.

Craster crab sandwiches in Northumberland, England
Craster crab sarnies

Sunday afternoon

Then head three miles south of Craster to finish your weekend in Northumberland at Howick Hall Gardens and Arboretum (if you don’t have a car, the bus from Craster doesn’t stop that close to Howick Hall, but it’s just under an hour’s walk or a short taxi ride).

Howick Hall has been the ancestral seat of the Earls Grey since 1319 – including the second, tea-loving, ex-prime minister Earl. The house isn’t open to the public, but you can take a walk around the pretty gardens and arboretum (closed mid December–February).

Howick Hall on a weekend in Northumberland
Howick Hall

Of course there has to be a cup of tea in there somewhere too. The Earl had a special blend of tea made for him by Chinese tea merchants. It uses bergamot to hide the taste of lime from the well water on the estate, giving it a distinctive flavour which made it a huge hit with tea drinkers of the day (though not with me, I think it tastes like soap!).

The Earl never trademarked the recipe though, so he never received any royalties from it. You can try it yourself at the hall’s Earl Grey Tea House, which is set inside a former ballroom. They also serve homemade cakes, scones and an Earl Grey tea loaf.

Finally, it’s around six miles (15 minutes’ drive) if you’re heading back to Alnwick. Or if you’re travelling by public transport, the Travelsure 418 bus picks up from the entrance to Howick Hall Gardens and runs into Alnwick three times a day.

Earl Grey tea
Earl Grey tea

Map of things to do in Alnwick, Northumberland

Map of things to do in Alnwick, Northumberland
Click on the map to open an interactive Google Maps version

The details

How to get to Alnwick

The nearest train station to Alnwick is in Alnmouth, five miles away. Alnmouth is around 3.5 hours by train* from London or just over an hour from Edinburgh. From Alnmouth train station you can catch an Arriva X18 or X20 bus to Alnwick, which takes 15–20 minutes. Or a taxi from Alnmouth to Alnwick costs around £10 each way.

If you’re driving, Alnwick is 35 miles north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and 81 miles south of Edinburgh. From London it’s 325 miles or a six-hour drive to Alnwick. There’s free parking at Roxburgh Place (NE66 1TU) and Greenwell Road B and C car parks (NE66 1HB), but there’s a maximum stay of 24 hours with no return within four hours.

The nearest airport to Alnwick is Newcastle International Airport, which is around 45 minutes’ drive away. You can also take the Metro from Newcastle airport to the city’s main train station (25 minutes) and then catch the train to Alnmouth.

The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland
Dunstanburgh Castle

Getting around Northumberland

Northumberland isn’t the easiest place to get around by public transport – especially if you only have a short amount of time – so if possible it’s best to travel by car. If you don’t have your own car, you can pick up a hire car in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Ashington or Newcastle.

If you don’t want to hire a car you can explore the area by bus. The Arriva X18 and Travelsure 418 buses both run between Alnwick and Craster, Bamburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed – do check the timetables though as they’re not very frequent.

Fountain at The Alnwick Garden
The Alnwick Garden

Where to stay in Alnwick

The Cookie Jar* is a former convent turned boutique hotel with 11 luxurious rooms and suites, including the Chapel suite in an old chapel with arching ceilings, stained-glass windows and an oversized bath. Dark walls, stylish prints, antique furniture and curios give the hotel a decadent feel, and there’s a bistro overlooking the garden and terrace.

The Plough* is a historic coaching inn dating from 1896 decorated in hunting lodge style. There are seven en-suite bedrooms – split into small, standard and superior categories – which come with Nespresso machines and homemade cookies. The inn has a comfy bar with 40 different gins and a restaurant which serves local game and seafood.

Or Charlton Hall Estate* is a country house surrounded by 150 acres of grounds, seven miles north of Alnwick. They have a mix of suites and cottages, including a new 15-bedroom, Alice in Wonderland-inspired hotel called The Tempus with a bar and restaurant. There are lots of quirky touches, from a taxidermy giraffe to Pop Art toilets.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Northumberland?*

The exterior of Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle

Save for later

How to spend a weekend in Northumberland, England: What to see and do around Alnwick in a 2-day itinerary of castles, beaches, gardens and seafood  | Visiting Northumberland | Northumberland weekend break | Northumberland itinerary | Things to do in Alnwick | Weekend in Alnwick NorthumberlandHow to spend a weekend in Northumberland, England: What to see and do around Alnwick in a 2-day itinerary of castles, beaches, gardens and seafood  | Visiting Northumberland | Northumberland weekend break | Northumberland itinerary | Things to do in Alnwick | Weekend in Alnwick Northumberland

You might also like


Tuesday 25th of May 2021

I can't wait for an extended trip to Northumberland for all that you mentioned plus the great footpaths, bike routes and long-distance trails.