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Published: August 15th 2016
Our original purpose of stopping in Blyth on the Northumberland coast was to spend the day visiting the offshore islands of Farne to see the puffins that spend time there over the summer season. However when we made enquiry by email regarding the short boat trip we learnt that the puffins leave the islands at the end of July and head off to where they spend the winter. We had left our timing too late as of course it is now early August.
So we changed tact and decided that a short drive to Alnwick the location of the castle owned by the Percy family for over 650 years and used in the Harry Potter movies and also the last programme of Downton Abbey would be a good replacement for our sightseeing.
This is the first Air BnB accommodation we have booked which has been a room in a house with the owner. But we do have our own bathroom and we get to use the kitchen downstairs in the spacious home.
In fact breakfast was laid on for us by Sue and we only had to add our fruit to our muesli to keep us on track
for our usual fare.
We took the dual lane A1 north to Alnwick and after a bit of difficulty found a free car park in this partly walled town.
Like many towns of its size and location in the countryside Alnwick is described as a market town with a long history of a meeting place for farmers and others to gather and sell their produce.
Nowadays the markets are not necessarily held daily in the large open space of the town square and today there were just cars parked where the market would be held on another day of the week.
We had coffee and a scone with clotted cream and jam at a cafe in the square and then went looking for the castle which we understood to be part of the wall that still surrounds the town.
After a short walk along streets that hadn’t changed in hundreds of years with houses and businesses co existing side by side we arrived at the castle and paid our ‘senior’ admission fee (Gretchen made the grade here just because she had turned 60!).
We were just in time for one of the several extra
attractions offered by the organisation that runs the castle for the Percy family who do actually live in rooms of the castle for 6 months of the year between October and April when the castle is not open to the public.
The Behind the scenes tour was a short tour of some of the locations in the castle grounds that were used for well known scenes from the Harry Potter movies and Downton Abbey. The guy who took the tour and gave the commentary was full of information about how a certain scene was shot and what happened off camera. From what we could tell he had been an extra in a Harry Potter movie and was very entertaining to the large group including us that followed him around the 5 locations.
With the tour over we watched children getting instruction on how to ride a broomstick just as Harry Potter and his mates did in the movies. I should add that neither of us has seen a Harry Potter movie but we now might be persuaded to watch one just to recall the information and fully appreciate how the flaws of the castle were hidden by CGI
when the movie was filmed.
The grounds of the castle are extensive but we were more interested in walking through the rooms open to the public and so spent a good couple of hours visiting the chain of rooms that are fully decorated including the dining room used in the Downton Abbey programme with the places at the table meticulously set and clothes from the programme as worn by the various actors on view. Seeing all this reinforces just how authentic the producers of the series got with the programme to the times the programme was set in.
During the time the castle is open to the public the Percy’s, formally known as the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland live a short distance away but what you see on display is how they come back to live their lives from October through to April.
The castle is second in size to Windsor Castle and was built from 1096 onwards with various additions and alterations over the years. It was certainly a very impressive place to visit and an excellent replacement for our day of sightseeing once we had learnt the puffins weren’t going to be around had
we chosen the boat trip to the Farne Islands.
Our drive home was via the coastal route which was much more interesting than the A1 had been coming up to Alnwick.
Although the A1068 didn’t actually touch on the coast at any time we did get glimpse here and there as the road rose and fell and the villages along the road all had interesting aspects about them from a castle here to a windmill there.
Sue and Mike suggested a pub that was located at the end of a rural walking path they walked their dog on as an option for our dinner and we took their advice.
It was a 4km walk and the path wandered a bit through fields of wheat and barley but it was a pleasant evening and we worked up an appetite and thirst, again!
We had the specials off the menu the pie with veges and chips for me while Gretchen had a burger with all the trimmings plus the now regulatory pint of local crafted beer. Well at least we did have the 4km walk back home to aid the digestion before it was time for bed.
It had been well worth the walk for the food and drink as well as the exercise and we thoroughly enjoyed our stroll virtually in the middle of nowhere without a house to be seen and except for a few animals and crops growing along the pathway.
Tomorrow we continue our way north of the border and into Scotland for what should be a memorable highlight of the BBA V3, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle.
PS:enjoy the Harry Potter theme and get the real feel of Alnwick Castle.On Youtube as usual.
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