Ominous clouds on a typical summer’s day in the UK did not lead to any actual rain – although as I’m writing this things have changed for the worse.
Nice to drive through the North East countryside from the Cruise terminal at Newcastle to Alnwick Castle – the ruined castle below is at Warkworth and the bridge is crossing the River Coquet (and I’d never heard of them either!
First impressions of Alnwick Castle are impressive – it is owned by the Duke of Northumberland and has been inhabited continuously since the 1100s. After Windsor it’s the second biggest inhabited castle in the UK.
But it has seen a 40% rise in visitors since the first two Harry Potter movies were filmed there and then a couple of the Downton Abbey specials were also filmed there.
The two ladies below are visiting from LA (one works at the Universal Park there in the HP section). As you can see they were dressed to fit in perfectly and no doubt tried the broomstick training on offer! I loved their style.
The castle design is very “trad English Middle Ages” and fearsome too. Not an easy place to attack – and the Scots did try back in the day. No interior photos allowed – ridiculous!
The gardens are arguably an even bigger draw. Developed from a derelict state by the Duchess of Northumberland – she used crowd funding to enable a complete revamp of the grounds (I should point out this family is worth about GBP 350 million but hey, if you can convince others to give you more – then good luck to you!).
Below is a falcon who was doing his thing and part of the children’s garden where a female giantess lives hence the massive bloomers and bra on the line:)
The gardens are huge and a mix of ornamental gardens, space for adults to relax on giant swings, water features, forests, rose gardens and a maze as well as a stunning wrought iron gate that only the Duchess has the key to.
The best part though was the 20 minute tour of the Poison Garden – the largest in the world. And yes it is what it sounds like and that’s why you have to be taken around because touching anything in here let alone breaking a twig and having contact with the sap is potentially a killer. The guide takes you around looking at plants that many people have in their gardens and tells you all sorts of stories of how people came into contact with the berries, the sap, the smoke of burning twigs or the poison generated by cuttings in the back of a car and tells you all the gory ends that many had. It is not for the squeamish but it was fascinating. They even have a “legal illegal” marijuana plant.
The point of all this is to educate kids about the dangers of drugs and how seemingly harmless plants can kill you!
By the time we were done I was glad I’d nearly always lived in apartments with a pot on the balcony – way safer……
The Poison Garden
And then I saw something I’ve never seen in the wild before – a baby hedgehog. Not many of those in West Kensington where I grew up so was very excited!!