Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England.

Ancient Alnwick Castle, site of scenes from the Harry Potter movie

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The ancient castle of Alnick is more than a majestic structure, beautifully preserved to this day. Although this medieval outpost has made a name for itself in several Harry Potter fantasy series, its architecture, eventful history and unsolved mysteries are worthy of special attention.

1. Alnwick Castle, Northumberland’s crown jewel

Alnwick Castle is a medieval gem in the county of Northumberland with a turbulent history and amazing architecture (UK). | Photo:

Alnwick Castle, a medieval gem in Northumberland County with a turbulent history and amazing architecture (UK). | Photo:

Not always buildings of the early Middle Ages turn out to be ruins, on the territory of many European countries there are amazing monuments of architecture, among which there are quite remarkable. Take, for example, Alnwick Castle (Alnwick Castle), located in the market town of the same name in North-East Britain in Northumberland county.

Castle Alnwick through the eyes of Italian painter Canaletto (painting dated 1750). | Photo:

This majestic architectural complex not only has kept its impressive appearance, which, by the way, attracts lovers of antiquity and filmmakers, it is one of few still quite inhabited by descendants of those who centuries ago built it and tried to save it from encroachment of ill-wishers. But there were a lot of the latter in the stormy history of the outpost, due to its location – the border between England and Scotland. The proprietors’ willfulness was sometimes the reason for its loss, though, and sometimes it even resulted in the death of disobedient subjects.

The history of Castle Alnwick

A painting by British painter, master of romantic landscape William Turner (Alnwick Castle, 1829). | Photo:

A painting by British painter, master of romantic landscape William Turner (Alnwick Castle, 1829). | Photo:

The market town of Alnwick and its surroundings (in the north of England not far from the southern borders of Scotland) have from time immemorial been a sort of prize for good service to the king. They were very easily granted to loyal subjects and easily taken away if they allowed their willfulness, participated in conspiracies or mutinied. The first gifted was William the Conqueror’s standard-bearer, the Norman Gilbert de Tesson. In the XI century. brave standard-bearer on the west of the city, on the bank of the river Aln built a wooden fortress, in which he lived not so long. After a few years, he joined the rebels who rebelled against his own benefactor, William II, and was deprived of the land for that.

Medieval fortress and castle Alnwick bird's-eye view (UK). | Photo:

Medieval fortress and castle Alnwick bird’s-eye view (UK). | Photo:

Until the beginning of the 14th century there were several such grants, and some received the land twice or even three times (this was due to the difficult relationship with the Crown). Naturally, some did not surrender their lands voluntarily, so the fortress repeatedly fell under siege and was even captured or completely ruined. It is worth noting that one of the lucky ones who managed to regain possession of the property (Ivo de Vessy) undertook a grandiose construction, thanks to which a stone fortress with a luxurious residence for those times appeared.

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3. Alnwick Castle, owned by the Earls of Northumberland, a powerful aristocratic family

The fortress castle acquired its majestic forms in the 14th century (Alnwick Castle, UK). | Photo:

Fortress castle acquired its majestic forms in the XIV century (Alnwick Castle, UK). | Photo:

In 1309, perhaps for the first time the landholdings, including the town, Castle Alnwick, farmland and woodland were sold, which broke the chain of gifts and a constant change of owners. The new owner turned out to be one of the Percy family. It was one of the most powerful English families, whose members were distinguished by a hot and restless temper. From generation to generation there were hotheads, warlords, knights and rebels, who time and again fell into disgrace of the ruling dynasty, which was detrimental to the castle and fortress. Not only did its walls constantly suffer from attacks, but the execution of the head of the clan (by this time the Percy family had gained the title Earls of Northumberland) left the castle abandoned.

Sir Henry Percy was one of the first owners of Alnwick Castle, which became the prototype of the characters in William Shakespeare's historical chronicles.

Sir Henry Percy is one of the first owners of the Castle of Alnwick, which became the prototype of the characters in the historical chronicles of William Shakespeare.

Interesting fact: One of the first owners of the castle, then County Alnwick, was Sir Henry Percy, who was nicknamed the Hot Spur. It was he who became the prototype of the characters in William Shakespeare’s historical chronicles “King Richard II” and “King Henry IV. By the way, not only daredevils and warlords were in the family, more often the family wove intrigues against monarchs and constantly rebelled against both English and Scottish kings. Even Henry Percy managed to lose his castle for a time and nearly lost his head. Fortunately, the dodgy owner managed to win the county back to his family, and even renovated the castle so thoroughly that some of the buildings have survived to this day.

It was difficult to find an equal decoration of Castle Alnwick on the territory of England (UK). | Photo:

It was difficult to find an equal decoration of Castle Alnwick on the territory of England (UK). | Photo:

Several generations of the famous family rebuilt the fortress, which acquired an unusual appearance. In addition to its sternness and impregnability, it had several differences from the fortifications that were popular at the time. There was no citadel in the fortification, and the residence of the counts was built around a huge courtyard, among which was a town square. The fortress itself was surrounded by a strong wall and included watchtowers, the distance between which was exactly the same. They housed the regiment and stored ammunition, weapons and provisions.

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The luxurious interior decoration has been preserved to this day (Alnwick Castle, UK). | Photo:

The luxurious interior decoration has survived to this day (Alnwick Castle, UK). | Photo:

It is worth noting that the ambitions of the family were so great, they did not want to fall behind in the luxury of royal palaces, the splendor of landscaped parks and gardens. Despite the harsh and impregnable appearance of the architectural complex (circumstances forced it, because Alnik, as before, was subjected to attacks) inside the castle prevailed exorbitant luxury, not inferior to the Victorian beauty and abundance of decor of the main monarchic residences of the rich states of Europe. It is believed that Alnwick Castle became Britain’s “answer to Versailles”.

In the castle even now you can see antique furniture, unique paintings and artifacts (Alnwick Castle, UK).

Even now you can see antique furniture, unique paintings and artifacts in the castle (Alnwick Castle, UK).

In 1766, after another devastation and conquest, the county was returned to the Percy clan, whose representatives were awarded the title of Dukes of Northumberland (the descendants of the legendary family still bear this title to this day). By the middle of the XIX century the dynasty not only restored the lost grandeur of the castle, but also began a grand reconstruction, because times had changed and so had the fashions. During the transformation, dramatic changes occurred not so much with the appearance of the architectural ensemble. The interiors have become more refined and sophisticated: marble staircases and fireplaces, drapery of Damask silk, antique furniture, unsurpassed collections of works of art, Meissen porcelain and antique silver, Antiques Museum, which collected artifacts from around the world. Park and garden ensemble has also been updated.

There is a luxurious garden around the castle (Alnwick Castle, UK). | Photo:

Tourists can enjoy not only informative tours, but also walks in the park and garden ensemble (Alnwick Castle, UK).

Tourists are available not only informative tours, but also walks through the park and garden ensemble (Alnwick Castle, UK).

Ancestral legend: Given the centuries-old history of Alnwick Castle, it’s not surprising that it’s covered with a mass of legends, the most impressive of which is the tale of the vampire lord who died back in the XII century. Local peasants 2 centuries later, during the Black Death, remembered the legend of how he attacked and killed those who came close to the castle during his lifetime. That’s when they declared the lord a vampire who had sent this attack on humans. The most desperate dug out the lord’s remains from the grave and burned them, hoping that the plague would recede and the deaths would cease. The terrible disease eventually receded, and the legend was so ingrained that locals for another 500 years believed in the vampire living in the dungeon, who strolled through the castle grounds. Even today, though, some people claim to have seen a dark figure wandering around his former domain at night.

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4. Alnik Castle – a tourist attraction

Breathtaking medieval castle attracts movie makers from all over the world (Alnwick Castle, Great Britain).

The breathtaking medieval castle attracts cinematographers from all over the world (Alnwick Castle, UK).

The authors of would like to say straight away that Alnwick Castle is still the property of the Dukes of Northumberland, nevertheless most of it is open for visits (in summer months). Whereas previously only antiquity buffs asked for tours, thanks to the movie industry, it has become a tourist mecca for Harry Potter fans and more. Given that its walls retain a medieval atmosphere and rugged impregnability, it attracts filmmakers who prefer live action rather than computer graphics.

To be fair, it is worth noting that Castle Alnwick was not the only place where the famous scenes of the fantasy hero flying on a broom were filmed. In 1982, director Douglas Camfield filmed part of the sequences of the TV movie Ivanhoe (an adaptation of Walter Scott’s novel of the same name). The majestic medieval castle can also be seen in Julian Fellowes’ historical drama “Downton Abbey” (season 5, 2010). The XIIth Earl Folgan from the American fantasy action film created by director Michael Bay, “Transformers: The Last Knight,” also inhabited it. Some scenes of famous television series, including “Elizabeth”, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and others, were filmed on its atmospheric grounds.

The cult film about Harry Potter made the castle famous all over the world (Alnwick Castle, UK). | Photo:

The cult film Harry Potter brought the castle international fame (Alnwick Castle, UK). | Photo:

The castle holds themed events, during which some scenes from the cult series “Harry Potter” are reproduced (Alnwick Castle, UK). | Photo:

Although the castle became most popular after the release of the Harry Potter series. It was here that the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (the first two films) was located, with that very Great Hall, Professor Dumbledore’s study and the legendary library. It was around Alnwick’s medieval walls that the “flying on a broomstick” training and many other impressive adventures took place.

It should be noted that soon the fans of the cult series won’t need to review the movie again and again to remember which scenes were filmed in the medieval castle. It is planned to open the museum of fantasy characters, where there will be costumes, “magic” props, scenery for the movie, will create some art objects on the places of shooting, where the most beloved scenes from the movie took place. In the meantime, they’re organizing costume parties and various events to reconstruct some scenes, including flying on broomsticks.

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Alnwick Castle Northumberland England – Harry Potter Castle

Alnwick Northumberland Castle England - Harry Potter Castle

Alnwick Castle Harry Potter Castle – “Windsor North”

Huge Alnwick Castle is located in the north of England in the county of Northumberland, on the border with Scotland – the ancestral estate of the Dukes of Northumberland. In the XI century Norman Gilbert de Tesson built a wooden fortress on the site of the present castle. After a rebellion against the king, de Tesson lost his possessions. Alnwick passes into the hands of its new owner.

The rugged “northern Windsor” with its impressive fortifications occupies a natural defensive position on the bluff above the River Aln and appears to be the epitome of a medieval stronghold. The first written mention of Alnwick Castle dates back to 1093.

Probably not everyone knows the name of the castle, but the appearance is familiar to almost everyone. This is the famous Hogwarts school of magic from the first Harry Potter movies: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).

The castle courtyard was filmed, for example, the famous scene in which Harry learns to fly on a broomstick. The castle was also depicted in the first season of the BBC comedy series Black Viper (1983), in the movies Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Elizabeth (1998), Robin Hood (2001), etc.

Alnwick is still the residence of the Duke of Northumberland and, after Windsor, is the second largest residential castle in England. It is included in the list of the most beautiful castles in the world.

Alnwick Northumberland Castle England - Harry Potter Castle

About the castle

In the north of England, almost on the border with Scotland, is a huge castle Alnwick – an ancestral home of the Dukes of Northumberland. In the XI century Norman Gilbert de Tesson built on the site of the present castle a wooden fortress. After a rebellion against the king, de Tesson lost his possessions. Alnwick passed into the hands of the new owner.

Construction history

The construction of the stone castle began in 1096. The construction was led by the Norman baron Ivo de Vessy, but he was unable to finish the construction and most of it was built under the direction of the Percy family, who received the castle in 1209, since then the history of the family has been closely linked to the castle. The Percy family was one of the most influential in England in those days. In 1750 Hugh Smithsin, who later became the first Duke of Northumberland, became the owner of Alnwick Castle. By this time the castle was already badly neglected, so a lot of work was done to restore the castle. In the middle of the 19th century the 4th Duke Algeron rebuilt the castle and we can see the result of his work now.

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Alnwick Northumberland Castle England - Harry Potter Castle

The castle today

The castle is huge, and to be able to maintain it properly, the current Duke opened some of the rooms to the public. Most castles in Great Britain are open to the public, and by necessity, not because of the increased humanity of their owners. Alnwick is Britain’s second largest (after Windsor) residential castle. Today the castle lives a strange life, combining accessibility for tourists and all the hallmarks of private accommodation. The castle’s owners use a tiny door in an incredibly thick wall to let their dogs out for a morning stroll, and it was once the entrance for fugitives fleeing from their enemies. In the library, next to the rarities collected over the centuries, the attentive eye will notice a niche with a television screen. In the drawing room are the closets made for Louis 14 himself, and in the meantime, guests are sometimes received here.

Tourist Information

  • Adults £13;
  • Children under 18 – £13.

Tours start every 40 minutes from 10.30. A must-see here is the Museum of Antiquity, open since 1826, with fragments of Roman mosaics, cave paintings of the earliest inhabitants of Northumbria, and archaeological finds relating to Hadrian’s Wall. Alnwick Castle grew in popularity after the filming of the young wizard Harry Potter movies. It was Alnwick that became the prototype for Hogwarts School of Wizardry. Harry Potter flew around this castle on his broomstick and competed in Quidditch against its perfectly trimmed lawns. A Harry Potter museum will soon open in the castle. During the three-hour tour, tourists can see not only the costumes, decorations and props of the cult film, but also the places where the most famous scenes were filmed: the Great Hall of Hogwarts, the study of Professor Dumbledore, the famous library – all these places from books and movies, which you can visit live soon.

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