Friday, December 23, 2016

Rees family trip to Europe - part 3: Alnwick, Northumberland

It was Elf's idea to visit the town of Alnwick on our way down from Edinburgh to York. We planned to visit the castle and the “poison garden” planted there by the resident Duchess. 

We had a crummy day on the road. Drove down the A1 which at times is a very major road, but then narrows right down and goes past schools and so on. I might be mistaken but there may even have been a zebra crossing. It’s a mess. Then we tried going by backroads but the GPS wasn’t having it. It caught us again and again with exits to roundabouts that it didn't know about; we got lost in Airdrie and found ourselves in the carpark of a public housing estate.

We eventually arrived in Alnwick (pronounced ANNICK) about 8pm, and found our way to our pub accommodation. We had a large roast dinner, a sub-par night's sleep and got up in the morning to walk into town. First we went down to the nearest service station and bought a great big UK road atlas.

Alnwick is an old gated town; it is the county seat of Northumberland, so was once much more important than nowadays. Every vehicle coming into town has to squeak through one of the gates. This street is called Bondgate; this car is proceeding from Bondgate Without to Bondgate Within.

Once in there we thought the whole place was really enchanting. We walked down to the castle which was just opening for the day. We were honestly a bit taken aback by the entrance charge (I can't remember now how much it was) and we decided on the spur of the moment to not go in. We walked all around the town instead and enjoyed it immensely. Michael discovered a gate into a public meadow, from where we could get a great view of the castle above us on the hill.

The town-side gate into the castle. The little statues all along the battlements look... dumb.
The castle is the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland, and has been the home of the Percy family for 700 years. The lion wih a disconcertingly long stiff tail is their symbol. Just after we crossed this bridge Michael spotted a gate...
... which we trotted through and found ourselves here. This is a deeply unflattering picture of me
but it has to be here as part of an honest and complete record.
We were happy with our decision to skip the castle and explore the town, but I still have vague feelings of an opportunity missed when I look at the Poison Garden website. Sigh. We had to keep moving and get back on the road; the plan for today also involved visiting the Chesters Roman Fort on Hadrian's Wall, and driving the rest of the way to York before dark. These will be in the next post.

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