Yes, it really does exist and you really can visit it! Prepare yourself, I’m about to make all of your Harry Potter dreams come true.
The castle’s name is Alnwick Castle (pronounced An-ick) and it’s located in Northumberland, England. It was used as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter movies. After that a model of the castle was used in the studio. Follow the link above to go to the castle’s website where you can learn about how to get there, entrance fees, opening dates, and any special events going on.
We have visited many places in the UK during our time living here and this castle definitely stands among the best.
The castle is currently home to the 12th Duke of Northumberland, Ralph Percy, and his family. The Percy family has lived in the castle for over 700 years and still resides there during the winter months. The castle is closed during this time to allow the family to enjoy their family home. However, the rest of the year it is open to the public and… to film crews!
The list of films and TV shows that have used the castle as a set is a long one. You can find a full list on the castle’s website, but here are a few of the ones I found most interesting:
- Harry Potter (The first two, after that they used a model of the castle in the studio)
- Downton Abbey
- Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
- The Ellen DeGeneres Show
- The Black Adder
You should plan to spend an entire day here so you can really enjoy the castle. It’s expansive and there are tons of awesome tours and activities to fill your day. Keep in mind that all of the tours and activities are included in your ticket price so nothing costs extra!
Check the castle website (linked above) for all the tours and activities currently offered.
These were the highlights from our trip:
1. Walking through the gates of Hogwarts on the Movie Tour
I think many Harry Potter fans dream of this moment. As a kid reading Harry Potter, I don’t think there was anything I wanted more than to receive my letter, take the train to Hogwarts, then walk through these gates. I can say I’ve now done two of the three!
2. Learning about the History of the Castle (and seeing more movie locations) on the Historical Tour
The castle has a varied, and somewhat bloody, past. With the same family occupying the residence for more than 700 years, much of the castle’s history has been preserved and documented. The Historical Tour is not to be missed.
Harry Potter fans, does this location look familiar?
3. The Magic Show on the Lawn
Taking place on the field where Harry Potter and the gang learned to fly their broomsticks, this magic show given by Dumbledore and Harry Potter is very entertaining.
If you’re a redhead, be prepared to become part of the show!
4. Getting to See the Forbidden Forest/Sherwood Forest on the Movie Tour
We chose not to purchase the tickets to walk through the gardens because we didn’t think we’d have time to be able to appreciate them and the castle in a single day. So while we didn’t walk through these forests, we did get to see them on the movie tour. On the left is the Forbidden Forest from Harry Potter and on the right is Sherwood Forest from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
5. Admiring the Library and Artwork During the State Rooms Tour
They ask that you not take pictures of the interior of the castle, so I don’t have a picture to show you for this “must do” item. The interior of the castle is absolutely gorgeous and very fitting for a family of such high rank. The family’s pride in the art collection and library of the castle is obvious and the collections are impressive. Make sure that you take the State Rooms tour so the resident art expert can tell you about what you’re looking at.
No filming has been allowed to take place on the interior of the castle except for the Christmas special of Downton Abbey. They have several small Downton Abbey exhibits inside the rooms used for this episode.
6. Broomstick Training!
This activity is for the young and young at heart. Two “Professors” from Hogwarts give you a broom and teach you how to properly handle and fly on your broomstick. It’s incredibly entertaining and very funny. To make the experience even more exciting, keep in mind that you are learning to fly your broomstick on the same field that the Hogwarts students learned to fly on!
A Few Tips to Help You Plan Your Trip
To get here you can drive, take the bus, or ride the train. We chose to take the train which drops you off about a 10 minute drive from the castle. There is a bus available from the train station, but when we visited it only ran every hour so we took a cab for about 10 GBP instead. Check the castle website (linked above) for more travel information.
The best train to take to get here is the Virgin East Coast Line. They are much cheaper than other lines and offer group and family deals. Buy as early as possible for the best prices. This line runs from London up the entire East coast of the UK. If you are traveling from London to Edinburgh (or visa versa) this castle is right on the way and would be a great day stop to break up the trip.
For lunch, there is a cafe on site, but we opted to walk around the corner from the castle instead and eat at a little place called Grannie’s. We had some delicious sandwiches and a pot of tea for quite a bit less than the cafe was charging. I will say that even though the food in the castle’s cafe was a bit expensive, it did look delicious.
Your tickets to the castle are all inclusive meaning that none of the tours or activities will cost you anything extra. Also, your tickets to the castle are good for a calendar year. If you live in the UK or if you will be coming back in within the year, this is a great feature!
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