Ultimate Alnwick Castle Harry Potter Guide
A visit to Alnwick Castle transports you not just back to the medieval times, but into the magical world of Harry Potter. This 700-year old castle and fortress provided many of the exterior shots of Hogwarts during the filming of the first two Harry Potter films.
You can walk through the grounds of Hogwarts or stand where the Whomping Willow stood guard in Chamber of Secrets. And, just like the most famous of the Harry Potter scenes filmed at Alnwick Castle, you can learn how to fly a broomstick in the exact same place where Harry and the other first years learned during the the filming of the first movie!
This guide to Alnwick Castle explores everything you need to know to have the ultimate Harry Potter experience at the castle, while also exploring the historic elements of the estate beyond the wizarding world.
Table of Contents
- Alnwick Castle Harry Potter Filming Locations
- Broomstick Lessons at Alnwick Castle
- Wizarding Week
- What to See at Alnwick Castle
- Things to do at Alnwick Castle
- Alnwick Castle Garden
- Tips for Visiting Alnwick Castle and Garden
- Best Ways to Visit Alnwick Castle
- Other Harry Potter Filming Locations to Visit
Alnwick Castle Harry Potter Filming Locations
Throughout the first two Harry Potter films Alnwick Castle provided the backdrop for many of the exterior shots of Hogwarts.
- In Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry and the other first years at Hogwarts have their flying lessons in the main courtyard at Alnwick Castle. Here Madam Hooch teaches them how to get their broomstick up, Neville gets injured and Harry and Malfoy face off for the Remembrall before Professor McGonagall pulls Harry away from the class after seeing him fly.
- Oliver Wood teaches Harry how to play Quidditch here in Sorcerer’s Stone.
- In Chamber of Secrets, after escaping the Whomping Willow, the flying car deposits Harry and Ron in the main courtyard with their luggage. The car then drives off angrily through the castle grounds and out of the Lion Gate.
Entrance to the Castle and State Rooms
- The archway that marks the entrance to the castle and state rooms is digitally added to the CGI version of the castle that is seen in Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets.
- Hagrid pulls a Christmas tree from the Lion Arch towards the entrance to the main castle and state rooms as the students prep for the holidays in Sorcerer’s Stone.
- In Sorcerer’s Stone, Filch guides Harry, Hermione, Ron and Malfoy out of the castle entryway to Hagrid’s hut where they will serve their night detention in the Forbidden Forest.
Walkway Between the Castle and the Gardens
- In Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry, Hermione and Ron walk through the Lion Arch as they’re discussing Snape trying to steal the stone. They have an idea and run down to Hagrid’s hut, along the walkway between the castle and the gardens.
- In Chamber of Secrets, you can see Alnwick Castle just beyond the Whomping Willow. Filmmakers digitally added the Whomping Willow to the picnic area between Alnwick Castle and the Castle Gardens for this movie.
Broomstick Lessons at Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle capitalizes on its most famous Harry Potter movie scene, the flying lesson, by giving broomstick lessons of their own. The resident broomstick professors will teach you have to mount, dismount, and fly around the very same courtyard that Harry and the rest of the first years learned to fly in the first movie.
The Castle offers multiple flying lessons each day, but times typically vary depending on other events going on at the castle. When you arrive, check the “What’s On” board to see what time the classes will be taking place for the day of your visit.
Participation in the broomstick lessons is included in the price of admission and slots are doled at on a first come, first serve basis. Because of that, you’ll want to put your name down for the time slot you want as soon as you arrive. Be sure to get there early as only 30 people can join the class and the activity is extremely popular, especially on weekends or school holidays in the UK. Alnwick Castle does not accept advanced reservations for the flying lessons.
Getting the Perfect Flying Photo at Alnwick Castle
Want to show your friends and family that you’re just as good a flyer as Harry Potter? Capturing the magic of your flying lesson at Alnwick Castle through photos can be a challenge, but it is not impossible for the dedicated fan.
Here are the steps for getting the perfect broomstick flying photo:
- Put the broomstick between your legs.
- Jump up in the air, tucking your legs up behind you so that they almost touch the broomstick.
- If your photographer is taking photos on an iPhone or other smartphone, have them hold down the photo button to take a burst of you jumping up in the air and coming down. If you’re shooting on a camera, make sure to have the shutter speed at the higher end to be able to shoot consistently while jumping up in the air and coming down. By shooting rapid fire, you’re more likely to catch the perfect flying shot.
Everyone goes for the flying photo, but you can also go the less common route and have an image that shows your broomstick flying up in your hand. Here are the steps for getting the perfect broomstick up photo:
- Hold the broomstick in your hand
- Though it seems counterintuitive to the task, you’ll actually be dropping the broomstick to get the appearance of the broomstick flying up. When you let go of the broomstick, make sure to keep your hand somewhat rounded.
- Like the broomstick photo, if your photographer is taking photos on an iPhone or other smartphone, have them hold down the photo button to take a burst of you dropping the broomstick. If you’re shooting on a camera, make sure to have the shutter speed at the higher end to be able to shoot consistently while dropping the broomstick. By shooting rapid fire, you’re more likely to catch the perfect shot that makes it look like your broomstick is answering your up call.
Each year Alnwick Castle puts on a Wizarding Week or two to celebrate the Boy Who Lived and the wizarding world. The dates may vary each year, so be sure to check the Wizarding Week events page on the Alnwick Castle website.
Of course, there’s the broomstick flying lessons, but they also have other activities including Harry Potter filming location tours, meet and greets with Potter-inspired characters, wandmaking, house sorting and a magical beast exhibition with snakes, spiders and more.
Activities vary with each Wizarding Week, so be sure to check with the events page to see activities specific to the week you’re planning on attending.
What to See at Alnwick Castle
Dating back to the early 1300s, a visit to Alnwick Castle allows you to dive into the history of the second largest continuously inhabited castle in the UK. The Percy family, otherwise known as the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, have lived and managed the Alnwick Castle estate and its surrounding areas for over 700 years.
Its position on the borderlands of Scotland has made it a hotbed for activity over the course of history and at different times it has served as a military outpost, prison, teaching college and home. Because of this long history, there’s plenty of historic things to see while visiting Alnwick Castle.
Alnwick Castle Courtyards
Beyond the Harry Potter connection, the Alnwick Castle Courtyards offer plenty of room to walk around and observe in the majesty of the castle. Be sure to stroll down to the northern side of the castle with the gun terrace to take in sweeping views of the countryside surrounding the estate.
The State Rooms
The State Rooms at Alnwick Castle showcase luxury of days gone by. Oriental rugs, silk walls and ornately carved ceilings mark the elegance of each room. You’ll be able to see the family chapel, library, drawing room, dining room and more during a walk through the interior of the castle.
During the busiest months in July and August, you’ll need to get a timeslot ticket to enter the State Rooms. You can receive this at the ticket office or Lion Gate upon entry to the castle grounds.
Located just before you come to the main entry to the castle and the State Rooms, a little door to the right marks the entrance to the medieval dungeons. Don’t expect to walk into a cell, though. Prisoners of this dungeon were quite literally thrown down into the depths, which sits below the castle and was accessible only by a ladder that dipped down into the darkness.
A climb up the three levels of the Constable Tower features three different views into the Alnwick Castle estate and the Percy family. The first floor exists as it has since the 14th century, which it was likely a store room.
The middle floor contains a number of objects that have been collected by the previous Dukes of Northumberland from all over the world. You can also watch a short film here on the history of the Constable tower.
Finally, the third floor uncovers the history of the Percy Tenantry Volunteers, a military unit made up of Northumberland residents. This exhibit explores the military conflicts the Percy regiment fought in, as well as look into the weapons and equipment that they used.
After covering the Constable Tower, you can step out onto the original ramparts of the castle to take in the lay of the land as knights from the medieval times would have.
The Northumberland Fusiliers formed in the 17th Century as a regiment in the English army. They fought in a number of armed conflicts, including the American War for Independence, World War I, and World War II.
The Fusiliers Museum at Alnwick Castle dives into the history of the regiment and what it’s like to be a soldier. Admission to the museum is included with your ticket to Alnwick Castle.
Things to do at Alnwick Castle
Though broomstick training reigns as the most popular things to do at Alnwick Castle, there are plenty of other activities that Alnwick Castle puts on to learn more about the history and functions of the estate.
Activities, events and tours might vary depending on the day so be sure to check the website before your trip and the “What’s On” board when you first arrive to Alnwick Castle.
Test out your skills with the bow and arrow by visiting the archery range at the castle. Located in the inner bailey section of the castle courtyards, archery lessons and trials are provided daily (weather permitting). Archery practice is included with regular castle admission and does not come at an extra cost. Reservations are not required.
Alnwick Castle Historical Grounds Tour
Alnwick Castle’s location on the border of Scotland and England have made it a focal point of activity throughout the centuries. Learn more about the history of the Castle, the resident Percy family and the Northumberland borderlands with a historical ground tour of Alnwick Castle. Castle guides hold tours daily with times displayed on the “What’s On” board upon entry.
Filming Location Tours of Alnwick Castle
While this post has covered the Harry Potter filming locations, Alnwick Castle’s historic grounds and state rooms have also graced the screens of many other films and TV shows. Join the “On Location” tour to learn more about filming at this historic castle. Times can be found on the “What’s On” board upon entry.
A popular activity with kids, Dragon Quest is an interactive experience that takes you back to the medieval times to join Harry Hotspur on his quest to battle magical forces and an angry dragon. Dragon Quest can be found in the Artisans Courtyard, right outside the ticket office entrance.
Make a stop by the Artisans Courtyard for a unique opportunity to create crafts medieval style. Take a turn at making soap, orchestrate your own tile or learn the art of making an illuminated manuscript.
Throughout the year Alnwick Castle offers different exhibitions that present different aspects of the Alnwick Castle estate, including history, culture and more. For more information on current exhibitions, visit the Alnwick Castle website.
Alnwick Castle Garden
The elegance and charm of the Alnwick Garden are the English answer to the Gardens of Versailles. Though not as old as the 17th Century Gardens, Alnwick Garden certainly footed a similar bill as the 2007 renovation of the grounds cost a whopping £42 million.
The carefully structured garden contains a variety of gardens, flowers and trees that offer plenty of opportunities to sit, relax and take in the beautiful landscapes. Some of the highlights at Alnwick Garden include:
- The Grand Cascade
- Poison Garden
- Ornamental Garden
- Cherry Orchard
- Forgotten Garden Golf
- Alnwick Garden Treehouse
Tips for Visiting Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Garden
Alnwick Castle Opening Times
Alnwick Castle opens daily from the end of March to the end of October each year. In between those times, the castle is closed to public visitors.
Different areas of Alnwick Castle open at various times of the day. Castle opening times are as follows:
- Castle grounds and museums: 10:00am-5:30pm (last entry at 3:45pm)
- State Rooms: 10:30am-4:30pm (last entry at 4:00pm)
- Artisans Courtyard: 10:00am-5:00pm (last entry at 4:30pm)
- Fusiliers Museum: 11:00am-5:00pm
- Gift Shop: 10:00am-5:00pm
- Courtyard Cafe: 10:00am-5:00pm
- Armoury Takeaway: 10:30am-4:00pm
- Stables Fryery: 11:30am-3:00pm
Be sure to check the “What’s On” board at the ticket office to learn times for the day’s activities to make sure you don’t miss out on broomstick training or one of the castle tours.
Alnwick Garden hours vary throughout the year depending on the season. The gardens open earlier in the year than the castle so if you’re passing through Alnwick before the end of March you can pop into the garden grounds.
Opening times include:
- February 1st to March 28th: 10:00am-4:00pm
- March 29th to November 2nd: 10:00am-6:00pm
- July 20th to September 1st: 10:00am-8:00pm
Check the website before visiting as the gardens may sometimes be closed due to special events.
Alnwick Castle and Garden Ticket Prices
You can buy Alnwick Castle Garden tickets in advance online or onsite the day you’re visiting. If you purchase online more than 24 hours in advance, Alnwick Castle will give you a 10% discount off the ticket (this does not apply to the Alnwick Garden ticket).
Tickets are purchased for the day and can be used for multiple entries within that specific day. So if you want to pop back in forth between the Castle and Garden or sneak out for a bite to eat in town, you can always re-enter the castle and garden grounds multiple times as long as it’s within the day for which you’ve purchased your ticket.
Ticket purchases also include admission to the various activities and events within Alnwick Castle and Garden, including broomstick lessons, archery and tours.
When purchasing tickets, you can buy a combined castle and garden ticket or individual tickets for either attraction. Obviously, if you’re planning on visiting both you should buy the combined ticket.
Alnwick Castle + Garden Ticket Prices
- Castle + Garden Adult: £25.89 (£28.70 at the gate)
- Castle + Garden Child (5-16 Years): £11.23 (£12.45 at the gate)
- Castle + Garden Under 4 Years: Free
Alnwick Castle Only Ticket Prices
- Castle Adult: £15.05 (£16.75 at the gate)
- Castle Child (5-16 Years): £7.95 (£8.85 at the gate)
- Castle Under 4 Years: Free
Alnwick Garden Only Ticket Prices
- Garden Adult: £12.00
- Garden Child (5-16 Years): £4.50
- Garden Under 4 Years: Free
Food and Drink at Alnwick Castle and Garden
Both Alnwick Castle and the Garden Grounds provide a number of dining options for visitors. At Alnwick Castle, the Stable Fryery and the Armoury Takeaway offer quick eat options including sandwiches and fish and chips. If you’re looking for more of a formal sit down option at the castle, check out Courtyard Cafe for an assortment of soups, salads and local dishes.
Alnwick Garden also has their own set of cafes and restaurants for those looking for food. For a unique dining situation, head for the Treehouse Cafe. This magical restaurant is an actual treehouse, sitting 18 meters (59 feet) in the air and nestled between the trees. Make sure to book ahead if you have your eyes set on this experience.
In addition to the Treehouse, Alnwick Garden also has more casual cafes just outside the entrance to the garden, as well as directly to the right when you enter the garden grounds.
Since your ticket allows multiple entries throughout the day, you can also venture outside of the castle and garden for food. The town of Alnwick has a number of dining options that include pubs, teahouses, modern British eateries and more.
Best Ways to Visit Alnwick Castle
Stay in Alnwick
Staying in the town of Alnwick is the easiest and most stress-free way to visit Alnwick Castle. The town boasts a number of historic and adorable inns to choose from. Airbnb listings exist in the town as well.
While you may come for the castle, there’s plenty of other things to see and do in Alnwick if you’re planning to stay the night in town. Find out how to spend a day in Alnwick here. If you’re a book lover, you’ll definitely want to check out Barter Books, a bookstore housed in an old train station in the center of Alnwick.
Day Trip from Edinburgh
Traveling from Edinburgh to Alnwick as a day trip is one of the most popular ways for travelers to visit Alnwick Castle. You can hitch a ride on one of the many tours that depart from the city or venture out on your own by taking the train.
Trains do not run directly through Alnwick, so you’ll need to take the train to Alnmouth, the nearest station to Alnwick. The train journey from Edinburgh to Alnmouth takes a little over an hour. From there you’ll need to either take the X18 Max bus to Alnwick or hire a taxi. Either option will take you about 15 minutes from the train station.
Nearby Cities to Take the Train From
Edinburgh may be the most popular city for a day trip to Alnwick, but it is not the only city you can use as a base to travel to Alnwick Castle. Below are some additional cities from which you can take the train to Alnwick.
As the northernmost town in England, this historic Northumberland town is an excellent base for exploring the medieval castles on the borderlands. Trains to Alnmouth run regularly and take just 20 minutes. From there, you’ll either need to jump on the X18 Max bus to Alnwick or hire a taxi. Both journeys last about 15 minutes. The X15 Max bus also connects Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Alnwick directly, with the journey lasting about 55 minutes.
Like Alnwick, Durham also served as one of the Hogwarts filming locations. Durham Cathedral provided many of the interior shots of Hogwarts for the first two Harry Potter films. To get to Alnwick from Durham, you’ll need to take the train to Alnmouth. This journey takes 35-40 minutes. Once at Alnmouth you can either jump on the X18 Max bus to Alnwick or grab a taxi. Either option takes about 15 minutes.
Though a little further than some of the other cities on this list, York provides an excellent base for a Harry Potter tour of Northern England. The total journey from York Station to Alnwick Castle takes roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes, so you’d need to get an early start.
For more information on other Harry Potter locations in and around York, check out this Harry Potter Guide to York.
As the largest city in Northern England, Newcastle does have its conveniences for a day trip to Alnwick Castle. The train journey from Newcastle to Alnmouth lasts 25 minutes. Once at Alnmouth you can either jump on the X18 Max bus to Alnwick or grab a taxi, both options take about 15 minutes.