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About Alnwick Castle
The vast castle of the Dukes of Northumberland remains very much a family home, a living place that is second only to Windsor Castle, for this has been the home of the Percy family since the 12th-century. The mighty fortress, displaying dramatic building works from several centuries stands proudly at the heart of the beautiful town of Alnwick. And although its facades are diverse and historic, its richly appointed interior arrangements date mainly from the 19th-century.
The Percy family have an illustrious history, the 4th Lord Percy was created Earl of Northumberland, he was vividly portrayed in Shakespeare's Richard II and Henry IV. Shakespeare made much of the dramatic death of his son Hotspur at Shrewsbury in 1403. Hotspur's son became the 2nd Earl and both he and the 3rd Earl fell during the Wars of the Roses. The 4th Earl survived the wars, to become imprisoned in the Tower of London, he later met his death by being brutally murdered by a mob protesting against taxes.
For a few years the Earldom became extinct but was again raised by Queen Mary when she conferred it upon Thomas Percy, a devout Catholic who was later beheaded at York for his part in the uprising against Elizabeth I in 1569. After this the family moved their place of residence and Alnwick was left to fall into a state of disrepair until the 18th-century when it passed to the 1st Duke. He instructed Robert Adam to turn the castle Keep into a comfortable home. Adam embellished the castle in a grand and lavish manner but much of his work is now gone, when the 4th Duke inherited he employed Anthony Salvin, a pupil of John Nash, and the interiors we see today are of his creation.
Despite employing Italian artisans to create the Italian interiors that had impressed the Duke on his travels, the entrance to the keep remains overwhelmingly English medieval, with two octagonal towers dominating the approach to the main building. After entering you pass through a couple of large halls to reach a magnificent Victorian staircase which leaves you breathless at its beauty, its ornamentation being just a hint of the spectacular sights to come. On the extraordinary landing, Carrea marble is in evidence along with family portraits.
The guard chamber is the very epitome of Victorian extravagance, here there is a mosaic floor, stucco ceiling of octagonal panels, marble statues of Britannia and Justice, priceless paintings, and fine Victorian furniture.
In the small ante-chamber to the main apartments visitors can see a billiard table and two writing tables which are relics from Robert Adam and the 18th-century. This room also has a number of exquisite paintings, and part of a fresco by Sebastian del Piombo.
The Library is superb and houses massive collections of books in oak bookcases with marble inlay. The room has three magnificent fireplaces and busts of Shakespeare, Bacon and Sir Isaac Newton.
The great dining room is evocative of the days when the first Duke and Duchess entertained. It is set with priceless furniture, and has a magnificent Brunswick pine ceiling carved with the Percy family heraldry. At either side of the sumptuous fireplace hang portraits of the 1st Duke and Duchess.
In the Drawing Room, regarded by many as the most magnificent room in the house, visitors can see a rare collection of ivories bought by the First Duchess from her travels abroad. They are housed in an ebonised cabinet of 1823. Also in this room are a pair of pietra-dura cabinets bearing the cipher of Louis XIV, they were made in 1683 for his Palace of Versailles.
There is also a museum room which gives way to the 21st century with state-of-the-art video equipment providing displays of the stirring history of the Fusiliers Regiment from 1674 right to the present times which include Bosnia and the Gulf War.
The history and treasures of this wonderful house are all to much to absorb and mention in one short article, the reader should really try to visit and explore for himself. Once there, you will find it hard to tear yourself away from the sumptuous feast of paintings, silver and porcelain that includes two Meissen dinner services decorated with birds, animals and scenes from Aesop's Fables. As well as superb furniture there are magnificent chandeliers, lamps, tapestries all of which are off-set by rich woodwork, extravagant gilded ceilings, and beautiful drapes to the windows which look out on to lovely natural parkland.
Majestic Alnwick Castle is a real treat from the moment you first set eyes of its glowing historic stone walls to when the time arrives to reluctantly leave. By then this once great border stronghold will have cast its enigmatic spell, and its collective memories will call you back again some day.
There is a Tea Room and a Gift Shop. In the castle grounds there are lovely woodland walks and peaceful picnic areas.
Alnwick castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the north of England, it has a calendar of year round events and will host a Christmas fair on the 19th November of this year. It has a number of function rooms and both castle and grounds have provided the back drop for countless film and television programmes, most recently scenes have been shot here for the Harry Potter movies.
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White Swan Hotel
Alnwick, Northumberland, England (0.2 miles, 0.4 km)
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Alnwick, Northumberland, England (4.9 miles, 7.8 km, direction SE)
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Warkworth, Northumberland, England (4.9 miles, 7.8 km, direction SE)
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