Grand Gardens and Castles Itinerary

Walk through stories-made-real

Alnwick Castle - Northumberland (C) VisitEngland Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

This fascinating two-day tour in Northumberland is a must for all Downton Abbey and Harry Potter fans. Explore magnificent gardens, historic castles and visit the very first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, located in the grounds of an incredible garden.

Download the Grand Gardens and Castles itinerary (PDF, 1,368 KB)


Day 1: The Alnwick Garden ● Alnwick Castle ● Morpeth

The Alnwick Garden - Northumberland - Grand Cascade (c) VisitEngland The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland - Grand Cascade

Your day begins at The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland, described by the Duchess of Northumberland as “an inspiring landscape with beautiful gardens, unique features all brought to life with water”. The garden brings joy to all who see it, from stunning spring blossoms to fragrant roses, striking water features and geometric ornamental gardens, including one of the largest collections of European plants. Visit the roots and shoots vegetable garden to learn all about planting and see the bees making honey. Stop off for lunch at the tree-top restaurant, located in one of the world’s largest wooden tree houses and enjoy the view.

A brief 5-minute drive along the picturesque B6346 will take you to one of England’s most iconic castles, Alnwick Castle. You may recognise it as it was the location for Downton Abbey’s ‘Brancaster Castle’ and Harry Potter’s ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’. Full of history on a grand scale, there has been a castle recorded on this site for over 1,000 years. Join in a free tour of the Italianate State Rooms, home to one of the country’s finest private collections of art and furniture and then on to the vast grounds. Harry Potter fans will love the broomstick training by the resident wizard. Make sure you book your tickets on arrival to secure your training. Take a well-earned break in the Courtyard Café located behind the Clock Tower before a 30-minute drive to the historic market town of Morpeth.

Morpeth was home to William Turner, known as ‘The Father of English Botany’, so where better to take an early evening stroll than Carlisle Park and the William Turner Garden? Here you’ll find an 11th century motte and a 12th century castle, leading to an ancient woodland with resident rare red squirrels. Take a stroll along the riverside or hire a river boat and enjoy the water before you end your day at one of the many great places to eat in Morpeth.

Find great places to stay in Morpeth

Day 2: Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens ● Cragside

Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens - Northumberland (c) VisitEngland Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Northumberland

Wake up refreshed and ready for your next day visiting castles and gardens. A short 20-minute drive will take you to Belsay Hall. It has been in the same family since the 13th century owned by gardening enthusiast, Sir Charles Monck and his grandson Sir Arthur Middleton. The Hall is well worth a visit and it may remind you of the temples of ancient Greece with its imposing pillars. Not to be missed is the great room of the ruined medieval castle. Climb the spiral steps of the old castle tower for a stunning view of the gardens and surrounding landscape. When you’ve got your breath back, take a leisurely stroll around the grade I registered heritage garden. Restored with a real attention to detail, the garden includes seasonal trees, shrubs and flowers which create brilliant colour throughout the year. Don’t leave without seeing the dramatic quarry garden with its ravines, pinnacles and exotic plants. Stop off at the Belsay Hall Tearoom and try a hot meat Stotty, a local speciality flat round loaf or buy a takeaway lunch and enjoy it in the picnic area.

Travel 40 minutes to Cragside in Rothbury, an extraordinary Victorian house and garden, home to the inventor, Lord Armstrong. This is the very first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity and includes hundreds of his gadgets; many can still be seen working today. Explore this incredible garden, home to one of the largest rock gardens in Europe and weave your way through paths and tunnels cut out of the rhododendron forest at Nelly’s Labyrinth.

Continue your journey into the Northumberland National Park, over 400 square miles (1036 square km) of truly amazing landscape. Drive south to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall, the best preserved frontier of the Roman Empire, sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit. Stay another night and make the most of some of the darkest skies in England. Look up and star gaze from the Kielder Observatory, an astronomical attraction located in the park.

Find out more about Cragside and plan your visit

Must-see local events

Kielder Water and Forest Park - Northumberland (c) VisitEngland Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland

Aurora Night, Kielder Observatory: dates from February to August. Learn about the incredible energy that the sun releases second by second and how this energy interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere to give a light show like no other.

Northumbrian Gathering, Morpeth: early April. Join in the fun at this three-day event with concerts, street events, dancing and exhibitions.

Riding of the Bounds, Berwick-upon-Tweed: early May. This event has been taking place for over 400 years. See the cavalcade of 100 horses and riders setting off to ‘ride the bounds’ of the town. 

Northumberland County Show, Bywell: end of May bank holiday. A traditional country show where you can meet the animals, enjoy local food and drink and see the dog trials. 

Berwick Food and Beer Festival, Berwick-upon-Tweed: early September. Discover all about local food and drink.

Travel Fact File

Recommended transportCar
Top travel distance87 miles/140 km
Approximate travel time2 hr 40 min
Nearest airportNewcastle International 
Durham Tees Valley
Nearest main rail stationNewcastle
Visitor InformationReal-time local information 
Morpeth Tourist Information Centre

Want to see more fabulous gardens?

Continue your tour of gardens with the Magnificent Yorkshire gardens itinerary

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