Having explored Alnwick Castle and immersed ourselves in all things Potter the castle gardens were next up. A bit of a shock to have to buy another separate ticket – this makes it a super expensive experience, but we didn’t want to come all this way and miss out. The (free) public park / walk linking the castle to the gardens is almost as impressive as the gardens themselves. Designed by Capability Brown we were greeted by more than a host of golden daffodils. The whole place was ablaze with gorgeous spring flowers and the most stunning views back to the castle. Definitely worth coming out here, even if a garden visit is not on your agenda.
The gardens are modern, different and impressive. There are 14 acres to explore, this was a project started by the current Duchess in 1995. Not your traditional castle garden, here things are comtemporary and rather refreshing. We entered through the lovely pavilion and visitor’s centre – all glass and pale wood and so very airy. Son made a beeline for the Lindt chocolate trail – a treasure hunt around the gardens with a chocolate bunny reward at the end. Horticulture not topping his favourites list, this was win-win – he insisted on exploring every nook and cranny in search of clues and answers, we got to see everything without having to listen to (much) groaning and a chocolate bunny was devoured at the finish.
Water is a big theme in these gardens – and for a change on this trip it didn’t involve rain. As we left the pavilion we were greeted by the wonderful grand cascade – modern, terraced fountains with gallons of water tumbling down the hill. It is spectacular and mesmerising.
The eight water sculptures near the fountains were a hit with Son – he had to be dragged away. All different these include a vortex and a sculpture that has 16 feet tall stainless steel columns that fill with water and spill over the sides. Great fun to watch, great fun for kids to get close but be prepared for soggy clothes.
The towering bamboo labyrinth is a maze of 500 bamboo plants and pretty cool to walk through.
My highlight was the Poison Garden – a bit spooky in appearance and fenced off to add to the allure. You have to take a guided tour (these run about every 15 minutes and don’t need to be booked) and our droll and funny guide pointed out lots of toxic plants and delivered fascinating facts. Amongst other things we saw cannabis and opium poppies, it was unmissable.
Son was keen to get to the treehouse after all that poison talk – actually the main reason for our visit. You don’t need to buy a ticket for the gardens if you just want the treehouse – it sits outside. It is built amid 17 lime trees and there are thousands of feet of walkways, hanging platforms, balconies, wobbly rope bridges and spiral staircases between the different levels. Great fun for kids and adults we had a whale of a time exploring the different areas. There is a restaurant (which we didn’t try) and a coffee shop (which we did). After refreshments in the latter establishment – the treehouse theme continues here – we headed out for more larking about. The treehouse is special – it felt as if we had gone straight up the Magic Faraway Tree. A great place to end the day at Alnwick.