Recently, the family spent a weekend in the North East of England, near the Scottish border, and we chose to keep it historic with a visit to Alnwick Castle, the Housesteads Roman Fort and a swim in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
First stop, Alnwick Castle.
Alnwick Castle: Home of Harry Potter
For the first two Harry Potter films, many scenes were shot on location at Alnwick Castle, less than an hour’s drive north of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Alnwick Castle also stands out as the second-largest inhabited castle (behind Windsor Castle) in England, and is the winter home of the Duke of Northumberland and his family.
For many visitors that is the real attraction; although the castle does hold a precious place in the hearts of many a Potter fan.
It really is a day out with something for everyone. There are some very interesting museums, as well as the opportunity to take a tour of the State Rooms, where the Percy family lives.
The castle’s history is fascinating – many of the Duchesses have added their personal touch over the years, from gargoyles and landscaping to the lush gardens created by the current Duchess and worth a visit in their own right.
A few tips, however: bring food and be prepared for a picnic as the quality of the food available is variable and quite pricey, and book as many tours and events as possible if they fill up quickly (especially Broomstick Training!)
Housesteads Roman Fort
An hour west of Newcastle, and via the path of Hadrian’s Wall, Housteads is one of the most complete Roman settlement ruins in the UK.
The site consists of a parking lot (extra), a gift shop and a steep path to the ruins themselves. In addition to the ruins (which consist of the fort and scattered buildings outside the actual fort), there is a small bookshop and a museum.
The museum was a bit disappointing, and the promised film, while well-produced, was a bit short and sweet.
Still, for history buffs, the main attraction is the fort itself and it doesn’t disappoint. Many features, such as underfloor heating and the old well, are easily recognizable, and each has a plaque explaining exactly what visitors are looking at.
It’s not exactly a day trip, but if you follow the wall to the west, there are many other Roman relics to look at – some require payment, others are free – and it’s even worth the occasional wall to stop to soak up the atmosphere.
Staying in the area
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne also proved to be a good basis. The Holiday Inn at Seaton Burn is ideal as it is not in the city center and has direct access to major roads. It also has a pool, a small gym, and a decent restaurant.
In the city, there are plenty of attractions, including the Millennium Bridge and the acclaimed Metro Center for those who enjoy shopping!
For those looking to see historical relics for a weekend, there isn’t much time for sightseeing in Newcastle, but it’s worth stopping by if only to see the bridge do what it does as it let a ship through.
I won’t spoil the surprise, although a diligent search is likely to yield something on YouTube!