Ten years ago, Alnwick Garden was derelict and overgrown. Originally designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 1750, the gardens came back to life in the 1990s thanks the bold vision of the Duchess of Northumberland. Together with Belgian landscape designers Jacques and Peter Wirtz, she set about to create one of the most innovative gardens in Europe.
The Grand Cascade occupies a slope opposite the entrance. A mass of tumbling water, it’s the largest water feature of its kind in the country. Every minute, 7,260 gallons of water tumble down 21 weirs. Every half hour, a series of fountains create an impressive sculptured wave, filling the length of the cascade.
To the right of the entrance, a labyrinth twists between dense bamboo thickets, and alongside this is a beautiful rose garden, containing more than 3,000 different varieties.
Alnwick Garden is designed to provide hands-on experiences, tapping into your childlike sense of wonder. In the Serpent Garden, a topiary snake entices you past a series of sculptures, in which water flows over polished stainless steel and creates a canyon through which you can try to squeeze without getting wet.
There is also a mushroom-shaped structure on which surface tension and viscosity overcome gravity. The display culminates in the Torricelli Fountain, where shrieking children become temporarily trapped in a ring of water. Parents are advised to bring spare clothing.
The Poison Garden contains toxic plants – common garden species such as belladonna, monkshood and laburnum as well as narcotics like coca and cannabis, for which a government licence has been granted. This garden is locked and you’ll be taken, in small groups, on a 15-minute guided tour.
Tunnels of trellised hornbeam line the sides of the cascade. At the top, wrought iron gates, from 16th-century Venice, lead into the Ornamental Garden. Formally laid out in a pattern of squares, it contains the largest collection of European plants in England. The garden walls were built from redbrick ballast, carried to the seaports of Northumberland during the 18th century.
The Treehouse is perhaps the most magical innovation in the garden. Constructed around 15 mature limes, it fulfils fairytale fantasies and raises apprehensions that witches, trolls or goblins might hide around every mysterious corner and in each dark passageway.
It is one of the largest treehouses in the world, with wobbly rope bridges on which to bounce, and an atmospheric restaurant in the middle complete with a roaring fire and trees that grow through the floor.
HOW TO GET THERE
Alnwick Garden is just off the
A1 at Alnwick, and is well signposted. Buses connect Alnwick to the surrounding towns and Newcastle.
FIND OUT MORE
Denwick Lane NE66 1YU
Alnwick Garden is accessible to all, with disabled access throughout. Open 1 Apr-31 Oct, 10am-6pm; 1 Nov-31 Mar, 10am-4pm. Adults £10.50, concessions £8.50.
Restaurants in Visitor Centre and Treehouse
For light refreshments.
White Swan Hotel
Bondgate Within, Alnwick
Dine in the Olympic Suite, reconstructed from wood of the Titanic’s sister ship.
This parkland was designed by Capability Brown. Access from Ratten Row, off the B6346 Wooler Road out of Alnwick.
Alnwick Railway Station
Lose yourself in one of Britain’s largest second-hand bookshops.