Alnwick Garden, Northumberland

Spend a magical day discovering topiary snakes, poisonous plants and a treehouse in this unique garden

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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.

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Tumbling water

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.

Toxic trail

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.

Treetop adventures

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.

Useful Information

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
Alnwick Garden

Denwick Lane NE66 1YU
01665 511350
www.alnwickgarden.com

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.

EAT
Restaurants in Visitor Centre and Treehouse

Alnwick Garden
For light refreshments.

STAY
White Swan Hotel

Bondgate Within, Alnwick
NE66 1TD
01665 602109
www.classiclodges.co.uk
Dine in the Olympic Suite, reconstructed from wood of the Titanic’s sister ship.

NEARBY
Hulne Park

www.northofthetyne.co.uk/hulnepark.html
This parkland was designed by Capability Brown. Access from Ratten Row, off the B6346 Wooler Road out of Alnwick.

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Barter Books
Alnwick Railway Station
NE66 2NP
01665 604888
www.barterbooks.co.uk
Lose yourself in one of Britain’s largest second-hand bookshops.