Alnwick Garden Northumberland – An Inclusive Garden

We visited Alnwick Gardens, the Duchess of Northumberland’s visionary garden in late June, a floral dip time for many. We were in Northumberland primarily for a walking holiday, staying in Alnmouth on the coast. The beach is incredibly beautiful, just a few miles from the town and home of Alnwick garden and castle.

Alnmouth Beach

Saturday morning and Alnmouth Beach, blue skies and soft sand

On to contemporary Alnwick on Sunday, where dogs are not allowed, a whistle stop tour, whilst Archie was cared for by my daughter and treated to another Northumberland walk – he did not complain. I had read a little before we visited and had watched a documentary some years ago on the building of the Grand Cascade, so felt excited to visit.


Grand Cascade

Jacques and his son Peter Wirtz, garden designers from Belgium are creating the garden, Flanked by clipped Hornbeam tunnels, the Grand Cascade is the central show stopper. Every half hour fountains erupt and dance down the cascade culminating in a last hurrah in the pool at the bottom, all of this lasting 10 minutes then all is calm again. People picnic on the lawn in front, or eat in the vast pavilion which looks across and up the cascade, children play on enormous tractors, it looked fun. We drank coffee sitting in the pavilion watching and wishing our children were small again.


Perennial border adjacent to the Pavilion

View down the cascade towards the pavilion

View down the Grand Cascade towards the pavilion

Across the lawns and onto the Poison Garden tour, behind locked gates and a fundraiser by donation to the Alnwick Garden Trust drug awareness work, school parties are also invited and from there the aim is discussion on the dangers of drugs.

The Poison Garden

The Poison Garden

Bees were happy to forage in the Poison garden

Inside the Poison Garden, Hemlock and Foxgloves, amongst many others, although Bees were happy to forage.

A walk to the top of the Grand Cascade revealed the large formal garden. Pleached crab apples and iron uprights provided the balance to borders of Delphiniums and Roses. Along the surrounding walls more borders of perennials, no dip time here and more roses looking fabulous.

Formal gardens

Formal gardens

We moved onto the Rose Garden abundant with well yes Roses. Everywhere Roses of all shapes sizes and colours. Don’t get me wrong I love Roses, but was a tad overwhelmed and really wanted all of the other people to go away so I could enjoy them on my own.

Rose Garden

Rose Garden

We walked onto the Cherry Orchard, where a gentle path winds up through the Cherry trees. Too late in the year to enjoy the blossom of 350 Great White Cherrys, underplanted with 50,000 Purple Sensation Alliums and thousands of ‘Pink Mistress’ Tulips. Late April and May is the time to go.

350 Great White Cherrys in the Cherry Orchard. Timing is everything!

Winding path through 350 Great White Cherrys in the Cherry Orchard. Timing is everything!

50,000 Alium 'Purple Sensation'

Remnants of the  50,000 Allium ‘Purple Sensation’

Alnwick have appointed a man from Disney into the marketing team, his influence was clear, thats not a criticism, I get it, running these large gardens cost a great deal of money and positively encouraging and including children is a good move. A glance at their website reveals his influence, water pistol days throughout the summer holidays for one. But also a balance, lots of music and art. I have started to volunteer with a horticultural therapy project and was really interested to learn Alnwick have several similar projects running in the garden. Alnwick castle, next door and a separate entrance fee to the gardens is also known as the Hogwarts castle as it was used as a location for a couple of the Harry Potter films. There is a wonderful albeit disneyfied tree house restaurant with children firmly in mind. Alnwick has enjoyed some controversy, mainly over its build cost and not everyone likes it but its a garden for all ages and if you love Roses, its certainly worth a visit.


Rosa ‘Souvenir d’Orchidee’

From the many rose photographs I could not choose a favourite, so decided to add just one. The Garden is open all year round and I can recommend the coffee!

23 thoughts on “Alnwick Garden Northumberland – An Inclusive Garden

    • This was one of the few car journeys unaccompanied by Stephen Fry, but thats because the children drove separately and he was on in their car! We did not get inside the castle but I understand its wonderful.

    • Hi Susie, the hornbeam tunnels are lit up in the winter, I guess that would be a spectacular sight too. And the cascade walls were very tactile, had I been younger it would of been tempting to slide down them!

  1. I get an underlying feeling you were underwhelmed. It has been on my wish list for ages; the man who designed the cascade itself has a holiday home a few miles from where I live and we’ve met a couple of times so that makes me more curious. One day maybe I’ll get to see it too.

    • I could not help but think of Kew and how intelligently they encourage children to visit and to engage with our very exciting natural world. As a consequence the areas at Alnwick with plants are very busy. Unlike Kew, Alnwick is in the middle of the most spectacular natural area and its next door to Hogwarts, so possibly thats why they chose this approach. I would go again, very early in the morning though, without the crowds or water fights!

  2. Really interesting to read your personal view on this garden. I saw the programme and have wanted to visit but rarely get up north. I love the shot of the formal garden, really colourful. I am like you, I love to look at a garden open to the public but just wish Jo Public would not be there at the same time!

    • It must be a tricky balance to get enough people through the gate and yet satisfying those of us who want to be there on our own, a very early start next time for us. Northumberland is incredibly beautiful, I’d thoroughly recommend a trip up north!

  3. How I envy you for all these great gardens to visit! Here they’re more than scarce…what a show the alliums must have been. I just planted some in the long grass and hope they’ll settle.

    • We are very fortunate to have so many wonderful gardens to visit here, I guess too as its a compact country visiting is relatively easy. I am not sure where Villandry is in relation to you, my sister in law visited recently and the photos looked wonderful, have you been? I hope your Alliums do well, I’d love more space here for planting on that scale.

  4. It is an interesting garden to visit. It should be with the money that has been spent on it. I went quite a few years ago and it is interesting to see how the rose garden has come on and improved.
    Thank you for a great post Julie.

    • Thanks, the gardeners certainly earn their keep, the whole garden and especially the Rose garden was really well maintained. I’d like to go back to see the Cherrys in a couple of years when they have matured a little.

  5. Part of my grandmother’s family is from Northumberland and supposedly were so badly behaved they were kicked out of the local schools and sent to work in the gardens at Alnwick in hopes of reforming them. A few became game poachers instead, feeling the lord of the manor had enough to share. But a few stayed on in the gardens and mended their wicked ways. I’d love to visit these gardens someday, especially the Poison Garden. Alnwick looks like such a beautiful place. 😉

    • Oh wow, thats brilliant, what an interesting connection. Northumberland is truly beautiful, your family came from a stunning part of the UK. I hope you do get to visit someday.

  6. I love cottage garden plants such as roses & delphiniums and enjoyed my trip to Alnwick a couple of years ago, though the flowers weren’t looking as good as in your pictures. It was wild with rain for most of the day and I liked seeing the fun children were having, playing in the water features. I dare say they thought they were going to get wet anyway! Although some gardens do well by children (I’m thinking of the Barefoot walk etc at Trentham Gardens), they’re in the minority, so I salute anyone making an effort to find ways for kids to enjoy gardens and nature.

    • I have never visited Trentham but would really like too, its on my list! Alnwick is firmly aimed at families and children, I expect locals get a great deal out the garden, its harder when visits are once a year, gardens evolve and change over the year, so picking the best time is so difficult.

      • I can understand you would have loved to take pictures at Alnwick in the early morning light – me too! – but it looks like you got the time of the year pretty much spot on. The weird thing about gardens that are good at planting sequentially, so there’s always something in flower, is that whenever you go, you notice you’ve just missed some types of flowers and are sorry to see others only just starting to bud. I always feel like that when I visit Hidcote – I wish it was just on my doorstep so I could visit more often!

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