No holiday to Northumberland is complete without a visit to the fascinating town of Alnwick. The name is pronounced ‘Annick’ with a silent ‘w’. It sits on the River Aln and in the 12th century was known to its inhabitants as Alnewich. Only 32 miles from the border of England and Scotland, it is well placed as a base from which this very large county and its border country can be explored.

Alnwick itself is rich in history, having the mighty Alnwick Castle as its focal point. This castle was (and still is) the home of the influential Percy family, who ruled this part of the world for centuries, switching allegiance from one branch of the royal family to another to maintain their power.  They started out with the title of ‘Earl’, and after a very chequered history acquired the title of ‘Duke’. The castle was built soon after the Norman Conquest and was in a key position to defend England from invasion by the Scots. In fact, you can see at least two memorials to kings who were killed or captured here.

Surrounded by lovely countryside, Alnwick has always relied on agriculture and country pursuits. With easier access now for visitors, tourism is growing. There are also businesses based on country practices, such as the manufacture of equipment for fly fishing. Like many other rural communities it has modern businesses too, including a large pharmaceutical centre. Alnwick isn’t a large town; in fact there are only about 7,500 inhabitants, so despite increased employment opportunities many people live there but work elsewhere, usually in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Morpeth (another attractive market town).

Alnwick is about 310 miles north of London, and with a busy east coast line from Kings Cross is easily reachable from Newcastle.  The town is one of this country’s lesser known gems, so, next time you have a week or a weekend to spare, visit this beautiful little town!