The best place to live.....officially.
Alnwick (pronounced 'annick') was pronounced 'the best place to live in England' in 2002.
Its property prices still reflect that accolade.
But it is a really pleasant little market town, with a thriving community life. The population is around 8000, there are all the shops one might want (including many independent ones, which makes a change in modern England), good pubs, reasonable traffic, a market and easy access to coast and beautiful countryside.
I'd live there like a shot.
Its buildings are of golden-brown stone, the more modern ones fitting in well with the older ones. None of the ancient town walls remain, as far as I could see, but there is one original gate (Hotspur Tower, dividing Bondgate Within from Bondgate Without) and one which was rebuilt in the 1700s.
There's really just one long 'commercial' street (Bondgate Without/Within leading onto Narrowgate) with a couple of smaller shopping streets leading off, and then the rest of the town is private housing. Narrow alleyways leading from the main streets evoke Medieval Alnwick. The town was largely destroyed by fire in a Scottish raid of 1424, but its proximity to the 'Great North Road' leading from London to Edinburgh (now the A1) soon ensured it regained its size and prosperity.
I used Alnwick as my base for exploring a bit of Northumberland during a particularly wild and wet few days in October. To Lindisfarne and back along the coast on one day, to Berwick-on-Tweed, Coldstream (over the border in Scotland) and Wooler on the other day. Alnwick really is an ideal base for such an exploration, even more so in summer when the daylight hours are so much longer. It has enough restaurants and pubs-with-food to ensure sufficient choice (not much fun staying somewhere with only one place to eat at night, especially if that place is neither especially good nor espeially cheap......far too often the case in England, I'm afraid).
There are several hotels and b&bs in the town, but I considered 'mine' to be a really good-value find....see my tip for more info or check the website of the 'Tower Restaurant and Accommodation, Alnwick'.
And if you keep your eyes open you can see bits and pieces of Medieval Alnwick dotted about. My tips will have those I spotted, but I'm sure there are more. Sadly, Alnwick's churches were all locked (sadly, this is often the norm in the UK nowadays, because of theft and vandalism) so I could not explore them.
Well, there's a huge secondhand book shop in the old station building.....a small theatre.......a pub with Northumbrian music monthly......a market cross....a museum........some very old 'dirty bottles' in a very old pub...oh yes, and a castle.
Alnwick Castle has been owned by the Percy family since 1309. I have trouble with this, for 'Lord Percy' always reminds me of 'Blackadder'. And I've not been inside the castle, for it is not cheap and, being lived in still, one does not get to see much of its interior. But it is popular with film-makers (a nice little earner for the Duke of Northumberland): Harry Potter, Robin Hood......
The Duchess decide to create a contemporary garden a few years ago (although public money was also used). I'm sure it is lovely......there are certainly many attractions within, from a Treehouse for the kids to a locked Poison Garden (escorted visits only), as well as cascades and fountains. But I thought 10GBP entrance fee was too much for visiting an English garden in late October, so I didn't go in. Many thousands of others would disagree though.....it is an incredibly popular attraction.
So it is worth your while visiting Alnwick........there's at least enough for a day's exploration, even if you don't use it as your base.
Nice place, Alnwick. Yes.