Back in Yorkshire again, Colin and I drove up the A1 to join the Tweeddale U3A group on the annual outing to Alnwick (pronounced more like Annick, it is the town on the river Aln). The castle there is most impressive- as you may know if you’ve watched any of the Harry Potter films. Alnwick was the castle exterior that was used as Hogwarts School for Magicians. Remember those games of Quidditch?
We arrived before the coach from Peebles so waited for them at the Castle Square, near the entrance, with the view of the Barbican in front of us. I remember seeing this as a child, and being told that the figures on the wall tops were statues that would make invaders think that the castle was better fortified than it actually was.
Eventually the coach and the Peebles folk arrived, and were quite surprised to find us there! “We didn’t see you on the coach” said some, “Were you on the coach?” so we explained the situation. I had thought we were to have a group guided tour but the plan was to go our separate ways and meet back at an appointed time to join the coach again. Well that was fine. We entered the first courtyard where there’s this magnificent bronze statue of Harry Hotspur - Harry Percy, son of the 1st Earl of Northumberland – on his horse. Harry didn’t live long enough to become 2nd Earl. His son had that honour! The present Duke is the 12th in line.
Tables and chairs were set up outside for visitors to the cafe and stalls, and we were amused when a medieval court jester climbed onto a chair, blew a rather battered horn, and called –” GENTLEMEN… LADIES… HONOURED GUESTS OF OUR LORD PERCY….” All eyes were on him by now. He had our full attention for some momentous announcement….”AB..SOLUTE..LY NOTHING… IS ABOUT… TO HAPPEN!” he called! Then he jumped off the chair and began to walk around greeting people who were walking around the courtyard, welcoming the children and parents as if they too were medieval families, or knights and ladies! By the time we were finished our hog roast buns and had walked through the arch into the Outer Bailey a small crowd were gathered round the same jester who was pretending not to be able to walk on stilts. He careered about a bit and almost fell into the arms of a member of the crowd. Leaning his hands on the man’s shoulders the jester profusely thanked the gallant sir for having saved his life, leaned down and planted a kiss on his cheek, to the great amusement of the crowd and the total embarrassment of the “gallant sir”.
We walked on round the outer bailey looking into various exhibitions and museums, down onto the gun terrace facing the river, round to the ramparts and watched some of the activities that were going on ….
and eventually came round to the entrance of the state apartments a rather higgledy piggledy assortment of square and round towers and connecting walls sitting in the centre of the castle grounds. There was no photography allowed inside but believe me when I say that the state rooms were beautiful. I absolutely adored the library. The guide told us she had been up a ladder cleaning books that morning! The only thing I didn’t like was the collection of stuffed pets to be found all over the place, curled up on chairs or standing around in the rooms. Ugh!
The U3A group were leaving at 3.30 so I went to wave them goodbye, before Colin and I left too to have a quick look at Alnwick town centre.
The market was almost packed away as we arrived in the square, but I took a photo of these old buildings with the market cross in front. I’d like to have a further look around Alnwick. Looks like an interesting place - and there’s a huge secondhand bookshop to explore too!
Just a quick wee note to end with… On the way home we called in at the village of Shilbottle where ancestors on mother’s side had lived in the early 19th century. We found the church and had a squizz round the graveyard – and found this stone! John Grey, mason, and his wife Mary. My great great greats!
Talk again soon.