4.3 miles (7 kilometres) October, short evening circular ramble around Alnwick and the river Aln. Dry and pleasant. With lovely son and dog. We combined this with a visit to Alnwick Castle.
When it feels like the day has been wasted or misspent, there is only one thing for it, have an evening ramble to watch the sun close on the day and say goodbye to it. I am fortunate this week to be wasting time in the beautiful old sandstone town of Alnwick, and the day wasn’t entirely misspent as we went to visit Alnwick Castle, a magnificently preserved old galleon on a rise above the river Aln. If it looks a little familiar, there’s a good reason.
Alnwick Castle has been used in countless films and TV programmes as your archetypal English castle, and has been painted by the likes of Turner and Canaletto. Most famously it was Hogwarts, but I already knew it from Blackadder, and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Pick your era, and it has been filmed. It was first built after the Norman conquest and has been beseiged repeatedly not only by film crews, but being close to the border by Scots, Lancastrians, Cromwellians, several million tourists and, during WWII, Newcastle Church High School for Girls.
Whether you have time to visit or not (Mr Dog was not allowed in) this walk follows the path along the Capability Brown landscaped garden and there are excellent views from there back across the river to the Castle. We can see the line of the walk as we looked out from the crenulated parapet of the castle walls.
The starlings are gathering for an evenings murmuration on the rooftops and high wires of Alnwick as we walk through the quietening streets between buildings the colour of caramelised butterscotch. We pass a huge statue of Harry Hotspur, a local legend. Everyone else is going home for tea and the barbican gate is being locked up. (I’d be more impressed if they lowered a portcullis but alas it doesn’t have one).
We follow the road round over the Lion Bridge and walk onto the riverside via a gate. A sign warns us about cannon fire and of course I really want them to fire a cannon at us. In the evening light the autumn colours are glowing.
This path along the river is starting to get muddy, and we pass some curious standing water in the field, it is bubbling in places, like a muddy geyser beginning to build. I can’t answer lovely son’s questions, I take a guess that it is something to do with Capability Brown’s water landscaping, possibly there’s a hydro electric system like at Cragside which is not far. CB was well known for grand schemes. There’s a lot of acorns and squelch to walk through. The path follows the river for some time and after crossing a bridge enters a small wood where the birds are singing their dusk chorus.
We run into trouble in the next field, the cattle are too interested in Shovell and keep running at him, and us, and it’s not good for the nerves. We retreat and I decide to pick him up (great, very muddy by now) and we take it in turns to carry him covered by a coat. He does not like this one bit, he was enjoying trying to chase the pheasants, but the cows are completely befuddled by our cunning bamboozling and all but one loses interest. One solitary black bull calf continues to stare at us for half a kilometre, no one knows what he is thinking, perhaps silently planning a solo stampede.
We pass over the footbridge as the sun sets and then end up making a detour from the plan as the footpath is closed while a new housing estate is being built, so we are forced onto a road which climbs back up the hill. We meet our route again via another public footpath higher up and make our way through the darkening suburbs and past Alnwick garden, hidden by shrubs from the road.
Alnwick looks witchy at night; we met an alchemist earlier in the castle who looked like a warlock. He wouldn’t look out of place here if we met him scurrying home for tea across the square in his black pointed hat and robes. But it’s almost dark, not quite the witching hour, and it’s time for our tea; time for us too to scurry back to our old town house.
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More walks in this area
You can follow our GPX here which includes the detour at the point marked with a large blue 13 (after Lough House). The original path is clearly marked and will presumably reopen once the building work is finished. The walk can begin and end from anywhere, in our case from the church near our house.
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