John Nichol enjoys Alnwick Castle in Northumberland

  • Author John Nichol took his wife and daughter to Alnmouth, Northumberland 
  • Alnwick Castle was a hit, having appeared in Downton Abbey and Harry Potter
  • There the family enjoyed activites such as its ‘Broomstick Training Lessons’

As a Geordie boy, I spent my formative years in and around Northumberland. 

The 1960s and 1970s were a time before those cheap and easy flights to sunny destinations, and most of my holidays were spent either on the beach at Tynemouth (normally in a kagool) or exploring the local countryside. 

As my family didn’t own a car, everything had to be within easy reach of a bus or train.

Author John Nichol took his wife and daughter to Alnmouth, Northumberland, where they particularly enjoyed Alnwick Castle (pictured) - once a set for the Harry Potter films

Author John Nichol took his wife and daughter to Alnmouth, Northumberland, where they particularly enjoyed Alnwick Castle (pictured) – once a set for the Harry Potter films

In an effort to emulate those halcyon days, I dragged the family to Alnmouth for a week-long stay in a rented cottage.

Alnmouth’s most impressive feature is the stunning natural beauty of its beaches. 

Clean, golden and safe, they provide the perfect playground for walks, sandcastle-building competitions and beach football. But if the weather isn’t kind, there is plenty around the local area to occupy the mind and body.

Cragside House and Gardens, near Rothbury, were a revelation. 

The astonishing home of Victorian inventor, industrialist and landscaping guru Lord Armstrong, it was a wonder of its age, and described in 1880 as ‘a palace of the modern magician’. 

It was the first building in the world to be powered by hydroelectricity and there is much other gadgetry in evidence, including a ground-breaking domestic fire alarm system, an estate telephone exchange, and one of the world’s first hydraulic lifts.

The castle proved particularly popular with John's 12-year-old daughter Sophie, who is a huge Harry Potter fan. The family are pictured here in Cragside House and Gardens 

The castle proved particularly popular with John’s 12-year-old daughter Sophie, who is a huge Harry Potter fan. The family are pictured here in Cragside House and Gardens 

Within the 100-acre grounds there are play areas, a waterfall, a rhododendron maze and a fitness trail.

But it was Alnwick Castle that proved the most popular, especially for my 12-year-old daughter Sophie, who is a huge Harry Potter fan.

It has been the estate of the Duke of Northumberland for more than 700 years and the 12th Duke and Duchess still live in Alnwick Castle.

Despite the slight embarrassment of pretending to fly over the historic castle walls, it transpired that I was rather adept on the broomstick!

The castle has appeared in numerous productions, including Downton Abbey and the first two Potter films, where it serves as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Scenes filmed at the castle include Harry’s first Quidditch lesson. In homage to this event, the castle now hosts ‘Broomstick Training Lessons’, which Sophie and I signed up for.

Despite the slight embarrassment of standing in line hooting and cheering, then pretending to fly over the historic castle walls, it transpired that I was rather adept on the broomstick!

Our last night was spent on a deserted beach building a campfire and enjoying some wonderfully stress-free family time, eating and drinking in the open air. At the end of the evening we cleared away all evidence that we had been there as the tide came in to reclaim the beach as its rightful property.

It may have been cool and drizzly, but it really did hark back to a bygone era of not having to spend huge amounts of money on a holiday and being able to really enjoy the simple things in life.

John Nichol’s book Return Of The Dambusters – What 617 Squadron Did Next is published by William Collins.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Self-catering specialists include Cottages In Northumberland (cottagesinnorthumberland.co.uk), Sykes Cottages (sykescottages.co.uk), Stay Northumbria (staynorthumbria.co.uk) and Premier Cottages (premier cottages.co.uk). 

For more details on the area, go to visitnorthumberland.com.







Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

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