The eagle-eyed of you may recognise the magical Alnwick Castle. This 11th-century medieval castle rose to fame in a number of screen adaptations. Perhaps most famously, Alnwick Castle was a Harry Potter filming location and the setting for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!
No matter whether you’re one of the original Potterheads or you’re travelling to Alnwick with wee wizards in tow, this castle is a must-visit for Harry Potter fans. Pull out your Marauder’s Map and we’ll dive into exploring the Harry Potter Alnwick Castle filming locations! (And for the most studious of you, I’ll even share my top tips for your upcoming broomstick class!)
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A Guide to Harry Potter at Alnwick Castle
An Introduction to Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle sits in the English county of Northumberland. It was built in the 11th century and has been held by the Percy family for centuries. These days, Alnwick Castle is the home of the 12th Duke of Northumberland, Henry Percy. As well as being the residence of the Percy family, the castle is also open to the public and is regularly loaned to television and film production teams for shooting.
What Has Been Filmed at Alnwick Castle?
If you’re reading this article, you likely already know that some of the Harry Potter franchise was filmed at Alnwick Castle. The first two films (The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets) both include scenes filmed at Alnwick Castle, although the castle features more heavily in the first movie than the second.
As well as Harry Potter, the castle has appeared in numerous other high-end productions. It was the scene for Brancaster Castle which appeared in two Downton Abbey Christmas specials. Interestingly, the castle wasn’t closed to the public during filming which caused rather a lot of excitement amongst visitors!
As well as Downton and Harry Potter, Blackadder, Transformers: The Last Knight, Elizabeth and one of my favourite films ever, Robin Hood and the Prince of Thieves also had scenes filmed at Alnwick Castle. You can see the full list of screen productions filmed at Alnwick Castle on IMDB.
For more information about Alnwick Castle on screen, join one of the filming location guided tours which run four times a day. Be warned, these are very popular so arrive early to avoid disappointment!
Note: Although Alnwick Castle does not run a Harry Potter tour per se, the movies do feature heavily in the film location tour so this is a must for fans!
Harry Potter Filming Locations at Alnwick Castle
There are several Harry Potter filming locations at Alnwick Castle. The most obvious of these will be instantly recognisable to diehard fans. However, some of the more obscure spots can be a little more challenging to find without joining a tour or asking a member of staff. To get you started on your movie exploration of the castle, check out the following locations, all home to Harry Potter scenes.
The Inner Bailey is where the infamous Whomping Willow shot was filmed in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. After Dobby sealed Platform Nine and Three Quarters at King’s Cross, preventing Harry and Ron from getting on the Hogwarts Express, they took Ron’s family car, the iconic blue Ford Anglia.
The journey was going pretty well until they reached Hogwarts Castle and crashed into the Whomping Willow. Although there is no tree there (this was the work of very clever computer-generated imagery), you can see the area where the car spat Harry and Ron out before trundling off back through the Inner Courtyard archway.
The other side of this archway provides the backdrop for another Potter scene that you may recognise. This is where, on a very snowy day, Hagrid is seen dragging a Christmas tree to display in the Great Hall.
The snow used in this scene was artificial and very sticky – meaning that once the wind whipped it up, it got stuck to the castle walls! Apparently, it took months to get rid of.
The Lion Arch
The Lion Arch can be seen as you approach the castle from the surrounding garden. This is where Harry, Ron and Hermione walked down to Hagrid’s Hut and the Forbidden Forest.
Outer Bailey and Bailey Tower
The most easily recognisable of all the Alnwick Castle Harry Potter scenes is the setting in the Outer Bailey where Harry’s first broomstick class takes place.
The young witches and wizards were gathered for their flying class with Madam Hooch when Neville Longbottom accidentally flew off. After losing control of his broom, he crashed into a statue placed atop the Bailey Tower before falling and breaking his wrist. One interesting fact about this spot is that the actor who played Neville (Matthew Lewis) actually requested for this scene to be green screened as he was so terrified of heights. Spoiler: it wasn’t – that fear is all real!
When Madam Hooch takes Neville to the Hospital Wing, things get more complicated for the young witches and wizards. Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy steals Neville’s Rememberall and flies off with it. Harry flies after him in a wild chase and the pursuit only ends when the drama is interrupted by Professor McGonagall who then invites Harry to join the Gryffindor Quidditch team as the seeker.
This is also the same setting used in the later scene where Harry trained with Gryffindor Quidditch team captain Oliver Wood for the first time.
The Main Courtyard
This courtyard was featured in the first two Harry Potter movies. Perhaps the most famous scene shot here is the one where Harry and Ron are debriefing after Charms class. This is the lesson in which they learn the flying spell, better known as Wingardium Leviosa.
In this iconic movie scene, Ron is seen complaining to Harry about the way Hermione corrected him in Charms class. You are likely to remember the quote “She’s a nightmare, honestly, it’s no wonder she hasn’t got any friends! ” Ron said this to Harry, Dean and Seamus when Hermione barged past him crying. This was filmed in the main courtyard of Alnwick Castle.
Broomstick Training at Alnwick Castle
One of the coolest things that Harry Potter nerds can do at Alnwick Castle is sign up for their very own broomstick lesson. These take place in the Outer Bailey and four sessions usually run every day.
As you can imagine, these lessons are very popular so operate on a first-come, first-served basis. You can get your tickets from a member of staff based in the Dragon Quest area.
Before my own visit to Alnwick Castle, I had read that broomstick training sessions get very busy and the event is aimed at children. While I didn’t want to be forced to tackle a ten-year-old to get a broomstick, I was prepared to do so if necessary!
Luckily, when I asked the ticket man whether broomstick training was only for kids, he gave me a big smile and replied “children of all ages!”
If you embark on broomstick training without children in tow, you will be in the minority. However, you shouldn’t let this deter you! When I did my broomstick lesson, there were at least another four adults there without kids. Harry Potter is for all ages after all!
It is important to note that broomstick lessons are weather dependent and could be cancelled if it’s raining. If you’re really keen to try out your Quidditch skills, I’d recommend arriving at Alnwick Castle as early as possible to sign up for the first session. That way, if one is cancelled, you will likely still have another opportunity.
My top tip for anyone trying out their broomstick skills is to not take it too seriously. You will be running around with a broom between your legs while you make loud embarrassing noises. It might not be dignified but I promise it will be fun!
Top Tips for Snapping Broomstick Photos
As if riding around Harry Potter castle on a broomstick wasn’t amazing enough, you can also get photo evidence! Unlike some of the other Harry Potter attractions that I have visited, getting a memento to remember the day doesn’t come with a hefty price tag. There are no professional photographers on hand, meaning you are responsible for snapping your own photos.
There are two photo shots you should try and get at the end of your broomstick lesson. For the first, hold the broom in your hand and then drop it. For the second, place the broomstick between your legs and jump up.
To pull off the above poses, heed the following tips:
- Set your camera to ‘burst’ mode. This will allow you to take loads of photos in one go.
- When you drop the broomstick, be sure to make eye contact with the camera.
- Try to position yourself with a clear backdrop. Broomstick lessons get very busy, so it can be crowded.
- When you jump for the flying photo, try to touch your feet to your bum. This better creates the form that we see the actors use when flying in the Harry Potter films.
- For very hardcore fans, don your Hogwarts house attire!
Practical Information for Visiting Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle is open seasonally from around 25th April to the end of October. The Castle is accessible between 10 am and 5:30 pm, with last admission at 3:45 pm. Bear in mind that some activities such as archery or certain amenities such as the cafe will deviate from the standard opening hours.
Ticket prices are as follows:
- Adults: approx. £19.50
- Students and over 60s: approx. £15.75
- Children: approx. £10.25
- Under four years old: Free
There are also special rates for families.
Although a ticket to Alnwick Castle is not cheap, you get plenty of stuff included as standard. All of the guided tours, including the movie location tour mentioned earlier, are available for free. Broomstick training is also free for guests.
Good to know! It is not possible to buy a combination ticket for Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Garden (where the Poison Garden is housed). They are two different attractions and entrance will need to be purchased separately.
Nearby Harry Potter Inspired Accommodation
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Owned by the Dirty Bottles Inn, Hallow and Crux is a Harry Potter themed accommodation choice in the centre of Alnwick. Choose from four luxury rooms: The Common Room, The Chamber, The Dumble Dorm and The Marauders. All of these rooms are kitted out with rustic decor that wouldn’t look out of place in a Harry Potter movie! For those old enough to enjoy a tipple in the downstairs Dirty Bottles bar, don’t miss some of the Potter-themed cocktails!
Situated on the outskirts of Alnwick, the Hog’s Head Inn has been named after the pub Harry visits in the village of Hogsmeade. However, this is pretty much as far as the connection goes. This Inn Collection Group property houses 53 rooms and has its own onsite restaurant.
Located just a short walk from Alnwick Castle, this luxury private flat has been designed with Potterheads in mind. Affectionately named ‘The Potions Room’, the owners have really nailed the theme, with first-class attention to detail. And for all of you who love a good pamper, there is even a hot tub for guests to use!
Have you dived into the world of Harry Potter at Alnwick Castle yet?