After the festive period, this month’s walk, taking in Alnwick Pastures with views of the castle, is a relatively easy one to blow away those cobwebs.
From the Market Square pass between Pringles and Salon 2 (bottom right corner of the Market Square if you start with your back to the Tourist Information Centre).
As you reach the road, cross it and turn right, then first left along Greenwell Lane, which is located between Iceland and Boot’s the opticians.
At the far end of Greenwell Lane turn right and walk along the road with the car parks on your left and the buildings on your right.
As the road bends around to the right you turn left (brown sign – Alnwick Gardens and Castle) and walk down a road heading towards the castle and gardens.
Follow the road around to the right (sign – Ticket Sales, Castle and Garden) and pass the entrance to Alnwick Gardens on your right.
There has been a garden on this site from 1750 with these being first planted by the 1st Duke of Northumberland.
Jane Percy, the current and 12th Duchess of Northumberland discovered the gardens in 1997, full of brambles and broken brickwork and stones. It had become a nursery for larch and spruce trees and she set about putting the current gardens into place.
As you come to the car park in front of the Treehouse, follow the path around to the right, which skirts around the edge of the car park to the road.
Turn left along the road and walk down the road with a tall wall on your left and the road on your right as you drop down.
You will reach and cross the road bridge then take the first left (Public Footpath sign – Lion Bridge ¾ mile) and after a few yards you pass through a kissing gate to the right of a large wooden gate.
At this time of year, the next few hundred yards can be very wet but don’t let this dishearten you as it soon dries up after the next stile. If it is a little wet, don’t be scared of bearing off a little to your right before rejoining the main path so you cross a stile right next to the river in the next fence line.
After crossing the stile continue on following the prominent path with the river Aln on your left and Alnwick Castle ahead of you.
The source of the river Aln is Alnham in the Cheviot Hills and it discharges into the sea at Alnmouth. The village, in more recent years, has become the check-in point for the start of the yearly 26-mile Northumberland Coastal Challenge Walk which takes place on the first Bank Holiday Monday in May.
This area of ground that straddles the river Aln was landscaped by Lancelot Brown (Capability Brown) and Thomas Call in the 18th century and is known locally as The Pastures.
As you approach the Lion Bridge (on your left) the path gradually rises up to a small kissing gate. Pass through it and cross the road, turn right and walk up away from the Lion Bridge with a wall on your left and the road on your right.
After a few hundred yards turn left (Public Footpath sign – Abbeylands ½) and you rise up and pass through a kissing gate taking you onto a fenced path.
Continue up the path with the wall on your left and the fence on your right.
You reach and pass through a large wooden gate and continue walking in the same direction, following the wall on your left. At the end of the field you again pass though another kissing gate and continue on with a wall on your left and a fence on your right.
As you come to the end of the path you come onto a gravel path with a beech hedge on your right as you reach some houses. Initially continue walking in the same direction before following the drive as it bears around to the right before reaching the road.
Turn left along the road, walk down the footpath with the wall on your left and the road on your right as you drop down and cross the road bridge with the stunning looking weir away to your right.
Just after crossing the bridge, cross the road (if you are still on the left-hand side) and turn right through a large wooden gate (Finger Post - Public Bridleway for 150 yards then Public Footpath only; Ratten Row ¼ ) and walk up the track, initially with a wall on your right and a fence on your left.
You reach and pass through a kissing gate taking you into a field. Continue walking in the same direction as you rise up through the field to a kissing gate at the top and pass through this.
Away to your right you have the entrance to Hulne Park. Hulne Park is the only one remaining of the three parks that once surrounded Alnwick Castle. Hulne Park looks very different to its former guise after it was transformed in the 18th century by Hugh, first Duke of Northumberland, with the help of the renowned landscape architect Capability Brown. Turn left and walk away from Hulne Park, heading back towards Alnwick.
As you reach the end of the road (if you are still on the left side of the road) cross it and bear right (ie. keep going in the same direction), passing St Michael’s Church on your left. With origins in Saxon times and rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries, St Michael’s Church is architecturally important for Northumberland.
It is a story that spans the entire history of Alnwick and the Dukes of Northumberland. Fascinating features include the ancient ‘Hotspur’ carved capital, medieval tombs and painted roof-bosses, a remarkable collection of stained glass windows, and a 21st-century font carved by a local sculptor. As you continue on you pass the Bailiffgate Museum on your left. If you are still on the left-hand side of the road it may be worth crossing here on the pedestrian crossing and then continue on in the direction of Alnwick Castle. As you reach the road turn right (sign – Tourist Information Centre and Town Centre) and walk along the footpath passing the Oddfellows Arms on your right.
Follow the road around to the left passing the 14-foot bronze statue of Sir Henry Percy, also known as Harry Hotspur. There is an information plaque on it telling you more. As you continue along the road, turn right into Fenkle Street (street name is hard to find as it has been placed high up) passing the Art Works and Northumberland Cottages on your left heading towards the clock tower.
After a few hundred yards turn left through the arch under the clock tower and pass through the walkway back into the Market Square.