New boost for tourism in Northumberland town

The Downton Abbey cast at Alnwick Castle.
The Downton Abbey cast at Alnwick Castle.

Alnwick’s tourism industry is set for another boost as a new visitor trail looks to exploit the Northumberland town’s recent TV exposure.

Newcastle-based tour operator Northern Secrets is offering visitors a new North East holiday itinerary after the popularity of the Downton Abbey Christmas special and other TV shows filmed in Alnwick.

The holiday experience will be put before some of the world’s most influential international travel buyers from 40 countries as Northern Secrets attends ExploreGB this week.

ExploreGB is VisitBritain’s new, flagship event providing the UK’s tourism suppliers and destinations with the chance to meet and do business with up to 260 hosted international travel buyers from 40 countries. The tourism fair has attracted more than 25 of the top travel trade media from around the world, looking to write stories about Britain and Ireland, the regions and the products and services on offer.

Northern Secrets, a small tour company which specialises in trips and tours to northern Britain, is the only operator flying the flag for the North East at the event. It has been operating since 2008 and provides personalised and bespoke tours around Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire and north-east England.

Managing director, Alex Jacobs, who is also a Blue Badge Guide said: “Northern England has so much to offer and as a company we are committed to providing inspiring, tailor-made itineraries that help the visitor experience a place, not just go to a location. We have seen demand and interest in places such as Alnwick increase with the recent TV exposure and, as we are based in north-east England, we are ideally placed and have the knowledge and expertise to provide an unforgettable experience in this region.”

The new five-day/four-night trail will take visitors to Alnwick Castle and also to Durham, where this year the North’s oldest surviving copy of Magna Carta will be the centre of a major exhibition celebrating the iconic charter’s 800th anniversary in 2015, as well as other highlights of north-east England.

In Downton Abbey on Christmas Day, watched by 5.8million viewers, Alnwick Castle, the largest inhabited castle outside Windsor, was used as the setting for the fictional Brancaster Castle. It came hot on the heels of other TV shows, such Robson Green’s Tales from Northumberland. The historic home of the Percy family in Alnwick, Northumberland, has already doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films and featured in the Elizabeth and Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and was recently being used for filming some of The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses. Forthcoming series folmed in the town include Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn.

The itinerary will also include a walking tour of the historic city of Durham with its Magna Carta celebrations this summer. The Unesco World Heritage site of Durham Cathedral holds three copies of the pivotal document, dated 1300, 1225 and, crucially, 1216 – the only remaining version from the year after the original deal was signed by King John and his restless barons. To mark the charter’s 800th anniversary, celebrations and events are planned across the country and worldwide, including in Durham where a three-month exhibition will explore rebellion through the centuries. A number of other treasures from the cathedral’s vaults will form part of the display, which promises to be the biggest since the Lindisfarne Gospels were loaned back to Durham in summer 2013.

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