ALNWICK CASTLE AND GARDENS
Strict Lady surpassed herself this morning and tried to take me through and under a stone arched castle bridge nine foot high soemthing high and much too narrow. I have been seriously researching a replacement for her all week. Today I was too quick for her however, and puled in to phone the castle and get instructions on how to access the carparks by a safe route.
When you do arrive it is very well set up with massive carparks, and though there were queues to buy the tickets it was not too long a wait. Once again I was blessed with a glorious autumn day. The sun shone, and though there was a real nip in the air and a bit of a breeze I was plenty warm enough to spend as long as I wanted exploring the gardens, which have the most over the top modern water garden diplays; all stainless steel fountains, computer controlled water displays and topped by a huge central cascade. Plus the tallest, widest and longest hedges I have ever seen. I think it must take all year to cut them. Though they werent cutting them that day, but about twelve of the workforce were trying to get the central cascade fountains to play. They all looked so worried I was somehow reminded of the pack of cards in Alice in Wonderland.
Then onto the castle. Even I recognised the courtyard where Harry Potter played Quiddich. They have latched onto this and all day there were resident 'wizards' on hand to give instruction to young hopefuls with broomsticks.
The glorious coach which is used for family weddings, and which had been recently restored for the marriage of the Duke’s daughter was on display. It must have been a real fairy-tale wedding, and there were many photos of the happy day and a nice little video playing on a loop. The castle itself though stunningly grand still has the feel of a home with family photos on the tables, and in the library a large screen TV, beanbags, and bottles of drink and glasses ready for them to use when the hordes have departed.
Sadly it is one of the houses where the taking of photographs is not allowed, but the treasures on show there are breathtaking . The State Rooms of the house are awe inspiring in their opulence and extravagance. I think the Percy fortune is truly immense.
I had read about their tree top restaurant and quite honestly felt it looked a bit too theatrical for my taste, but the menu looked half reasonable so I decided to chance it. I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumptions and the building itself was magical, though difficult to photograph as it is surrounded by the signature Alnwick hedges - immaculately trimmed but about ten metres or more wide.
The tree house is more of an ariel complex with promenades, bars, viewing galleries and rope walks leading off to a play area to entertain the children. All very well designed and built with real attention to detail. A curving walkway up leads to a wooden terrace in the sky surrounded by the branches of the trees below which grow up though the wooden floors.
You could eat outside, or have hot chocolate and drinks, but I stayed with my idea of trying the Treehouse Restaurant, and was pleased I did. As I am still trying to eat local food when and where I can find it I chose the black pudding starter, which was really well presented and cooked, served with a micro salad and warm bacon lardons, topped with a perfectly done soft boiled egg and roast tomatoes, all with an excellent dressing, the balance of flavours being just right.
I had seen the local prize winning sausages on sale at a nice butchers in the town earlier on, but as I still had far too many of Waitrose’s rubbishy Toulouse sausages to get through I had to leave them behind, but now I had a second opportunity to try some, and very good they were too, served with creamy mash and sweet onion gravy. How about this for an excellent presentation - see the last photo on the little slideshowe. Sausage and Mash is tasty but it's hard to make it look good.
Sticking local again I had the cheeseboard, with three creamy, locally made cheeses and sliced mixed fruit together with a miniature galvanised bucket of pickle and a selection of biscuits. All washed down with a locally made and excellent tasting beer. A place I would most certainly eat again if I was in the area.