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England Travels: Alnwick (and all things Aln-)

All things Aln-: Alnwick Lodge B&B, Castle Alnwick, Alnwick (the village), Alnmouth (the village, including the River Aln)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 – Thursday, April 12, 2018.

We took the rental car from Newcastle north to Alnwick, deciding to skip trying to see Hadrian's Wall since we spent more time exploring Newcastle. We stayed at the Alnwick Lodge B&B which is right off of the A1 highway. I took some pictures of it. It had once been stables.

The next day we drove into Alnwick and explored Alnwick Castle, then the town of Alnwick, including Barder Books, a pretty large used book store in an old train station.

The weather was still mediocre at best (cold, foggy, occasionally rainy) and spending an hour getting to Holy Island in the middle of a storm seemed like a poor idea. So instead we went to Alnmouth, a town 5 miles away, where the Aln River meets the North Sea. It's a cute seaside town that was pretty deserted. Even the water was deserted as it was low tide and many boats in the river were grounded. I took more pictures.

2018 England trip pictures
Part 1: The Arrival
Part 2: Cambridge (Part 1)
Part 3: Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
Part 4: Alnwick
Part 5: York
Part 6: Sutton Bank
Part 7: Thirsk
Part 8: Helmsley and Rievaulx
Part 9:  Backyard Blacksmith Workshop
Part 10: Bagby Airfield
Part 11: Byland Abbey
Part 12: National Railway Museum
Part 13: Cambridge (Part 2)
Part 14: Cambridge Botanical Gardens
Part 15: The Departure

Displaying all 94 pictures


Alnwick Lodge B&B

I drove the rental car out of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne while Stephanie navigated. It was the first time I've driven where you keep to the left side of the road. And the first time I was driving a car from the right side. So many of my habits were simply wrong and I needed to consciously think about many things, like my positioning with respect to the road, where to look for information in the car, where to look for the mirrors, where to look for traffic, what the traffic signs said and meant, and where street signs are located. Even units of distance in the English system required thought! We have yard, but don't use them for driving. It's not hard to multiple yards by three to get feet and then think about them in that way, but that took extra thought too. I realized that it was the right move not getting a manual transmission. I didn't need yet another distraction demanding my attention.

Driving is not that difficult, but basically I have about 35 years of driving habits working against me. Negative transfer would be the more technical teaching and psychology term. Interestingly, while driving I would consistently swap "right"and "left" when talking. Even though I meant to say the correct one, I would consistantly say the opposite, as if my brain was just flipping everything relating to left and right just on the off chance it might help.

I was happy I didn't have to drive and navigate. Navigating was also challenging (it was a fancy new GPS with a weird touch screen input and a semi-complete database of locations). At some point it was around 4:30pm, we had pulled off the side of the road in a neighborhood still in Newcastle to re-evaluate the situation. While not super-heavy, traffic was not light, and it would be slower getting places. The GPS did not actually know our destination (the Visitors Center (or Centre) by Hadrian's Wall) and it was unclear how to toggle the GPS between showing the map and moving the map to keep it updated with our current location (i.e., the difference between where we are and where we want to be, both of which we need to know). We decided to bail on Hadrian's Wall, head to the B&B and have time to relax a bit, then get dinner somewhere, and make plans for Thursday. So we did.

The Alnwick Lodge was a nice place that's about a mile outside of Alnwick just off the A1 Highway. It's a farm and many of the areas used to be stables or similar lodgings. Most of the reviews I saw online were quite positive, though used the word "quirky." It was comfortable, the breakfasts were nice, and the staff were quite friendly and helpful.

Stephanie took a nap and I wandered around the B&B taking pictures. It was still cold, foggy, and damp out. We decided we'd stop at a grocery store in Alnwick, about 1-2 miles away, then head the other way, about a half-mile beyond the B&B to a small restaurant. Easy.

That's when I made The Mistake. The B&B is just off of the A1 highway, 2 lanes in each direction with a big median, sometimes controlled access (on-ramps/off-ramps), sometimes with direct left turns or right turns from the median. It wasn't busy, and in fact there were no cars to be seen in either direction, and it was still daytime. I needed to turn right beyond the median, to head north into town. After checking both directions (still nothing) I pulled into the median and then started to point the car to the left. Stephanie yelled, "What are you doing!?!" I stopped, the car was still in the median, but pointing in the wrong direction, to the left. There's no way to avoid admitting that I had attempted to do something very stupid and very wrong. Checking that everything was (still) clear, I turned from the median onto the left side of the road (in the direction which the car had been facing). I wanted to put that mistake behind me. Stephanie then, more calmly, asked why I was heading away from town and if, perhaps, I might want to stop driving. I was more than willing to admit my mistakes and my appreciation for her catching it and telling me (though in all fairness, we had agreed ahead of time that "wrong side" would be the official, unambiguous phrase for that). But I didn't want to give up. I wanted to get back on this wrong-sided horse because it's a challenge. It's also a low traffic area and safe enough. I said I'd let her do some driving tomorrow and I'd navigate.

We got a few groceries and then we headed to the restaurant, The Cook and Barker Inn in Newton-on-the-Moor. It was a cute place. I got some Thai Fishball thing that was decent, but pretty small. I don't know if I made the mistake on how "entree" means the opposite thing in the US/UK (big dish/small dish) or if it was just a small item. The parking lot was full, so we parked on the road. Everyone was parking on the right side of the road, facing away (i.e., parking as if they were on a US road). I had to make a mental note that when we left for home, I would need to ignore the false cues and immediately switch to the left side of the road. I remembered that and the trip back was uneventful (especially since we had already driven that way.

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This is the room where we stayed. It was called the Loose Box. I don't know...(more)

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There was a little vestibule at the far end where the entrance/exit door was.

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The vestibule had a chair.

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This wasn't the guestbook; it just had information about the area.

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The bathroom. The toilet is in the left corner. Another odd thing...usually...(more)

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The cow headboards were cute.

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The front of the house looks pretty old and grand.

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The road where the B&B is, technically, is named West Cawledge Park, but...(more)

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The van speaks for itself (almost literally).

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Another view of the front. Note the chair on the roof, as the van in the...(more)

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I took two timer shots inside the public den. The ceiling was low, so I was...(more)

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Another one, playing with the shadows on my face.

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The owner saw me and asked if she could help, so I had her take a picture or...(more)

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Me, taking a picture of me, outside of the main building.

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Is it a sea-horse?

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Or maybe a ... I don't know, a cobra-duck?

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Kind of raven-y now, maybe?

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The last few were pictures of the shadow of my hand cast into a birdbath. I had...(more)

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Quirky two goose decor.

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Front gate and a sort of garden area.

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I liked the colorful clothespins.

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More narrow depth-of-field focus on the clothespins.

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The farm fields just beyond the B&B.

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It was cold and foggy, so the distant hillside was very hazy.

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The two goose decor from the outside.

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The den with a nice wood-burning stove to keep it warm.

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Better view of the fire in the stove.

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The common room/den where I took the self-timer/brooding pictures earlier.

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The outside door of our room with my reflection taking the picture.

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The Cook and Barker Inn on Newton-on-the-Moor. It was a decent place and the...(more)

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A picture of me (or a semi-infinite number of me's) in the mirror in the...(more)


Alnwick Castle

The next day we went to Alnwick Castle in the town of Alnwick and explored the area. It is the current residence of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. They have a family line that goes back to at or possibly one year after the Battle of Hastings (1066).


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This is a cool looking mega-treehouse. We didn't go in it, so I don't know what...(more)


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A map of Alnwick, for reference.

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Birds among the flowers. What are they? See next caption.

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Apparently these birds are Helmeted Guineafowl wandering among the daffodils. ...(more)

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Daffodil fields in front of the castle.

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Daffodil fields.


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Panoramic Alnwick Castle! (It's just a model...)


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A little valley that likely once was a moat.

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Entering the front gate of Alnwick Castle.

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Free broomstick riding lessons. This is, after all, the original Hogwarts from...(more)

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And a class of kids (and adults) learning to fly (broomsticks).

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Part of the interior of Hogwarts, er Alnwick Castle.

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More broomstick training. Picture taken from the wall.

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A "wizard" giving instruction on broomsticks.

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A view of the River Aln from the opening in the castle wall. Hey, there's a...(more)

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A view of the river and countryside from Alnwick Castle.

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The chemin de rounde, allure, or wall walk (more castle terms!) with...(more)

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Looking through one arrow loop in the wall with another one visible through...(more)

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The foggy countryside with the road to the castle that crosses the River Aln...(more)

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The bridge over the River Aln on a foggy day.

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Frank leaning on a crenel on the battlement in Alnwick Castle.

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Alnwich Castle and its cannons from inside the outer wall.

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Frank sticking his head where it doesn't belong (part of an ongoing series).

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Another view of part of Alnwick Castle.

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A canon to defend the castle.

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Jugglers at Alnwick Castle. It was cold (40sF/5-8C) and damp. It'd be hard...(more)


Town of Alnwick

After touring the castle, we went back to the car (which took us a little time to find the parking lot or "car park", which sounds to me either something like a fish kill, or an amusement park for cars) and ate the lunch we had packed while it rained. The rain had held off up until that point.

We then went into town and spent some time at Barter Books a cool, used bookstore in the former train station. Holy shit! The "iconic and trivialized" phrase Keep Calm and Carry On from the WWII posters (that were never issued) was fucking discovered by Barter Books! Here's a video from their web site on the history of the poster.

Anyway, after spending some time in the bookstore, we then spent some time walking around the town of Alnwick (the rain had stopped by then). The downtown area (or city centre?) had various little shops, some monuments and statues, and stone gates. The town itself (in some form) dates back to around the year 600 (though it wasn't obvious anything that old was still present).

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Bondgate Tower, completed in 1480.

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Plaque with information on Bondgate Tower.

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This is where the road B6346 splits into the roads B6341 (to the left) and...(more)

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A cute little store in Alnwick. I guess they sell Grannies.

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A plaque with information on the Harry Hotspur statue.

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A statue of Sir Henry Percy, a.k.a. "Harry Hotspur," eldest son of...(more)

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Pottergate in Alnwick (spoken with a Hogwarts accent...)

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The War Memorial, originally unveiled in 1922. It has plaques commemorating...(more)

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The former train station that is now Barter Books!

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A map of downtown Alnwick and the memorials.

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It was still a foggy day.

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The Tenantry Column, errected to honor the 2nd Duke of Northumberland for...(more)

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The Tenantry Column. Note the cartoon-erection of the lion's tail at the top.


Town of Alnmouth

After walking around Alnwick, we stopped in a coffee shop to figure out where to go next. It was around 4pm or so. Originally, we had planned to go to Holy Island/Lindisfarne. It's a 30-45 minute drive, and then we'd drive on a road that's unpassable during high tide. While the next 6-8 hours would be safe to cross to Holy Island, we'd be doing a lot of walking and the weather maps we looked at showed storms in and around that area. It was looking if-fy in terms of how fun it'd be and we'd spend a good chunk of time to get there and back, and then it'd be too late to do anything else.

I still wanted to see the coast. So we came up with an alternate plane. Alnmouth is a little village 5 miles away, situated on the coast where the River Aln ends at the North Sea. Plus it was easy to get there, there were a few restaurants that looked like they might be good for dinner. So we went there. Stephanie had driven the car earlier in the day. We decided I'd drive to Alnmouth and back and then Stephanie would drive us back to Newcastle in the morning. That made sense since I could check the route and navigate, and Stephanie was more comfortable with the left/right swap and traffic, and it'd get a bit busier as we got into Newcastle.

It took maybe 10 minutes to get to Alnmouth. It was low tide so the beaches extended way out, and most of the riverbed was dry. Boats in a marina area were all grounded. But they were designed for the twice per day low tide, so they could safely site on the sandy riverbed and not tip over. We walked around there and around the town. It was cold and damp and foggy. We walked around the town to check out our dinner options and warm up.

We saw a hotel called The Schooner and in it was an Indian restaurant called Spice Galleon. The menu seemed acceptable. It was inside and heated. And the sign said that they serve non-locals (my guess is that it was not a joke, and that in the off-seasons, some places might only be open to local residents). So we went there. We were seated and there was no one in the restaurant. But it wasn't cold and they'd serve us, so we decided we'd give it a go. We ordered a number of vegetarian things, appetizer and side dishes. And it turned out to be really good. The portions were small-ish, so we ordered another round (some the same, one thing different). In the end, I think it wound up being equivalent to $18 per person for a lot of food. We talked with the owner a bit. I must admit, the Indian/"proper British" mix with northern English accents sounded a little odd to me. He mentioned how damned cold it was, and how the town was pretty deserted now, when a year ago around Easter the town was really busy. Afterwards we headed back to the B&B, spent some time by the stove, made plans for tomorrow, and eventually called it a night.

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A fairly weather-worn informational sign on Alnmouth in the 18th century. ...(more)

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It was foggy. The bit of water in the sandy area beyond the road (Riverside...(more)

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Stephanie just beyond Riverside road, before the beach. That area is the...(more)

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I believe this is the shore of the North Sea.

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Looking out across the River Aln at low tide. Two red lights are visible inthe...(more)

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Looking out across the Aln Estuary at low tide, with the land in the distance...(more)


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A 180° panoramic shot starting from Riverside Road on the left, looking out...(more)


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A sign. It says: Alnwick district council. Warning Bathing is unsafe from...(more)

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Looking back to the houses in Alnmouth.

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I guess we weren't the only ones there. Stephanie watches someone else...(more)

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The Aln Estuary at low tide, with Church Hill to the right. The big concrete...(more)

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The Aln Estuary at low tide (no water!). All the boats are grounded.

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Church Hill, where there used to be a church that was finally destroyed by a...(more)

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Low tide. Perhaps the cover shot for Stephanie's new albumn (and maybe the...(more)

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The bit of water behind Stephanie is what remains of the River Aln at low...(more)

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Another view of the grounded boats in the estuary.

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Boats normally like water. This is reminiscent of Nova Scotia and the tides...(more)

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Frank holding back the imaginary tides of his mind...

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Frank channeling his inner-Moses, using his super water-parting powers. I...(more)

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Frank by the wall of the harbor (I'll spell it their way when using it as a...(more)

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A house right by Alnmouth Marine Harbour (their spelling, not mine). Nice...(more)

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Frank and Stephanie at the B&B before checking out.




2018 England trip pictures
Part 1: The Arrival
Part 2: Cambridge (Part 1)
Part 3: Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
Part 4: Alnwick
Part 5: York
Part 6: Sutton Bank
Part 7: Thirsk
Part 8: Helmsley and Rievaulx
Part 9:  Backyard Blacksmith Workshop
Part 10: Bagby Airfield
Part 11: Byland Abbey
Part 12: National Railway Museum
Part 13: Cambridge (Part 2)
Part 14: Cambridge Botanical Gardens
Part 15: The Departure

This page last modified May 13, 2018.
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