By Mike Aux-Tinee.
Alnwick (prounounced Annick) England. Never heard of it before I started planning my vacation last year. It’s a very (emphasis on very) small town north of New Castle along the northeast coast. It’s also very likely that if you asked the English where the town was, most of them would not know either. But this little gem in the rough made for a very nice place to visit for my vacation.
I went to London two years before and there were so many things I did not get to see. But aren’t most vacations like that? I decided I wanted to go back and my first idea was to head to Brighton along the English Channel.
Finding a place to stay was down right frustrating. I did not know it’s the vacation spot in England. Scratch that idea and head back to the drawing board. If I wanted another vacation there I needed to do something different. So when the pack heads one way, head in the opposite direction.
That idea to head in the opposite direction came during the flight back from London. I sat next to an Englishman and we were talking about my trip. He said that if I wanted to get out and see what England was really like, I needed to get away from London. And the farther away I got the less expensive it would be.
I have no explanation how or why my cursor landed on Northumberland. I was playing around and that’s what I clicked on. It’s definitely in the opposite direction and once I started looking at what was there I never thought about looking anywhere else.
From the moment I stated planning this trip and the pieces starting coming together, I had the feeling that this would be one of my favorite vacations.
I am a find a place to stay first kind of guy and then plan the rest of the vacation. Your vacation planning can go no where very quickly if the place you want to stay is booked or does not have room availability for your entire stay (Brighton remember Brighton). It is easy to arrange transportation, there is always another flight or train departing.
I came across several bad reviews about a hotel in Alnwick I wanted to stay in (Golden rule about traveling, if you come across bad reviews, avoid that place like the plague). I changed my search from hotel to B&B and what popped to the top of the list was a place called Greycroft Bed and Breakfast. I read over guest reviews and they were glowing! In fact, there was not one bad review. I now had the place to stay and it was just a matter of picking out the dates and availability.
The website is very easy to use; I was able to check availability, make reservations, check out places of interest around the town of Alnwick and the region. The B&B has six rooms to choose from and I picked the Green Room. It has a great view of the back yard, the windows could be left open and a nice breeze would blow in and knock me out. Click and make the reservation.
The owners were so helpful answering our e-mails; how to get from the train station to the B&B, places of interest and restaurants. Buyers remorse…? Never happened.
The two and a half hour train ride from London through the English countryside was relaxing. You can purchase your tickets on-line and save a lot of money.
Our reservations were from Saturday through Thursday and had no problems filling up our days with things to do, places to eat and time to log in some R&R.
And here is what we did there:
One of the first places we visited on Sunday was Barter Books. This is one of the largest used book stores in England. It’s located in an old train station in Alnwick and if you are headed to this part of the country and love books, you must stop by.
On Monday, we bought tickets to visit Alnwick Castle and gardens. This is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. They open the castle, grounds and the gardens in the summer for visitors.
Don’t let the clouds in the photo intimidate you, they pass by rather quickly. The tickets are good for the entire day and you have nearly complete access to the castle and garden. While I did like walking around the castle, I really loved the gardens.
On Tuesday, we took a day trip to Cragside. This place was the first house in England to be power by hydro-electric power. The first owner was an engineer who built nearly every bridge for the railroads in India. So it’s no surprise that when he came home, he was going to put his skills to work and build a really cool house. It’s built directly on the hill-side. The front yard drops straight down to the small stream that runs through the property. The ahem, front yard is terraced and every path leads you down to the small bridge on the property.
Wednesday, we took some time to visit the Alnwick International Music Festival. Every year, the city holds this festival and musicians and dancers come from around the world to perform. I liked the dancers from India and the Scottish bagpipes. There are so many places to see the performers throughout the day.
Thursday we checked out of the B&B and headed back to London.
This was one of the most relaxing vacations I have taken. The Englishman I spoke with on the flight back was right. If you are able to get to England, take the train ride to Alnwick, stay at Greycroft and just relax.