Escape to Alnwick, a picturesque market town and a perfect base for a short break to explore Northumberland’s wild landscapes, tranquil villages, castles and dune-backed sandy beaches.

Just four miles from the coast on the banks of the River Aln, Alnwick (pronounced Annick) is dominated by its magnificent castle whose history is inseparable from the town which built up around it.

You can wander through the winding streets of the old historic centre and discover the narrow cut-throughs. All routes eventually lead back to the central market square. The town was originally surrounded by a medieval defensive wall; above ground, all that remains visible today is the Bondgate Tower separating the Bondgate Within and Bondgate Without parts of the high street. A more recent 18th century tower remains at Pottergate.

Alnwick still retains the traditional independent shops that have disappeared from most high streets, together with a great choice of cafés, tea shops, restaurants and pubs to keep you sustained during your explorations.

From the cobbled market square which marks the centre of town, the Castle Quarter and the Georgian residential streets of Alnwick’s conservation area are easy to explore on foot. For a more rural amble, you can wander across the meadows on the banks of the River Aln with views of the castle as the backdrop to your walk.

The medieval fortress and palace that is Alnwick castle is impressive from any direction. 1,000 years old and home to the Percy family for over 700 of them, after Windsor Castle it’s the second largest inhabited castle in the country. Recognisable from numerous film and television appearances, it’s a joy to explore inside and out.

Since opening in 2001, The Alnwick Garden has developed into a spectacular 42 acre landscape with its highlight the Grand Cascade, walled garden, sculptures, water features and the ‘world’s deadliest’ poison garden. It continues to develop and has themed events throughout the year.

Just outside the town lies the the new ‘Lionheart’ Alnwick station from where steam engines pull trains on a reopened section of the branch line towards the coast at Alnmouth.

The coast a few miles to the east with beautiful unspoilt beaches and the hills and moors inland offer plenty of opportunities to explore further.