Walks round and near the river Aln beside Alnwick.
Pretty walks by the river bank and up through the woods. Take in a little history with stunning views of Alnwick castle on the other side of the river, and Malcolm's cross in the woods, which commemorates the spot where Malcolm III king of Scotland was killed besieging Alnwick castle in 1093.
Not much in the way of facilities, though the walks are very close to Alnwick town. The routes are not suitable for disabled access.
How to get there
Postcode for Satnav - NE66 1YU
Coming from either north or south, turn off the A1 Alnwick bypass onto the B1340 and turn towards Alnwick. At the foot of the hill, the road crosses the river Aln, and just past the bridge there is a small free carpark by the council recycling bins on the left. There is a larger carpark a hundred yards or so nearer Alnwick. This is for the Alnwick Gardens and there is a £3 charge for parking there.
There are three good walks from this point, all of which are on footpaths through Northumberland Estates property.
Click on the links below to see a detailed OS routemap of the walks. Each walk will open in a new tab.
Walk 1 is quite a short walk along the riverbank towards Alnwick Castle, then back by a higher path through the fields.
Walk from the car park down by the main road to the river, cross the bridge, then go through the gate to the left. Follow the river bank right up to the Lion Bridge but be aware that this part of the walk can be boggy in wet weather. Just before you get to the Lion Bridge there is a path that heads backward up into the field. Follow this path back, and see the stunning views of Alnwick castle over the river.
Walk 2 is a longer walk up the hill, through some woods to Malcolm's cross, along the riverbank towards Alnwick Castle, down a road, then back along the riverbank.
Walk from the car park down by the main road to the river, cross the bridge, then go through the gate to the left. Now take the upper path into the trees along by the fence, then head uphill through the field. On the other side of a track you will see a gateway marked 'permissive access'. Go though that gate and follow the path up the hill into the trees at the top. Somewhere up here there is an old cross base marked 'Whitecross Howl' which was an old burial site for the 1665 victoms of the plague from Denwick.
At the top of the hill you will see a gateway that leads into a long path through the trees. As far as I know, this path too is permissive access. At the end of this path you will see Malcolm's cross. Malcolm III was one of the kings mentioned in Shakespear's Macbeth. Once over the gate at the end of the path, head downhill on the 'Peth' road to the Lion Bridge, then back along the river bank to the car park.
Walk 3 is also a longer walk through fields to a footbridge over the river then back up the riverbank.
Walk from the car park down by the main road to the river, cross the bridge, then go through the entrance on the right. Walk through the woods then continue along the riverbank, under the A1 Alnwick bypass, until you reach the footbridge over the river. Be aware that these fields are often full of sheep so your dog must be on a lead.
Cross the footbridge, then follow the path to Lough House, then the road under the A1 again. At the T junction you walk for a short way down a road past a building site. until you see a footpath marked through the fields. Follow this path until you almost come into Alnwick, then bear right through a couple of fields and you are back at the car park. This path runs parallel to the road that feeds the building site.
The original castle at Alnwick was build by Yves de Vescy in about 1096. It was captured by King David I of Scotland in 1136 and besieged in 1174 by William the Lion, who was captured outside the walls during the Battle of Alnwick.
When the de Vescys died out the castle was given to Bek, the bishop of Durhan, from whom Henry, the first 1st Baron Percy bought the barony of Alnwick and the castle. Alnwick castle has been owned by the Percy family, who eventually became the Dukes of Northumberland, ever since. Henry Percy and his son rebuilt the castle into a major fortress, but they usually lived in Warkworth castle. Ralph Percy is the current duke of Northumberland and he lives in parts of Alnwick castle with his family. Other parts of the castle are open to the public during the summer months. Alnwick is the second largest inhabited castle in England, after Windsor Castle.
The castle is most famous these days as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, and it was also featured in the first Black Adder series and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Malcolm's Cross was erected in 1774 by the Duchess of Northumberland to commemorate her ancestor, King Malcolm Canmore (1057-1094), who was killed during an invasion of England. A previous cross was erected in the 11th century and the old stump of that cross is still there, to the left of the later cross.
The official history says that king Malcolm III of Scotland invaded England in the Winter of 1093 and pillaged the border country as far south as Alnwick. He encamped his large army on the hillside north of the town and Robert de Mowbray, Governor of Bamburgh Castle rode out to meet them with a smaller force, but taking the Scots by surprise he was able to kill the Scottish king and his son Edward. He was supposed to have died on the other side of the main road from the cross, and the remains of St Leonard's Hospital can still be seen there, supposedly built on the spot where he died.
According to a Percy family legend, he was actually killed by a Percy, who rode alone up to the king to offer him the keys to Alnwick Castle. The rider held the keys on the point at the end of his lance, and as he presented them to the king, he thrust the lance forward and pierced the king through the eye, this killing the Scottish king, saving the castle, and earning the name pierce-eye in the process. It makes a nice story but does not fit too well with historic facts not least of which is that Alnwick castle was built three years after the battle.
If you try the first walk on a Pancake Tuesday you might see the annual Alnwick Football match in progress. This ancient football match is fought between the parishes of St Paul and St Michael and is a custom dating back hundreds of years. It starts at the gates of Alnwick Castle, where the Duke of Northumberland throws the ball from the castle to start the match. (Apparently they used to use a Scotsmans head instead of a ball) The Duke's piper then leads the players and spectators down from castle and over the Lion Bridge to the playing field opposite the castle. The goalposts look like two large doorways coverered in rushes and the winning team is the first to score two hales, or goals. The 'pitch' is muddy and rough and the rules are quite flexible.
Once the game is won, the ball is kicked into the River Aln and the players chase after it and carry it over to the far bank.