A dip down to England

For our first full day in Scotland, I booked us a day trip using Rabbies Tours (pronounced like taxi cabbies — fun fact, Rabbie is actually a nickname for Robert, so it’s usually Rab instead of Rob in Scotland). I highly recommend this tour company and would easily book another: they’re based out of Edinburgh and London, have fantastic guides, small group sizes, and unique tours. Unfortunately, I did not get much shut-eye the previous night (time change struggles), so I spent a lot of our car ride snoozing. Julie, however, informed me that our guide, Jude, was an excellent storyteller who relayed tales of Scottish monsters, Gaelic word origins, and the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.
After taking a quick pit stop at the quaint town of Kelso, we made our way to the Scottish/English border. The weather was quite dreary (welcome to the north), but it didn’t stop us from walking across the connecting bridge into my beloved England. We then hopped back into the car and made our way through Northumberland and finally reached our destination: Alnwick Castle. Pronounced like panic without the p, you may not have heard of Alnwick, but chances are if you’re into fan culture, you’ve seen it on your screen. It’s most notable for being the filming location for Hogwarts’s quidditch lessons in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and recently it was featured in several Downton Abbey episodes as Brancaster: the grand estate Lady Edith inherits after marrying Berty.
If you’ve ever read a travel blog post by me, you’ve more than likely figured out that I LOVE country houses, and this was up there for my favorites (probably second only to Highclere Castle). We gawked at the impressive exterior — it really does look like a storybook castle! — and made our way inside the gate. Because we had a limited amount of time, Julie and I opted to take the history tour, which proved to be very informative and enlightening. The castle’s life has seen multiple battles, conquering, and distinguished guests, yet it’s still stayed in possession of the Percy Family for the better part of 700 years. My favorite aspect of these grand estates is that, despite their remarkable legacy, families still live in them. There was a foosball table in the gilded library, for goodness sakes! It just makes the house’s personality that much more intimate and relatable.
Of course, I geeked out over the Downtown Abbey displays: they had several costumes and props from filming that were absolutely stunning. It was also very humorous to see how much they played up Harry Potter. We didn’t participate, but Alnwick offered “quidditch lessons” on the lawn where the scenes were shot. Shockingly, no one managed to levitate, but I doubt even Madam Hooch could get Muggles to fly on broomsticks! Julie and I also loved exploring the gardens; nothing in the world compares to an exquisite English garden, so walking among the flowers and fountains was so very pleasant.
The sight-seeing didn’t stop there, as Jude informed us that, because the weather had cleared up, we’d be able to visit the nearby Bamburgh Castle and even go down to the beach for a bit. The castle sat right on the water, and it was one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever been to. Most everyone walked down to the beach, but I was the only one to take off my shoes and stand in the water. There are moments when it’s worth choosing sandy feet (or a similar uncomfortable situation), and this was one of them. The North Sea was cool and peaceful; as I looked behind to the might fortress, I was reminded of why I love to travel.
We headed back to Edinburgh for one last night before Inverness — next up is my recap of our time in the stunning Scottish Highlands!

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  1. Hi Rachel,

    Just wanted to let you know a colleague in marketing found your blog and alerted me to it. So glad you had a good tour and especially liked Bamburgh beach, it’s a bit of a personal favourite of mine. I enjoyed our chat down to the seaside, I hope Ireland was fantastic for you both πŸ™‚
    take care okay, and happy travels


    1. Thank you so much, Jude, I’m so happy you were able to see this!! I greatly enjoyed our conversation, as well, and truly do appreciate your care on our trip. Ireland was absolutely stunning and the perfect conclusion to a wonderful trip. Reach out if you’re ever in Texas — we’d love to show YOU around! πŸ™‚
      All the best,