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Alnwick's Hulne Park

The parkland estate of the Dukes of Northumberland, with an 18th-century prospect tower and two former monasteries.

Distance 8 miles (12.9km)

Minimum time 2hrs 45min

Ascent/gradient 886ft (270m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Well-surfaced tracks, with a few field paths

Landscape Parkland and woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 332 Alnwick & Amble

Start/finish NU 185135

Dog friendliness No dogs allowed in Hulne Park

Parking In Bailiffgate in Alnwick, near castle

Public toilets In Market Place and by coach park

Notes Hulne Park open 11am to sunset most days of year. No bikes or vehicles allowed in Hulne Park. The park closes more often between October and January please telephone 01665 510777 (Northumberland Estates) for dates of closure.

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1 From Bailiffgate walk towards Alnwick Castle. Turn left down The Peth, and go over the Lion Bridge, with its stiff-tailed Percy lion, the family's crest.Begin to ascend the hill, and at a sign 'Abbeylands', turn left. Go through two kissing gates, then on a track between houses, which winds to a road.

2 Turn left down the road. To the right, beside the river, is the 15th-century gatehouse of Alnwick Abbey, the only remnant of a Premonstratensian monastery founded in 1147. Go over the bridge, then through a gate on the right, signed 'Ratten Row'. Follow the lane to another gate then up the field and out on to a lane. Turn right through the archway into Hulne Park, which was landscaped in the 18th century by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown.

3 Follow the drive ahead, crossing a bridge and following the Farm Drive. Pass the Park Farm entrance (to which you will return) and, ¼ mile (400m) beyond, turn left opposite a small hut up a blue-waymarked track. Follow the track uphill, going straight on where the path divides. Brizlee Tower is on your right near the top of the hill. The 78ft (23.7m) tall tower is carefully placed to take in views to the Cheviot Hills and towards the coast. It was designed by Robert Adam for the 1st Duke.

4 Return the same way - there are views towards Alnwick Castle - and turn right by the hut, back to the Park Farm entrance. Turn left towards the farm, then after 50yds (46m) turn left on to the green-waymarked trail into the woods. The track goes through trees to a gate, then though grassland to another gate and an iron bridge, constructed by Cookson of Newcastle in 1812. After the bridge turn right, towards Hulne Priory, then turn off the track uphill to its entrance.

5 After visiting the priory, turn right out of its entrance. The track bends to a gate in a wall. Turn right at the next green waymark, and then right again, going downhill to meet a crossing track. Turn left and follow the track beside the river. Go through an orange-waymarked gate, cross a bridge with a gate at the end, and go ahead, still following the orange waymarks.

6 Turn left over the next bridge, again with a gate, and pass a stone inscribed 'Alnwick Abbey Drive'. At the next orange waymark, turn right through a gate and over a waymarked footbridge, known as the Duchess's Bridge. When you reach a T-junction of paths, turn left along a wider track. Follow it through woodland to an open triangular area. Go straight ahead, and over a stone bridge, then bear left, uphill. Turn left at the top and follow the metalled road straight ahead, through the arch and past the church back into Bailiffgate.

Alnwick Castle, home of the Percy family, Dukes of Northumberland. Often called the 'Windsor of the North', its warlike exterior - seen on-screen in the Harry Potter films - hides rich Renaissance-style interiors. In the pastures below the castle an annual Shrove Tuesday football match takes place. Teams representing the rival parishes of St Michael and St Paul battle it out, with the Lion Bridge and Denwick Bridge, ¾ mile (1.2km) east, as the goalposts.

The earliest Carmelite monastery in England, Hulne is surrounded by a strong wall that hides a pretty garden. You can still see the ruins of the church, chapter house, sacristy and refectory, while the former infirmary is now a private house. In the 18th century a summerhouse was added in the corner of the cloisters, linked by an arch to the thick-walled tower, built in 1486.

While you're there

Explore the town of Alnwick. Don't miss the narrow Hotspur Gate, named after the most famous of the Percys, and the Old Cross Inn, with the display of old bottles in the window, unaltered since a landlord died while arranging them over 150 years ago. In the former railway station is one of Britain's largest secondhand bookshops.

Where to eat and drink

There is a variety of places in Alnwick. Those who wish to imagine themselves as Kate Winslet or Leonardo Di Caprio could head for the White Swan Hotel on Bondgate Within, not far from the Hotspur Gate. A visit to its Olympic Room is like being aboard the Titanic, for the Olympic was Titanic's sister ship, and the room's fittings came from her when she was broken up in 1935.

What to look for

Winter walkers in Hulne Park may be rewarded by the sight of bramblings. They fly in from their homelands in the birch and beech forests of Scandinavia and Russia, often when food is scarce there. About 6in (15cm) long, they resemble chaffinches, but have a white rump, particularly visible when they are flying. Look out for them near beech trees, as this is where they feed. You may also spot the snow bunting, another winter visitor this time from Greenland and Scandinavia. Although they favour sand or shingle coastlines, they have been seen in Alnwick and are easy to spot because they are mostly white and around 6½in (16.5cm) long. They feed in flocks and, in flight, they have been compared to drifting snowflakes.

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