Welcome back to my blog!
Today I have a travel related blog post for you all today. I love to travel, its one of my greatest passions in life and its even more gratifying when I travel as a disabled person. Traveling with a disability can be hard from booking trains to finding accessible and disability friendly accommodation. But I’m determined to use my blog to show that traveling and having adventures when you have a disability is indeed possible.
I was recently invited by a company called The Inn Collection Group to spend the weekend in The Hogs Head Inn in Alnwick. The Inn Collection Group is a group one hotel inns in Northumberland, the company are dedicated to making their services accessible and inclusive. They are currently investing in staff training to make their staff disability confident and ensuring that their venues are accessible to people with disabilities. So when they invited me to travel to Alnwick I of course said yes! So, me, my mum and my guide dog Unity packed our belongings and headed on an adventure to Alnwick.
Alnwick is a historic town near the coastline of Northumberland, England. Half an hour from Newcastle and an hour from Edinburgh via train. The town is best known for Alnwick Castle which served as the backdrop for Hogwarts School in the first Harry Potter film and later Downton Abbey. Alnwick is a small town surrounded by rolling hills and the beautiful Northumberland countryside. Any nature or landscape photographers would find this place an ideal location for photography with the wildlife and open spaces it has to offer.
We traveled from Kings Cross, London to Alnmouth Station with LNER Trains in First Class which was pretty lovely I’ll say. The service with LNER was faultless, assistance was there on time to help us board the train. On the train itself we were situated in a spacious part of coach K right near the disabled toilets.
The train staff consistently came to ask how we were getting on and endless complimentary drinks and snacks were offered from their trolley service. I personally found this very useful as being a visually impaired passenger, trying to make my way to the bar coach is something close to searching for the Holy Grail! The disabled toilets were big and spacious and actually audibly told you if the doors were safely locked. The train compartments were big and spacious and there was a plug to charge your phone and onboard Wi-Fi. The LNER service goes as far as Edinburgh so I’ll definitely be traveling with them again on my next adventure!
Massive thanks in particular to Kevin Cleary who was on board the outward journey who even went as far to make us tea when we first boarded and to find me a packet of Cheese and Onion crisps!
After a 3 and a half hour train journey we arrived at Alnmouth Station and traveled to our hotel destination. We stayed at The Hogs Head Inn which is about a 15 minute drive away from the station. The Inn is part of the Inn Collection Group which is a group of inn style hotels in Northumberland. The company are committed to making their establishments and services more accessible to people with disabilities. The Hogs Head Inn is an immaculate but cosy hotel situated not too far from the town.
When we first arrived I was pleased to discover that the hotel is accessible to enter, with ample disabled parking and an area for dogs to spend and a dog bin close by. The hotel is all on one level, with a children’s playground outside and a bar come restaurant inside. The hotel has a number of accessible rooms which have been made suitable for wheelchair users and others with mobility needs. The inn also has lift access and rooms which connect to the accessibility rooms. The hotel is also dog friendly so if you are thinking of traveling with your pet dog it’s a very relaxed place for your canine friends.
All of the Hogs Head Inn staff were friendly and very hospitable, in particular I would like to give thanks to Jamie the Hotel manager for ensuring we had a comfortable stay.
By the way the red holly print pyjamas I’m wearing in the above image are from Cyber Jammies and they were the comfiest pyjamas I have ever worn!
My hotel room was spacious, spotlessly kept and very warm and cosy. The rooms have all of your appliances like a TV, hairdryer (a decent one), iron and ironing board and a kettle. My bed and pillows were very comfortable and there were also extra pillows in the room handy. The room also had ample furniture like a dressing table, table and chair and a wardrobe. As I had the access room I had a wet room in my bathroom, which was utterly huge! The shower was adjustable and fairly easy to operate.
If I had to describe the Hogs Head Inn in 3 words it would be comfortable, cosy and relaxed. The staff at the hotel were all so friendly and welcoming and make a point of checking on you as you dine and during to stay to ensure that you are enjoying your stay. The hotel catering operates on a self-service basis, the breakfast and Sunday carvery dinners are a buffet style affair and you order your meals and drinks from the bar. But, the staff are consistently nearby serving and do continue to check back to ask if you would like to order anything. The food menus are also available to view online via their website. But I definitely think some large print and braille menus on request would be a good idea.
The food at the Hogs Head Inn was delightful, they have a lot of classic pub “comfort food” options with some more exotic options on the side. The food tasted freshly made and arrived at our table very quickly. The Sunday Carvery was delicious and the desserts were equally delicious. On one night I had the Gluten Free Chocolate Fudge Cake, yes you did hear me correctly! But it seriously did not taste like what you’d expect a gluten-free dessert would taste like. I also sampled their cocktails, they have a very good selection of cocktails both fizzy and still and also some mocktails for those who don’t drink. My favourite cocktail was the Strawberry Daiquiri. The bar is perfect if you want to have a few drinks before slinking back up to your room.
What I love about this place is that its such a calming and relaxed atmosphere. The surrounding area is pretty quiet despite being next to a road. I had a very good night sleep and awoke the next day refreshed for our excursions.
The next day after a buffet breakfast at The Hogs Head Inn we headed off for a day of exploring Alnwick. We traveled with the taxi company AA Taxis, the drivers were efficient and very friendly and welcoming to my guide dog too. If you intend to travel around Alnwick AA Taxis would be the company I would recommend traveling with.
The first place we visited was The Alnwick Garden, The Alnwick Garden is a collection of beautifully kept botanical gardens which were founded by The Duchess of Northumberland. The Alnwick Garden is a charity project, all the funds from visitors are put back into funding and maintaining the gardens.
The Alnwick Garden is very accessible, a lot of the gardens has been levelled out and ramps are used in and around the gardens all barring some steeep inclines where stairs had to be implemented instead. There were a large number of volunteers on hand who spoke in great length about the gardens and offered to describe things to me being that I have sight loss. In particular I spoke to a lovely volunteer named Margret who was very detailed in her descriptions and helped us to navigate around the gardens The Garden also has disabled parking, accessible toilets and offers concessionary ticket rates.
The Alnwick Garden also work with smaller charities to do with Dementia, Self Care and leading a healthy lifestyle. The Alnwick Garden offers free tickets to people who are dealing with loneliness and have regular meet up sessions for them. The gardens also do outreach programmes with local schools were they raise awareness of the dangers of drug abuse by taking them on a tour of their famous “Poison Gardens.” I myself actually embarked on a tour of the Poison Gardens and was stunned to learn at how many seemingly “innocent” plants are actually poisonous. The tour guides are very engaging and detailed in their descriptions of the poisons and I feel that the tour actually equipped me with some potentially self-preserving knowledge!
The gardens also offer a very immersive sensory experience, the Rose Garden has a multitude of fragrant blooms on offer to smell. There is also the sound of trickling water from water features that are peppered all over the gardens. The gardens offer something at different times of the year from the Cherry Blossom trees in Spring to the orange fallen leaves in the Autumn. The Alnwick Garden is an incredibly tranquil and peaceful place to visit, bringing a strange kind of serenity over you when you enter.
The other good thing about The Alnwick Garden is that once you have purchase a ticket you can become a friend of the garden and visit the garden for the entire year.
I could have spent hours strolling around the gardens, taking endless pictures for my instagram. It was such a beautiful place to visit and offers something for everyone from all ages.
The Alnwick Garden also host a restaurant known as The Treehouse restaurant which is said to be a famous attraction of Alnwick. I have to say it looked stunning, but alas I wasn’t able to book as the restaurant gets booked incredibly quickly. The restaurant is accessible via a bridge and it looked like something from Harry Potter. So if I ever visit Alnwick again I’ll definitely be booking to dine there.
The next place we visited on our travels was Alnwick Castle, Alnwick Castle has been home to the Percy family for hundreds of years. It’s a beautiful castle surrounded by the rolling hills of Northumberland. The castle is also famously known for serving as the backdrop of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where Harry’s first flying lesson was filmed. Alnwick Castle also later made an appearance on Downton Abbey. Because of the Castle’s Harry Potter connection, Alnwick Castle offer flying lessons for young aspiring Wizards! I had a look at them as we entered and I must say I had a case of serious #FOMO.
The castle is around 5 minutes walk away from The Alnwick Garden and the view as you walk up to the castle is superb. Alnwick Castle have endeavoured to make the castle as accessible and inclusive as possible. They offer tours around the castle in a variety of languages, there is also lift access to the state rooms, although there are parts of the castle that are only partially accessible if you are a wheelchair user. The Castle also offers large print information sheets about the castle and under supervision visually impaired visitors can touch certain pieces of furniture and architecture. Alnwick Castle also offer disabled parking, disabled toilets and carers are admitted free of charge. You can find out more about accessibility by clicking here.
When I entered the castle courtyard I felt like I was stepping into Hogwarts, I kept expecting to bump into Fred and George Weasley on one of their mischief-making missions! The castle had a variety of activities for children like the Dragons Quest and Broomstick Lessons as well as exhibitions and tours for older visitors. The State Rooms oozed grandeur, especially the library which reminded me from the scene from Beauty and the Beast. But, as the Percy family still own and live in the castle for privacy reasons photography inside the castle State Rooms is not permitted.
Alnwick Castle would make for a wonderful family day out with activities to satisfy the whole family. Just be warned if you enter the gift shop, its a Harry Potter fans wonderland!
The final place we visited that day was Barter Books. Barter Books is famous for being the largest second-hand bookshop in Europe. Built into what once was an old train station, Barter Books is an Aladdin’s cave for bookworms. There were shelves upon shelves of books in all manner of genres. From leather-bound tomes to books that my mother called from her 80s childhood. I really enjoyed browsing the shelves and seeing all the little finishing touches. Barter Books has a cafe in what was once the station waiting room and in the front of the shop is a large open fire. I could have sunk into that chair and dissolved into the pages of a book for the entire day.
Barter Books is also wheelchair friendly and warmly welcomes dogs (not just guide dogs and assistance dogs). The lovely shop assistant was even kind enough to offer Unity a dog treat.
Barter Books is definitely a place to visit if you are a book lover with a nostalgic side, you will not be disappointed. Trust me!
After that it was back to the hotel where we enjoyed a delicious carvery dinner before retiring to bed for the train ride back home to the hustle and bustle of London.
All in all, I had an absolutely wonderful time in Alnwick, it was a simply perfect weekend getaway. The trip has made me want to explore even more of what Northumberland has to offer. The Hogs Head Inn and all of the local attractions I visited were so warm and welcoming and simply a credit to the town. The hotel made my stay a very pleasant and relaxing one and I returned feeling fully recharged. I would highly recommend Alnwick as a place to visit for anyone who craves an idyllic and tranquil place to visit.
That concludes this blog post today, be sure to like this blog and leave me a comment letting me know where you’d recommend I travel to next.
A massive thank you to The Hogs Head Inn, The Inn Collection, LNER, The Alnwick Garden and Alnwick Castle who made this trip possible.
* This blog post is not sponsored. But I was invited to spend the weekend at The hogs Head Inn by The Inn Collection. I was also invited to travel with LNER and to visit Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden. All views expressed are my own.