Alnwick Castle & York, England

England. How can I describe the feeling of crossing your borders for the first time, of stepping over the threshold of "this royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle [...] This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England"? Perhaps Shakespeare best summed up the grandeur of it in that quote from Richard II (Act II, scene i). All I know is that when we crossed the English-Scottish border, I hadn't been so excited to arrive somewhere since my first trip abroad to Barcelona, Spain. 

Watching the countryside roll by the car window, I thought to myself, Here I am in the homeland of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, the royal family, the Beatles, afternoon tea, and so much more rich history and culture.

Our first official stop in England was at Alnwick Castle, home to the Duke of Notherumberland. It is amazing to walk through Alnwick and see not only its rich history but its well-used, lived-in charm. In the library, next to historic portraits, you can see current photos of the duke's family. In recent years, Alnwick has also been an important filming location for works like Harry Potter and Downton Abbey.The top of the outer castle walls offer some incredible views of the Northumberland countryside. After marveling at the carefully manicured landscape, we found a quiet picnic spot in the gardens.

It would have been easy to wander the castle grounds and town of Alnwick all afternoon, but we had to get back on the road at some point. So, we took our time driving through the northern part of England until we reached the city gates of York.

We arrived that evening. The sunshine gave way to overcast skies and rain, but that didn't stop us from taking a walk through the Shambles, a famous medieval street, and up to the York Minster (above) before grabbing a bite to eat in a neighborhood pub.