The Poison Diaries Event at Alnwick Castle (aka best 2 days EVER!)

So, about a month ago I opened this email and almost collapsed at the awesomeness of it. It was an invite to a two day event to celebrate the publication of Book 2 in The Poison Diaries series, Nightshade, to be held at the location the books are set – Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. And we got to stay in the castle too – which if you didn’t already know, was used in the first two Harry Potter films…I had a sleepover at Hogwarts!

Bloggers arriving at Hogwarts Alnwick Castle

We arrived at Alnmouth train station at 15:09 on 27th July 2011, VERY excited and were immediatly whisked away by coach to drop our bags in our rooms at the castle, then straight off for a tour of Hulne Abby and the cottage in the grounds where Jessamine, the main character of The Poison Diaries, lives. We were lucky enough to be taken over private land to this setting, never opened to the public before, as The Duchess of Northumberland (whose idea The Poison Diaries is based on) wanted us to see the route Jessamine would have walked to the Castle. This area was beautiful, so peaceful and atmospheric. 

 Hulne Abbey
Jessamine’s Cottage

Next we were took back to the castle for High Tea, and this is were I had the most jaw dropping experience OF MY LIFE! We were led to the State Dining room (where we were the first people ever to take tea in the 700 year history of the castle!) accompanied by a bag piper/pipest (?). I think most of us were pretty speechless when we saw the beautiful room and table filled with delicate sandwiches and the most delicious tiny cakes. I never thought I’d ever experience something like this, it was surreal. 

High tea in the State Dining room
After tea, we then made our way to the Library where in The Poison Diaries book Jessamine’s father, Thomas Luxton, would have come to study plants and poisons, and were read the first chapter of Nightshade by The Duchess. (which I can’t wait to read in full!) I’ve never seen a library like it…so beautiful! I could live in here. 

 The Duchess reading Nightshade in the library
Some of the very ancient books on plants Jessamine’s Father may have studied

After this we were given a tour of the Gun Room and grounds followed by some free time to get dressed for dinner. Then off to the magical Tree House restaurant. This was like a fairyland, all wood and candles and twinkly lights. The tables were decorated with beautiful wild flowers and the delicious meal and drinks based around the kill or cure theme which runs throughout the book. We all survived! Everything was gorgeous, but my highlight was the chocolate desert which came out smoking because of hidden dry ice under the plate! 

 Approaching the Tree House Restaurant
Anti clockwise from right: Sarah, Kirsty, Susan, Me

Just as we finished our meal there was a loud banging at the door and in walked Thomas Luxton, Jessamine’s father! Ok so it was someone dressed up as him but what a convincing job he did…creepiest guy EVER! He led us through a candlelight tour of The Poison Gardens which was amazing, sinister, atmospheric and fun! After that we wandered back home to the castle (hehe!) and a few of us bloggers sat out in the courtyard chatting books until past midnight. Books, bloggers and beautiful setting…bliss!

 Thomas Luxton
 Entering The Poison Gardens
Inside The Poison Gardens

The next morning, after not the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had if I’m honest (sleeping in a castle is scary and Hedwig wouldn’t shut up!) we headed off to breakfast in a Hogwartesque style dining room, followed by a tour of the underground tunnels used by Jessamine and Weed when they visited the castle. I was very nervous here…so spooky! Then we had a few minutes for some photo’s at the part of the castle used as Hogwarts. 

 Breakfast room
 Recognise this?
Sarah and Kirsty

We’d been eyeing the gift shop eagerly since we arrived, and were very pleased when it was opened early before we headed off on our final leg of our trip. Lots of bloggers, gift shop, Harry potter stuff…you can imagine right! We jumped back on the mini buses and were took for another tour of The Poison Gardens, which was great to see in daylight and then had the chance to get our books signed by The Duchess Of Northumberland before heading to the bus that would take us all to the train station. Leaving was the only unhappy moment of the entire trip!

 The Poison Gardens in daylight. Less spooky… just as fascinating
 A Poisonous plant I can’t remember the name of…sorry!
 Sarah getting her book signed by The Duchess Of Northumberland
Time for one more photo before we leave, exhausted but full of happy memories

I’d like to thank The Duchess Of Northumberland for her unbelievable hospitality allowing us to visit her home like this, as well as friends and staff at Alnwick Castle whose enthusiasm, knowledge and passion for the place made the trip unforgettable. Thanks to the KDOT team for inviting me, co-ordinating and organising the whole event and making sure we all had a fantastic time. And finally thanks to bloggers Sarah, Kirsty, Susan, Jenny, Carla, Liz, Amanda, Anna and Lynsey for being such brilliant company. I’m sure we’ll talk about this for a long time to come!

More information:

By MaryRose Wood, & The Duchess Of Northumberland
In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .
Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure — or kill.
When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . . Out Now

Nightshade by MaryRose Wood, & The Duchess Of Northumberland
A dark, gothic tale of romance…and murder.
The latest book in the grippingly dark series, The Poison Diaries.
Our heroine, Jessamine, has lost faith in the men she loved, and her innocence as well. She turns to the dark side and plots to kill her father, using his own poisons, before becoming an assassin, a poisoner for hire. Can she recover from her heartache and reunite with her true love Weed? Find out in this thrilling story where poisons, darkness and horror are part of everyday life, and love is the only cure.

Published in the UK by HarperCollins September 2011

* Trip photo’s taken by myself and by Sarah Gibson of

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