The Poison Garden of Alnwick, Where Beauty and Danger Coexist

The Poison Garden holds a dark treasure as it contains the most poisonous species in the entire kingdom.

Isabel Cara

The Poison Garden of Alnwick

There are plenty of reasons to visit Alnwick Castle, one of the most imposing places in the UK, but amidst its majestic views, magic is not the only thing that exists, as beauty coexists with lethality in the Poisonous Garden. Different from all the botanical paradises in the world built by man, the Poison Garden holds a dark treasure as it contains the most poisonous species in the entire kingdom.

Built in 1096 by Yves de Vescy, Baron of Alnwick, the castle is the most representative historical emblem of all of Northumberland. It is a truly imposing building that served as a stronghold to defend the English northern border from Scottish invasions. It managed to survive every battle and currently preserves its magical historicity. In fact, it was used to represent Hogwarts Castle in the first two installments of the Harry Potter magical world.

It is undoubtedly a majestic construction with mysteries hidden inside it. One of them is the so-called Poisonous Garden, a botanical collection so lethal that it is guarded by a heavy, black iron gate that allows entry only under the watchful eye of the guides.

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The Poison Garden of Alnwick

IIt was opened in 1996 by Jane Percy, who became a duchess in a completely unexpected way. Until 1995, Percy was an ordinary Englishwoman with no title, but suddenly everything changed when she and her husband became the twelfth Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. They suddenly had to deal with the management of the castle and their new obligations.

As Percy walked through the surrounding gardens of Alnwick Castle, many of which were carefully designed by landscape architect Capability Brown, she came face to face with a completely neglected area. She immediately set to work on it, turning it into what is now the deadliest garden of all. She hired an architect and landscaper Jacques Wirtz to give a dark twist to the typical botanical gardens full of roses. Instead, Percy had something much more dangerous in mind.

Initially, the duchess planned to build a medicinal herb garden with hundreds of plants, but a trip to the Medici’s ancient garden would completely transform her idea when she discovered that lethal species were being cultivated there. Thus, she decided that her new acquisition should be a Poisonous Garden.

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Currently, the Poison Garden covers 14 acres where over 100 species of poisonous plants are grown. Visits are certainly very special, the rule is not to touch or smell any of the plants that live there, as these small actions could be highly dangerous. There you can see everything from the famous hemlock with which Socrates paid for his sins in Plato’s accounts, to the beautiful but toxic foxglove. Other species that inhabit the Poison Garden include Atropa belladonna, strychnine nux-vomica, and Rincinus communis.

The Poison Garden is a clear example that beauty can be combined with the shadowy side of demise and that we must have respect for nature, which is not always as gentle as it appears.

Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera.