According to Country Life, October 2002, "Alnwick is the most picturesque market town in Northumberland, and the best place to live in Britain". The town is situated largely on the south bank of the River Aln, south of Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Scottish border, inland from the North Sea at Alnmouth and north of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne.
The town dates back to approximately AD 600, and over the centuries has thrived as an agricultural centre; as the location of Alnwick Castle and home of what were in mediaeval times the most powerful northern barons, the Earls of Northumberland; as a staging post on the Great North Road between Edinburgh and London, and latterly as a modern rural centre cum dormitory town. The fabric of the town centre has changed relatively little and still retains much of its original character; however there has been appreciable growth in size over the last ten years, with a number of housing estates covering what had been pasture, and new factory and trading estate developments along the roads to the south of the town.
The history of Alnwick is the history of the castle and its lords, from the days of Gilbert Tyson, variously known as Tison, Tisson, and De Tesson, one of the Conqueror's standardbearers, upon whom this northern estate was bestowed, until the present time. After being held by the family of De Vesci (of which the modern rendering is Vasey – a name found all over south-east Northumberland) for over two hundred years, it passed into the hands of the house of Percy in 1309.
At various points in the town are memorials of the constant wars between Percys and Scots in which so many Percys spent the greater part of their lives. A cross near Broomhouse Hill across the river from the castle marks the spot where Malcolm III of Scotland was killed in 1093, during the first Battle of Alnwick. At the side of the broad shady road called Ratten Row, leading from the West Lodge to Bailiffgate, a tablet of stone marks the spot where William the Lion of Scotland was captured in 1174, during the second Battle of Alnwick by a party of about four hundred mounted knights, led by Ranulf de Glanvill; and there are many others of similar interest.
Hulne Priory, outside the town walls and within Hulne Park, the Duke's walled estate, was a monastery founded in the 13th century by the Carmelites; it is said that the site was chosen for some slight resemblance to Mount Carmel where the order originated. Substantial ruins remain.
In 1314, Sir John Felton was governor of Alnwick. In the winter of 1424, much of the town was burnt by a Scottish raiding party. Again, in 1448, the town was burnt by a Scottish Army led by William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, and George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus.
In 1968 work started on the Alnwick by-pass, intended to remove the A1 London – Edinburgh trunk road from the heart of the town to its outer edge. This bypass is now complete.