10 June, 2013 Update – it’s almost three years since I published this article, all of the stuff below still stands. Since 2010 I’ve had many more visits up to Alnwick and each time I’ve been really impressed with the store and the staff. I’ve just noticed Hardy have a great short story on their site detailing the history of the brand. It’s well worth a look if you’ve a moment.
Only an hours ride north of us is the beautiful Northumberland town of Alnwick. Alnwick is famous for its castle, home of Hogwarts School in the first of the Harry Potter films, it’s Gardens but most of all (for me anyway) the HQ of Hardy – makers of some of the finest fishing tackle available.
I was lucky enough to have a trip up to the Hardy Museum and store last month as a birthday present from my wife.
I had recently mentioned that I really must get back into fishing – I needed a hobby, something to get me out in the fresh air. I’ve tried Golf (and failed) and I didn’t fancy any ‘exercise’ based activities, so after an 8 year hiatus, fly fishing was back on the cards.
As the fishing I intended to do centred around small still waters and possible forays onto a river or two, I was in need of a new rod to suit. My existing gear was more suited to medium still waters and big ‘uns like Rutland.
So off we went, north up the A1 about around an hour from home.
Hardy HQ is on an industrial estate, not quite what I expected for such a prestigious company, but it is a ‘nice’ industrial estate!
The single storey building looks to be from perhaps the 1960’s (my guess, could be completely wrong) and does look reasonably grand with a pair of white pillars flanking the entrance doors. Outside the front is a large grassed area with a long narrow casting pool – always a good sign!
Inside the building is split almost in two – the right side houses the Museum, the left the shop.
The museum is interesting, with lots of rods, reels and paraphernalia from times gone by. Pictures of monster Salmon with flat cap and tweed wearing gents proudly standing by adorn the walls – rods made of exotic materials are safely displayed in glass cabinets.
All this is interesting, but not really why I wanted to go there. The main reason was on the other side of the building.
Taking up a reasonably large amount of space for any tackle shop is Hardy’s own store. They obviously stock predominantly Hardy and Greys tackle – and what a lot of it they have!
I didn’t check, but I’m pretty sure the rod display area has a made up version of every rod they sell. Without any fuss the guys from the store will set up a rod for you to try on the casting pool – surely the only way to buy a new rod (specially when you’re paying this much).
There was a fine selection of clothing, stacks of reels, a full range of line not to mention flies, fly boxes, waders, nets and all the other bits and pieces we ‘need’ to go fishing.
The hilight for me though was the discounted items.
I don’t know what the extent of other items where discounted, I only had interest in the rods and reels. If clothing, waders etc are your thing they may also be discounted buy you’ll need to check.
From what the very helpful member of staff was telling me, the discounted items are generally either ex-demo or have been out for magazine review or photography. Either way round they’ve certainly not seen any undue stress. With discounts of up to 40 and sometimes 50% it’s well worth taking a look.
Obviously there isn’t a full range of rods/reels available in the discount section. It is dependent on what has come back from testing/photography or perhaps what items have been discontinued.
After much perusing, and advice from the knowledgeable staff, I ended up with a Hardy Demon 9′ 5# rod and a Greys X-Flite reel. with the discount applied to both I saved a small fortune – I certainly wouldn’t have been able to justify buying both items if it wasn’t for the reduction in prices.
The rod has no signs of use – the rings are perfect with no wearing, the blank scratch free (even round the joins) and the cork un blemished. The only thing I need to do when I got it home was give the handle a quick clean with a baby wipe as had gone a little dull looking. One baby wipe later and it was once again as good as new!
The reel was in equally good condition. No scratches, dings or marks. It didn’t have its spare spools (but at £5 each that wasn’t an issue) but other than that I couldn’t, and still can’t tell the difference between it and the full price ‘new’ version.
To finish it off I purchased a floating WF line to match the rod. This was a Greys Premium at full price. However, as I bought the backing at the same time it was loaded onto the reel for free and a braided loop attached to the business end.
Aside from the huge range of full price and discounted items on show the customer service was second to none. We must have been there for nearly two hours, trying out rods, chatting about possible fishing venues and licence requirements looking round the museum and drooling over items that even with the discounts were a different league from what I could afford or justify.
My wife (who doesn’t fish) was treated to a lesson on the casting pool – I think with a bit more work she might be tempted to give it a go for real!
All in all I would certainly recommend a trip there. The museum is interesting, but if you’re traveling from far away, possibly not worth a purpose visit. But if you are in the market for some new gear then the tackle store and museum are a combination too hard to beat.
(The more observant amongst you may have noticed the rod and reel in the photo aren’t the two items I bought during my visit to the Hardy Museum. It’s my new Greys Streamflex with G series reel – I haven’t got round to taking pictures of the other two yet)
House of Hardy Museum and Country StoreWillowburn
- Telephone: (01665) 510027
- Fax: (01665) 602389
- Hardy & Greys contact details
If you do contact them, please be sure to let them know you read about them here 🙂