My mother and I are planning a trip to Scotland and we have set aside one day to visit Alnwick castle as I am a huge harry potter fan and it looks interesting in general! We were hoping to travel on our own there, via trains and buses, as the pre-planned tours don't give us enough time there. We will be staying in Edinburgh, wanting to catch a train from there to Alnmouth and then the bus from Alnmouth to Alnwick (this will be on a weekday, probably a thursday). I have already looked up the trains, and I feel comfortable pre-booking those, as there is only one train on the weekday morning that will get me there early enough (I want to be in Alnwick by 9:30 am.
My question is: What should I all pre-book? I would feel okay pre-booking the castle and train, as I feel uneasy leaving it up to chance and there was only the one train that really worked for us. But do I need to pre-book the buses from Alnmouth to Alnwick and back? We were wanting to leave after the castle and garden closes (5 or 6), and it looks like there are quite a few going that evening. I didn't think I would want to pre-book the buses (in case the trains weren't on time, etc.) but I noticed the buses only leave every hour, so if one is booked, it could make a mess of our plans. Do they get booked full often? should i pre-book them, if so what is the official bus site that I would visit?
A couple additional questions regarding Alnwick castle and gardens, are the gardens worth it? I am very interested in the castle and in harry potter, so how long should i plan on spending there? how long at the gardens?
I realize that's a lot of questions, but any help would be appreciated, thank you!