Car-free adventures aroundNewcastleTyne and Wear
Newcastle is famous for its iconic bridges over the River Tyne, for its ship-building, coal-mining heritage, and for its ongoing wealth of breweries. Not quite so many visitors know there are also world-class museums and galleries on both sides of the Tyne. Take cultural café crawls through Georgian arcades, Victorian markets and post-industrial creative centres. Or hike along the course of Hadrian’s Wall, celebrating its 1900th birthday in 2022. And, on sunny days, head out to the Tyneside coast by bus, metro or boat.
Arrive by train
LNER’s high speed Azuma trains make the journey from London King’s Cross to Newcastle in less than three hours and from Edinburgh in under an hour and a half. If you’re coming from the south, the railway speeds through York and Northallerton with the landscapes changing all the time. Look out in the fields beyond Darlington for the mounds of long-deserted medieval villages and the lines of ridge and furrow that show where farmers once ploughed the land.
- For the cheapest prices, book advance tickets.
- Don’t miss the soaring Romanesque towers of Durham cathedral and the battlements of Durham castle facing it from a neighbouring crag. There is a good view from the windows on the right-hand side of the carriage even if the train doesn’t stop there. Soon afterwards, you’ll see the Angel of the North spreading its wings on the bank above you.
- And if the views outside the window aren’t enough to divert you, there is free wi-fi and power sockets to help keep you entertained on the journey.
- From Newcastle Central Station it is just five minutes’ walk up Grainger Street to the huge indoor Grainger Market, selling Geordie gifts, 150 types of cheese, Chinese dumplings, vegan donuts and loads more.
Visit the Laing Gallery
Local wine merchant Alexander Laing paid for the elegant Laing art gallery, built in 1904. With floors of Frosterley marble, stained glass windows, and semi-circular murals of historical Newcastle at each end of the main galleries, the building itself makes it worth a visit.
- Add in paintings by Joshua Reynolds, Burne Jones, Stanley Spencer, Holman Hunt and more for a colourful feast of 18th and 19th century British art.
- Dramatic scenes of fire and brimstone by John Martin, born not far away near Hexham, wood engravings of birds and animals by Thomas Berwick, apprenticed in Newcastle, and artistic vases from the Sowerby glassworks in Gateshead are highlights of the Northern Spirit gallery, which showcases the region’s artistic treasures.
- How to reach the Laing art gallery without a car: the gallery is just five minutes’ walk from the Grainger market (turn right at unmissable Grey’s monument). Alternatively, hop on the Tyne and Wear metro one stop from Central Station to Monument and stroll along Blackett Street.
- When you’ve had your fill of art, don’t miss the Magic Hat café next door on Higham Place. The kitchen here cuts down on waste by producing fresh and lovely food and drink from surplus supermarket supplies that were destined for landfill.
Castle, kittiwakes and kilns
Five minutes from the station, in the other direction, you can reach Newcastle Castle, the 12th century fortification that gives the city its name. To get there from the Laing gallery, you could stroll down picturesque Grey Street (named after Earl Grey of tea fame) and past the lantern-spired cathedral. Beyond the castle, keep going down some of the city’s oldest streets towards the banks of the Tyne. In summer hundreds of noisy kittiwakes, the world’s most inland breeding colony, nest on ledges in the cliff-like granite columns of the Tyne bridge.
- Turn left along the Tyne to reach Ouseburn, a thriving hub for artists and musicians, cafés, pubs and museums in what was the birthplace of Tyneside’s industrial revolution. It’s an interesting mile’s walk eastwards beside the river. You pass the Victoria Tunnel, an underground wagonway that you can visit on a guided tour.
- Ouseburn is packed with great places to eat and drink. For seriously tasty food in a unique setting, seek out Kiln, a popular little café in a ceramics studio on Hume Street, selling inventive plates of food.
- Ten minutes’ walk back along the river, cross the spectacular Millennium Bridge to visit the Baltic art gallery, with 2600 square metres of exhibition space in a 1950s riverside flour mill in Gateshead on the Tyne’s southern bank. Don’t miss the fabulous panoramas from the free viewing platforms or, for a special occasion, book a feast with a view at Six, the Baltic’s fancy top-floor restaurant.