A trip report on my recent travel to the fascinating, historic and charming cities of Newcastle and Gateshead
When I first heard the name of the city Newcastle upon Tyne, I thought the city would be full of beautiful castles. I was partially wrong. The city has many bridges – some of which are engineering marvels – that connects the cities of Newcastle and Gateshead, in North East of England. There is, however, a small castle right in the middle of the city, preserved perhaps as a symbolic reference to the glorious past of the city and the region.
As this was my first ever trip to the United Kingdom, I was naturally excited. The plan was to fly down to Newcastle, spend few days there and then take the train to one of my dream cities, London, stay there for a couple of days and then fly back to Dubai.
Okay, so what’s great about Newcastle and Gateshead? Both are small, relatively quieter and beautiful cities. There are plenty of things to do, see, and experience.
On the contrast, Northumberland region is a magical truly magical with ancient castles, beautiful gardens, unspoilt beaches, rolling hills, rugged moorland, spectacular views, friendly little market towns and villages.
Discovering Newcastle Gateshead & Northumberland…
How to get there?
The best thing about being based in Dubai and the UAE is that there are plenty of direct flights to almost all of the top destinations in the world. All you have to do is checkout Wego to find the best deals on flight and hotel bookings!
And if you are flying with a world class airline like Emirates, 8 hours just flies and you are in Newcastle!
Now if you are flying down to London, you can reach Newcastle from London by train in about three hours, with ticket prices as cheap as £56.
About Newcastle and Gateshead
Newcastle is a buzzing northern city well-loved for its lively nightlife, great shopping and inspiring selection of cultural treats, while just across the river, the neighbouring city of Gateshead is home to the BALTIC gallery, a hotspot for modern art lovers.
Some history: Newcastle was a major industrial port city back in the 17th century, exporting coal and also a thriving shipping industry. However, with post-industrial decline over the last 30 odd years, the city has transformed itself into a cultural landmark and is now renowned for being the business and social hub of the North East. In contrast to its industrial heritage, the city is also known for its environmental awareness and is even planning to become the first Carbon Neutral town in the UK.
Newcastle has got glorious Victorian architecture, fine museums, parks, pubs and cafes, beautiful countryside, seaside and the finest collection of bridges!
Northumberland is a beautiful county and has more castles than any other county in England. Must visits are the Bamburgh Castle in its magnificent surrounding settings and Alnwick Castle, which stood in for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. The county was once the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire, it also has Hadrian’s Wall which stretches 73 miles across the north of England, much of it across the top of Northumberland. Northumberland is around 3.5 hours away from London by train and 30 minutes from Newcastle International Airport by car.
Upon reaching Newcastle airport, we went straight to Jesmond Dene House hotel, which is one and a half miles north of Newcastle Upon Tyne city centre. After staying at some of the top hotels in Maldives, India, UAE, and Switzerland, I was totally blown away with the hotel’s architecture and the surrounding magnificient garden. Thoroughly loved staying there as the room, service and food was exceptional.
I would certainly go back again, and certainly recommend this hotel for anyone who wants a special stay in the beautiful city of Newcastle upon Tyne.
I was lucky to visit a few interesting places during my visit to Newcastle Gateshead and Northumberland. Here they are:
The Quayside is one of the most lively spots in NewcastleGateshead. Flanking both sides of the River Tyne, it’s a fantastic place for scenic strolls, a romantic meal at one of Newcastle and Gateshead’s best restaurants or a lively night out in Newcastle.
The Quayside Newcastle upon Tyne has also many amazing places to see and visit ranging from historic houses and buildings to excellent cosmopolitan restaurants to the fantastic Millennium Bridge. We went for a stroll and along the Quayside and as it was a market day we found several different stalls selling creative crafts. What better way to engage the community in fostering entrepreneurship by providing them the space to exhibit their creativity.
Along the banks is the stunning Sage Gateshead, a concert venue and also a centre for musical education. Designed by Foster and Partners and completed in 2004, the building is an example of high-tech architecture and ‘blobitecture’.
There are plenty of Quayside restaurants overlooking the Tyne where you can relish on some of the most exquisite culinary dishes.
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art is an art lovers paradise hosting exhibitions from time to time.
BALTIC is a major international centre for contemporary art situated on the south bank of the River Tyne in Gateshead, England and has welcomed over eight million visitors since opening to the public in July 2002. BALTIC presents a distinctive and ambitious programme of exhibitions and events, and is a world leader in the presentation and commissioning of contemporary visual art.
Housed in a landmark ex-industrial building, BALTIC consists of 2,600 square metres of art space, making it the UK’s largest dedicated contemporary art institution. BALTIC has gained an international reputation for its commissioning of cutting-edge temporary exhibitions. It has presented the work of over 460 artists of 60 nationalities in 220 exhibitions to date.
Fuego in Fenwick
Fuego is located on the ground floor of Fenwick Newcastle, an upscale department store selling premium and luxury products. The dishes at Fuego are designed to allow you to explore the menu, giving ample opportunity to try a varied selection, from authentic Mediterranean-inspired tapas and the finest Italian and Spanish charcuterie to stone-baked Napoli-style pizzas.
I tried their veggie selection and thoroughly enjoyed the Falafel and the grilled vegetables.
Fuego also offers a full vegetarian menu and wheat-free menu for coeliacs.
Laing Art Gallery
The Laing Art Gallery on New Bridge Street is home to an impressive collection of art and sculpture with it’s programme of displays and events renowned for bringing the biggest names in historic, modern and contemporary art to the North East.
There’s always something to keep everyone entertained and informed such as exhibition talks, family friendly activities and artist hosted events. Many of these events, like the gallery, are free of charge.
With an impressive permanent collection displayed year-round, you can enjoy dynamic landscapes by John Martin, sculpture by Henry Moore, plus much more. The works on show change regularly to show the impressive range of art in the collection so please contact the gallery if you wish to see a particular piece of work.
The display also showcases local people’s photographs, films and stories. Information on the artworks and local stories are presented on touch-screen computers and an interactive map of photos and information provides an ever-changing picture of art and contemporary culture in the North East.
STACK is a creative social hub for entertainment, culture, work and play. Whether you’re looking to do a little shopping at some of the best independent, local retailers or stop off for a bite to eat – STACK is a warm, welcoming and perfectly situated haven in the midst of bustling Newcastle.
Tuck into a wide range of mouth-watering cuisine at kiosk and street food style pop containers. You can travel the world of cuisine with just one visit to STACK.
Blackfriars is an award winning restaurant located in a 13th-century medieval friary in the heart of Newcastle.
With its Dominican origins dating back to 1239, and a long and turbulent history that included a spell as a hostel for King Henry III, as a former inner-city monastery, Blackfriars is undeniably unique. The restaurant, which now occupies the oldest dining room in the UK, serves guests traditional-British cooking with local seasonal produce often straight from the nearby farms and markets.
We went for dinner at Blackfriars and the restaurant is as unique it can be. I tried the haddock with grilled veggies and can see why the restaurant was voted Taste of England by the North East England Tourism Awards. Perfect in quality, taste and service!
Located next to the main restaurant Blackfriars’ ornate medieval Banquet Hall has been brought back to life following years of painstaking and meticulous research and restoration. The celebrated venue of King Edward III boasts authentic and bespoke banners, chandeliers, wall coverings, stained-glass windows, a large oak dining tables and matching chairs.
Blackfriars is open for lunch and dinner every day (except for Sunday evenings) and throughout the week offers a fantastic Working Lunch menu.
The Alnwick Garden and the Poison Garden
The Alnwick Garden is a multi-award winning visitor attraction based in Alnwick, Northumberland.
12 acres of meandering and magnificent Gardens are home to the world’s largest Tai Haku Cherry Orchard, a Grand Cascade comprising 120 water jets and the world’s largest Treehouse Restaurant.
Bamburgh Castle has stood guard above the spectacular Northumberland coastline for over 1,400 years. Spanning nine acres of land on its rocky plateau, Bamburgh Castle is one of the largest inhabited castles in the country. Once home to the kings of ancient Northumbria, Bamburgh Castle is one of Northumberland’s most iconic buildings.
The Bamburgh castle we see today is a relatively recent structure, built by famed industrialist the first Lord Armstrong at vast cost in late Victorian times. Lord Armstrong was also responsible for building Cragside House, Gardens & Estates.
Although the castle boasts a much longer history: there have been settlements on the site since prehistoric times and the regular archaeological digs that take place on the site have unearthed some spectacular finds.
Bamburgh Castle has 14 public rooms and more than 2,000 artefacts, including arms and armour, porcelain, furniture and artwork.
Timings and Prices
Bamburgh Castle is open daily until Sunday 1st November 2020.
10.00am until 5.00pm (last admission 4pm)
CHILD (AGED 5 – 18) £5.75
LITTLE ADVENTURERS (AGED 0 – 4) Free of Charge
FAMILY (two adults and up to three children aged under 18) £29.95
All year round – a star gazing and astronomy heaven! Kielder Observatory is located in the heart of Northumberland International Dark Sky Park.
It was quite an interesting place. When we reached the observatory at around 9pm, it was pitch dark and we were guided to the observatory using a pen torch kinda low light. Once you are inside the observatory, the scientists and researchers will give a lecture on astronomy. The guys are so good that they will enlighten you with so much information and humour, which will surely keep you intrigued.
Apparently, Kielder Observatory have have the largest expanse of dark night sky in the whole of Europe, thanks to minimal light pollution. Winter nights are darkest and best for viewing deep sky objects such as galaxies, while in summer you can view the beautiful Milky Way, passing comets, shooting stars and see the Sun’s surface using their incredible telescope.
The Gillian Dickinson Astroimaging Academy is situated alongside the existing Kielder Observatory. The facility is dedicated to teaching, learning and research and features fully automated telescopes, a retractable roof and presentation room. As well as hosting educational and community events, its high tech research grade instruments and tracking mounts allow professional astronomers to spot distant planets around far away stars, conduct supernova searches and plot asteroids.
You need to plan your visit and book your ticket in advance from their website. Ticket prices are £25 for Adults.
Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is another place where you can see thousands of stars and even the Milky Way, depending on your luck – if weather permits.
Stretching 73 miles across the country from Wallsend in the east to Bowness on the Solway Firth Hadrian’s Wall was built under the orders of Emperor Hadrian in AD122. Taking over 6 years to build, the wall boasted 80 milecastles, 17 larger forts and a defensive earthwork, the Vallum, to the south.
Hadrian’s Wall became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, joining a list of places that are so special they are deemed important to the whole of humanity. Hadrian’s Wall leaves a lasting impression on any who visit, including writer George RR Martin who used it as inspiration for his own Wall in the bestselling books and hit TV series, Game of Thrones.
After visiting these amazing places I feel like perhaps every stone in the country has got a lot of history to tell. Sometimes of innumerable bloody battles and wars, and sometimes of the glorious wins.
Today, rest assured if you visit Northumberland, which is one of the most sparsely populated county in England, you will find peace, beauty and tranquillity in every little corner
Other Top Attractions in Newcastle
Life Science Centre
Remember the first cloned Dolly the sheep? even though it was cloned at Edinburg, the researchers at Life Science Centre in Newcastle were also involved in this major breakthrough.
Standing at 20 metres high and 54 metres wide, this striking work of public art by Sir Antony Gormley was completed in 1998 on the hill in Birtley to overlook the scenic Gateshead landscape.
Constructed in Hartlepool using weather-resistant steel, the statue is admired by over 150,000 visitors a year and is said to signify the transition from an industrial to an information age.
St James’ Park
Home to Newcastle’s very own football club, Newcastle United, St. James’ Park is a mecca for soccer fans and Newcastle United F.C. supporters alike.
St James’ Park stands as one of the most popular and visited monuments in the region. With an atmosphere that is second to none on a match day, with cheers and chants ringing out across the city, a day out at St. James’ Park is a must for any footie lover.
The Theatre Royal is a historic theatre, a Grade I listed building situated on Grey Street in Newcastle upon Tyne. As well as various plays and performances, the theatre offers public theatre tours, private theatre tours, and a ‘tour, talk & tea’.
The Grade I Listed Theatre today is both neo-classical monument and cultural engine, with an annual audience of 337,000 and over 400 performances each year. The third home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, alongside Stratford-upon-Avon and London, its programme is rich and varied featuring world-class drama, including National Theatre productions, an Opera North Season, and a rich array of contemporary dance, musicals and comedy.
Disclosure: I was part of Media Familiarization trip organized and sponsored by Wego in coordination with VisitBritain.