A long weekend in spring is the perfect excuse to take off along the Coast & Castles cycle route. 200 miles from Newcastle to Edinburgh (the direction for more favourable winds), the route uses sections of National Routes 1 and 76 and cyclists can expect a mixture of traffic free tracks and quiet minor roads, all well marked and at gradients accessible to most abilities.
True to its name the route certainly doesn’t disappoint, skimming the impressive North East coastline and offering beautiful beaches alongside lush countryside. Views to savour from the saddle include Holy Island, Tynemouth Priory, Chathill Station and Alnmouth with its colourful houses hugging the shoreline. Keep an eye out for The Ducket, the explanation of such an interesting building is worth stopping to read.
The route isn’t short of castles and spotting them keeps the ride interesting. The most impressive being Bamburgh, standing proud on the beach. A personal favourite is Warkworth, best experienced when the Daffodils are in full bloom.
To kick start the holiday feeling begin with lunch on Newbiggin beach while examining the Sean Henry statue of a couple in the sea. Make sure that feeling lasts until the final afternoon with lunch on the village green at East Linton.
Start and finish accessible by train (book cycle spaces to avoid disappointment).
Cheap and unique accommodation along the route at the Hideaway Hostel, Berwick and Bells Bothy Bunkhouse.
Although actually in Gateshead, this superb restoration of a Victorian pub is well worth crossing the Tyne for. Tucked behind the monolithic Hilton Hotel, it's a peculiar wedge-shaped building that was originally built in 1856. Not so long ago it was a decrepit wreck but thanks to the efforts of the Head of Steam company plus a generous grant - it's back on song. There's a beautifully restored buffet and snug and even a roof terrace on which to quaff 14 ales. Oh, and Sting's been in.
I’m surprised this café hasn’t been reviewed before. My daughter had mentioned this place to me several times but I didn’t think I wanted to eat there because of its location on Westgate Road among the motor bike shops.
It’s a small café selling authentic Persian food with a special Persian dish of the day, including minced lamb skewered kebabs, saffron marinated chicken with rice and flatbread everything made fresh that day.
This is also the place for a big Sunday cooked breakfast (under £5) to cure hangovers, popular with those staying local for the weekend. Couples and families take over on a Sunday afternoon.
On my first visit I ate aubergine dip, which is to die for (you could taste the smoked aubergine and garlic). I could have eaten a whole plateful with flatbread - the flatbread is made to order and takes a couple of moments to cook. Then I had the special of the day, salmon in a green herb sauce with rice, mint and coriander salad.
My daughter ate mixed meats, saffron chicken on the bone, lamb chops and lamb kebab with rice and endless cups of Persian tea. Cost was £15 for both of us, bargain. (I’m working my way through the menu and have never been disappointed.)
It’s a café so don’t expect linen table cloths, the staff were friendly, the food tasted delicious, they explained the dishes are authentic and not adapted to the western palate and for that reason I love it.
233 Westagate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne
+44(0)191 232 0276
Google map: bit.ly/ttOngJ
Stay on Newcastle Quayside and you'll be in shopaholic heaven. Less than 10 minutes from the Metrocentre, five minutes from the city centre and if you really want to branch out and discover quirky, one off shops, leafy Jesmond is about 15 minutes away. On Sunday Armstrong Bridge in Jesmond showcases the work of local artists and jewelers. If you can't find what you're looking ask for a quote to custom make a piece of jewelery or commission a painting, you'll be surprised at how reasonable it is. At night the Quayside comes alive with bars and restaurants catering for all budgets. On Sunday morning browse through the Quayside market for leather goods, metal work or handmade pottery. There is such a good friendly atmosphere in this place, and for those who like to mix a bit of culture with their shopping there's always the Baltic (free) which is currently staging The Turner Prize or the Sage Gateshead for something musical. Watch out at the Sage though or you could end up taking part.
Google map: bit.ly/s6nqbV
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