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
This is a lovely little spot it is just down the road from Leazes Park, near the football stadium They do beer, food, music and a load of differing exhibitions and stuff. They have several rooms and you can also drink and sit outside. Barkollo is very ‘Amsterdam’ indeed and a lot like having a drink around a pal’s house. It has a really nice laid back and informal atmosphere and loads of lovely arty eclectic little touches, in both it’s decor and overall groove. Like all the best bars, you can instantly tell it is run by people who actually care, putting it miles away from anything mainstream and positioning it smack in the City’s underground.
Everything other places seem to be abandoning they embrace. If you haven’t been here before you absolutely must go, as it will put a smile on your face ,to see that bars like this one are now open in Newcastle & if this is the way things are finally starting to go.
Simple & cute though it may seem, this bar a major leap forward for central Newcastle & i honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.
Shieldhall, Capability Brown's family home (he is buried in the nearby pretty church) is Celia and Stephen Robinson-Gay's blisful B&B in the green rolling Northumberland countryside. Very comfortable bedrooms named after the wood used in them (we usually stay in the Oak Room) have ample bathrooms with soft towels. Celia's excellent breakfasts and (optional) dinners, incorporating local and often organic ingredients, are eaten at antique tables or one made by Stephen (an outstanding furniture maker/restorer) among elegant glass and silver antiques. With a sitting room/well stocked library and local walks, Shieldall is within easy reach of Alnwick and Bamburgh castles, Lindisfarne, Cragside, hadriaan's Wall and the Cheviots.
Britain's traditional Victorian Turkish baths are great places to relax, recharge and escape. Many are council run and reasonably priced. Newcastle's Turkish Bath has a steam room (Suditorium), three dry rooms (Tepidarium, Calidarium, Laconium), a shampoo room (Lavarium) with cooling spa (28°C) and a lounge and rest area (Frigidarium). If you wish it is possible to have a massage. As well as dedicated male and female sessions there are monthly naturist sessions combined with use of the swimming pool.
South Shields to Seaton Sluice and return. I've done this ride a few times and its a great way to shake off the cobwebs, either with friends or on your own.
From South Shields head west and meet any other riders at the Tyne Tunnel 'pedestrian' entrance (more info here:www.bridgesonthetyne.co.uk/tyneped.html).
Come out of the tunnel and turn right. Follow the cycle route up the slight incline and bear right. Cross the road after about 500 metres and go along the side of Percy Main Cricket Ground. Pick up the cycle way and continue straight on, following cycle way marked '10' - part of the Reivers Route. Continue for around five miles and as you hit a new cycle way turn off the route '10' heading north easterly to East Hollywell. Head down the farm track and follow the track into Hollywell village, tacking a right had turn into Holywell Dene Road. The road turns into track after about 100 metres and after a further 400 metres turn right onto the old railway track, a few miles on you reach a road where you turn right and pass Seaton Deleval Hall, a national Trust property of some granduer (see www.seatondelaval.org.uk/Hall.html). Continue down into Seaton Sluice for great views of the sea and the spot where Robson Green says he learned to swim! We usually stop at the Waterford Arms (www.waterfordarms.co.uk/) which does great fish and chips.
From here its south all the way, following Route 1 and the coastline. Past the spectacular St Mary's lighthouse and on to Tynemouth Priory, the burial place of three English Kings, though I can never remember which ones. From here it's best to head for the Ferry and avoid any traffic. The ferry runs every 15 minutes and takes you into the heart of South Shields, two minutes from the market square. There's a great pub called the Allum House right next to the ferry landing but I'll be giving it a miss - just because if I stop off there on Boxing Day I might not want to leave!
A good ride of about 25 miles.
Many people will have walked the streets of Newcastle without ever knowing what lies a few feet beneath them...
The Victoria tunnel is a wagon way that runs for three miles underneath Newcastle city centre. Dug out in 1842 to carry coal from the Town Moor colliery at Spittal Tongues to the keelboats on the Tyne, it then lay unused from 1860 to 1940, when it served as an air raid shelter and pedestrian subway.
Volunteer guides now run guided walks for small groups(choice of half hour or two hours) and bring its history alive with infectious enthusiasm.
The tunnel entrance is in Ouseburn. For more information and to book a tour visit www.ouseburntrust.org
Nice and simple English food locally sourced. I love fresh food and this comes very fresh indeed. Hidden away, but worth finding it for the great food at very good prices. One of Newcastle's best kept secrets. Small but mighty.
0191 232 4949
situated behind the laing art gallery in newcastle city centre.
This club is over 20 years old but if ever you needed proof of something getting better with age Jumpin' Hot is it. Blues, roots, ska, it seems to effortlessly combine quality music to move to, with a Newcastle flair. Punters are friendly, the atmosphere is sweaty and the dancing hectic, if not always great.
A superb night out - don't even bother seeing who's on, just go and you'll enjoy it.
If you're tired of Italian, Indian, and Chinese restaurants, then this might be just up your street.
Eemaan is a Kurdish restaurant in Newcastle,so when I saw it I felt I just had to try it. The food was delicious and the surroundings friendly. I got an even better surprise when I checked out the bill, which was fabulously value-for-money.
Kurdish food, I found out, is mostly rice and delicious casseroles with fresh naan, washed down with loads of mastow. The Kurdish and middle eastern people drink lashings of this yoghurt drink. If you've still got any room left after the huge portions, try a steaming hot Kurdish tea which they brew in a samovar and a selection of pastries.
This restaurant makes cooking rice an art form, and I loved the yummy naan. If you've never tried Kurdish food before, I wholeheartedly recommend that you do, although a word of warning - as a halal restaurant it does not serve alcohol.
Address: 5 Mill Lane, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Link to review by Evening Chronicle: icnewcastle.icnetwork.co.uk/0300entertainment/nightsout/tm_headline=eemann-newcastle%26method=full%26objectid=19564620%26siteid=50081-name_page.html
If you can't face legions of beered-up teenagers swaying around the Bigg Market or Quayside then head along the Tyne to where the Ouse flows into the river. It's little more than a stream but, starting at the Free Trade pub up on the bank and following the path towards Armstrong Bridge, you can take in a handful of unspoilt boozers including The Tyne bar, The Ship, The Cluny and finally - and most fantastically - the Cumberland.
You can get a special bus from Central Station or take the Metro to Byker and walk.
It's intimate, sweaty and funky. They serve the best local and unusual beers and attract the newest and most interesting bands.
Find it down in the Ouseburn valley, about 10 mins from the heat of Newcastle city. www.headofsteam.co.uk/default.aspx?tabid=10194
Half a mile of golden sand, and stretching a good distance back to the cliff slopes. Ideal for an afternoon in the sun, swimming and with a wonderful surf - it's one of the UK Surfing Championship locations. In the cooler months it's perfect for walking, jogging and sport; you'll even catch the Toon training there on occasions.
Tynemouth is an old village bursting with charm and history. Located at the mouth of the River Tyne, (surprisingly!), ten miles east of Newcastle it is easily accesible by the local Metro service or car.
A very bohemian restaurant on ‘arty’ Heaton Road – extremely popular retreat with a loyal following, offering a variety of tasty and unusual dishes. Booking in advance essential. (Also doubles up as a sort of community activity centre, offering meditation classes and a book club!)
182 Heaton Road, Heaton, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, NE6 5HP, 0191 2092571, www.skyapple.co.uk
This is a cracking real ale pub at the top of the slope leading down to the South Shields ferry. Excellent beers are always on offer and you can often get a quick taster to help you make your mind up. It's friendly, cosy and inviting and you can't beat grabbing a berth in one of the pub's two bay windows for unsurpassed views across the Tyne to North Shields.
River Drive, South Shields, Tyne and Wear, NE33 1JR. Nearest Metro station: South Shields (or you can pile off the Shields ferry and head up the bank)
This is a five minute crossing of the River Tyne between North and South Shields which presents a panorama of cranes on the banks of the mighty Tyne. They stand like giant preying mantis etched on the western sky, looking bereft. The ships which were once their prey are gone, now made in warmer climes where the workers can be paid less. The lovely wee ferry provides a glimpse, an echo, of more heroic times when a worker took pride in wages earned by real skills.
And to the east lies the North Sea, as cold and uninviting as it sounds. Yet still the trawlers venture out of the mouth of the Tyne in search of the mighty cod, and Norway beckons, inviting the Geordie to embark on a yet more arduous ferry journey to frigid fjords where they can languish on the latitude of an Arctic circle.
Take the metro from the centre of Newcastle to North Shields then follow the Pedestrian Ferry signs to the River Tyne. Upon disembarking take the metro from South Shields back to Newcastle. The Day Saver ticket on the metro covers the cost of the ferry.
Children love this adventure, and a great pint of ale can be had at the Alum pub by the ferry at South Shields.
Simply the finest fish and chips in the country. If the fish were any fresher it would be flapping on your plate. The portions are massive, the mushy peas reassuringly green and you eat off real formica tables. Tea, bread and butter accompany your order. It doesn't get any better than this.
Marshall's, Tynemouth, North East of England.
Tynemouth is around 8 miles east of Newcastle
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