Things to See and Do

Here are some ideas for places we might visit and other things we might do while you’re in Newcastle. This is just a skeleton at present; I will add more as time permits.

Castles, abbeys, and other medieval and Renaissance sites

Newcastle metro area

  • Newcastle Keep — the remains of a 12th-Century castle (the “new castle” for which the city was named) that was built on the site of a Roman fort (presumably the “old castle”).
  • Bessie Surtees House — Two merchants’ houses from the 16th and 17th Centuries. In Newcastle. Although I’m not big on restored houses, these are interesting and since they are managed by English Heritage, they won’t cost  me anything to visit again. Easily walkable from the city center and Newcastle Keep.
  • Hadrian’s Wall and Segedunum — Newcastle is home to the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall. The AD122 bus offers hop-on-hop-off service to explore the Wall, and you don’t have to limit yourself to the Newcastle part. We could start or end with Segedunum, which is one block from the Wallsend Metro station. You could even take the AD122 all the way to Carlisle and then take a national coach back to Newcastle.
  • Tynemouth Priory and Castle — We absolutely must go here, and we’ll spend a little time in the charming town of Tynemouth and walk along the beach. If we go on a weekend, we can also visit the flea market at Tynemouth Metro Station. Tynemouth is 25-minute Metro ride from Newcastle.

Nearby cities and towns

  • Prudhoe Castle — This would be a half-day trip, as it takes about an hour each way to get there and back.
  • Hexham Abbey — We could combine this with a trip to Prudhoe, as they are on the same train line.
  • Durham Cathedral — “the greatest Norman building in England, perhaps even in Europe.” A magnificant cathedral that, alas, does not allow photography inside. I’ve been there (and as of April 8 will have sung there with a choir) but would be more than happy to go again.
  • Durham Castle — A Norman castle originally built in the 11th Century. We will need to get tickets for a guided tour, as the castle is in use by Durham University College.
  • Holy Island of Lindisfarne — About 90 minutes away by car. We would have to check the safe crossing times, as the island is connected to the mainland by a causeway that is drivable only at low tide. But it has a priory (managed by English Heritage) and a castle (managed by the National Trust), plus some pubs and cafes. (Do you know, it was only a couple of years ago that I learned that Lindisfarne is not in Ireland!)
  • Jedburgh Abbey — TBS
  • Bamburgh Castle — TBS

Museums

Newcastle metro area

  • Laing Art Gallery — This is in central Newcastle and is about a 20-minute walk from my flat.
  • Biscuit Factory — A contemporary art gallery with a very nice cafe. It’s only a ten-minute walk from my flat and would be perfect for a rainy afternoon.
  • Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art — on the other side of the Tyne from me, but it could be a pleasant half-hour walk. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the exhibits but have not yet visited it myself.
  • Discovery Museum — “Discover all about life in Newcastle and Tyneside, from the area’s renowned maritime history and world-changing science and technology right through to fashion through the eras and military history.” Reachable by bus or on foot from the center of Newcastle (probably about two miles from my flat).
  • Beamish — Billed as “The Living Museum of the North”, this place has exhibits relating to mining, shipbuilding, culture, transportation, and other aspects of living in the North of England from Victorian times on. I haven’t been there yet, but I do plan to go. I’m told you can’t see it all in one day.

Nearby cities and towns

Newcastle city center attractions

  • Grainger Market — A fabulous indoor market where I buy my nuts, dried fruits, and fresh fruits/vegetables.
  • Central Arcade — Not a gaming arcade full of videogames, but a beautiful small shopping mall with an arched ceiling running the length of it (what do you think “arcade” means, anyhow? :-). It contains a lovely music store called JG Windows. (Dale Music it ain’t, but for a city that has only 20% as many people as the Washington area it’s wonderful.)

Parks and other outdoor places

  • Jesmond Dene — TBS
  • Angel of the North — A huge sculpture that has come to be symbolic of the North East of England. I find it to be exceedingly ugly, but if you want to see it I’m happy to help you get there. It’s reachable by local bus.
  • Hadrian’s Wall — see above.

Day trips

  • Durham — The whole city is a World Heritage Site. It’s home to Durham Cathedral, Durham Castle, Durham University museums, and a small but charming city centre. Durham is very close to Newcastle, only 12 minutes on the train followed by 10 minutes on a bus.
  • York — TBS
  • Berwick upon Tweed — TBS
  • Holy Island of Lindisfarne (see above)

Organizations

I am a member of English Heritage. This organization manages a lot of castles and priories around here, and membership can be very cost effective. As an overseas visitor, you can get a 9-day or 16-day Overseas Visitor Pass, and if you visit 5-6 English Heritage sites during your stay the pass will pay for itself (especially if you plan to go to Stonehenge, where a single adult admission is £7.80). I will definitely take you to Tynemouth Priory and Castle, so you should look at EH’s other properties and see if the visitor pass is worthwhile for you.

The other organization of this sort is the National Trust. I am not a member of this organization because I have always been under the impression that they manage mostly restored stately houses, which don’t interest me. But I am realizing that they do more than that, and I am considering joining them as well.

  1. You are right, National Trust do Houses and Schenes of natural beauty, while National Heritage to castles; there is very little overlap. I have been an NT member for over 25 years but I consider joining NH as well. I find NT membership extremely good value for money, for my interests in houses and forest walks; as good as IEEE for my engineering interests.

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