There are many great northern English cities, but Newcastle has got to be my favourite. It's not a place you would go for your annual summer holiday...actually I take that back as it is on the doorstep of Northumberland, probably England's finest county: castles, coastline, nature, islands, cathedrals, never-ending history; and next door to the home of northern England's real patron saint, St Cuthbert who is “At Home” in Durham. Note: England should really drop St George (Turkish, No miracles, did not know England existed, and had a sketchy relationship to God) in favour of St Cuthbert.
Anyway back to Newcastle or "The Toon" as it's locally known. It really is worth a few days visit. This is a city where Old English values (Drinking) hold their own, it's not for the effete, the weak-chinned and The Woke, although if you are any of these things you will be warmly welcomed and will have a great time. Newcastle is only a hop skip and a jump on the train from Edinburgh, but by golly, it's so much more friendly. A note to foreign visitors: come to Newcastle and realise that the English aren't all bastards.
Newcastle is a very old city (Roman, on Hadrian's wall) with unsurprisingly a castle, which chopped in two by the railway, but it is mainly a city that reflects the power of the industrial revolution. Much of its grand architecture was created at a time of industrial wealth.
Newcastle is a river city, with the tidal River Tyne dominating the centre of the city, with the many bridges perfecting the cityscape. There are bridges of many ages, but that Goliath of the 19th century, Robert Stephenson, runs away with the prize with his double-decker rail and road bridge. The audacity of the man!
It is also a city of absolute fun. The locals have rejected the uptight, righteous and sanctimonious brigade and will have a good time in the way they choose. Of a nighttime Newcastle is a drink-fuelled place but in my experience, it has always engendered Bon homonie rather than worry. One thing that you see in Newcastle is that three generations of a family go out on the lash together, so different from London.
Then there is the football… In the span of human history has such a mediocre team been so passionately supported, who knows? By St James Park (where Newcastle pay) is slap bang in the middle of Newcastle, and on a Saturday afternoon when you are buying socks in Marks & Spencer, the primeval roar crossing the city, will no doubt encourage you to buy a more jaunty and bold sock.
The 1960’s … Oh dear. You will notice that parts of Newcastle have seen the attention of utopian socialists with a penchant for concrete and telling people what is good for them. There is no getting away from it, and it's not a good look. However, it may encourage you to write to your MP, so that decaying bodies of these self regarding shite architects can be dug up and hung from the Tyne Bridge as a warning to others.
Round and about. Newcastle has a very good metro system, which unlike London seems to take a very lax attitude to whether you have been paid or not. This metro can take you very quickly to little gems outside the city centre. I would recommend Whitley Bay in the north, the metro station is a crystalline gem, the breakwater into the North Sea is a work of massive proportions and there is a huge dose of English history.
If you go south from the city, you will see much that is mundane in Gateshead, but you will get out to the City of Sunderland (the rival to Newcastle). Here you can see some pretty impressive early English Christian history and perhaps visit the glass museum.
Actually, you could stay in Newcastle for a week and have a bloody good time, whether you are high-, medium- or low-brow. I am all three, with a leaning to the low.
Places we stayed in: Newcastle Rooms - definately low-end, but ample parking; a run down deaf-blind school in a rough neighbourhood. Inexpensive.
Travelodge by Millenium bridge. A hen- and stag-night place, take your ear plugs. Handy location for breakfast at the Baltic Mills art gallery if you did get any sleep.
Travelodge at Gosport. Out of town, by the racetrack, nice surroundings, ample parking, next to The Falcons Nest pub, tube is about 20 mins walk.
White Lion hotel at Jesmond. Another hen- and stag-night place, a bit low-end, placed on the Jesmond party strip. Breakfast is a loney affair.
Places we visited: Newcastle Castle, Baltic Flour Mill now an art gallery; great Kittiwake viewing gallery and cafe, crap art. Glass museum (Sunderland) with great shop and you can watch them blowing glass from red hot furnaces. Lindisfarne: really beautiful island accessed through the sand dunes by road, or by walking from pole-to-pole over the estuary if the tide is out, with eerie seal wails. Banborough castle: looks fab from all around, didn't go in as it costs; found it difficult to get a table to eat in the town as so picturesque and popular. Dunstanborough Castle: nice ruin, though it's a linear castle across the it's peninsular, and it was not a defensive success either. At the back is a sea-bird colony on the cliff, all in the admission price. Tynmouth Priory - stately ruined church, creepy graveyard, and WW2 defences. Warkworth Castle - nice ruins, with a row-boat trip to the hermitage in the cliff on the other side of the river, thrown in too. Seahouses: pretty port town, the clown-faced eider ducks nest and wander around by the kiosks to avoid the herring gulls. Whitely Bay: photogenic victorian station (built back in the day for twice the lines) with a weekly market inside, nice beach and cliffs, good fish and chips, view to St Mary's lighthouse is lovely, short walk to Tynmouth Priory.
Written and photos by; Frederick D’Souza
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