Ah Newcastle, The Toon, my birthplace, my home…
I am incredibly biased BUT quite rightly I reckon! Whenever we get any visiting friends and family we just love to show off our city and bury any myth about it being grim up north.
There are loads of places of interest in town but if you’ve only got a few hours, this walking tour takes in quite a few of them and is easy for little legs. Grey’s Monument is as good a place as any to start as it’s very easily accessible by public transport. If you are driving into town, there’s a multi-storey car park at the bottom of Dean Street.
Did you know “The Monument” is actually dedicated to Earl Grey? From Howick in Northumberland, not only was he Prime Minister of Great Britain 1830-34 but also had the tea named after him and one of the world’s most beautiful streets. As you head down Grey Street, nip through Central Arcade on the right (where Window’s music shop is) and marvel at the tiles before re-joining the street at the Theatre Royal. Take a moment to look up at the amazing architecture of all the buildings.
Further down the street, cross over at Mosley Street and head down Dean Street on the right hand side. A few shops down (opposite LD Mountain Centre) there’s a set of stairs that lead up to the back of the Cathedral. Turn right at the top and here you will discover Newcastle’s very own sabre toothed or vampire rabbit! It’s history is mysterious – some say it was there to scare off grave-robbers from the Cathedral graveyard!
Go through Amen Corner to the left of the Cathedral, nipping in for a quick look if it’s open as it’s stunning inside. Continue left to Newcastle Castle Black Gate and Keep. The Castle is a brilliant place to visit (small charge) and the roof has the most amazing views across all of Newcastle. You can see the trains heading into Central Station and the view along the river is fantastic.
From the Castle, go left and head down Dog Leap Stairs towards the Quayside. You come out at the bottom of Dean Street. Head east along the River Tyne to the Millennium Bridge. Cross it and pay a visit to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (free, donations welcome). Go straight up to the 5th floor viewing area for more incredible views of Newcastle and Gateshead. Take the stairs on the way down and don’t forget to look over the side of the stairwell for an optical illusion that is always fascinating.
On leaving the Baltic walk up to the Sage Gateshead and straight through the main entrance hall and out the other side. This is an awesome building both inside and out. They often have free musical performances in the foyer. From the Sage, head down to the Swing Bridge and cross back over the River Tyne to Newcastle’s Quayside. The Swing Bridge hardly ever opens now as there’s not much river traffic. It’s busiest ever year was 1924 when it would open up to 16 times per day! Look up at the High Level Bridge, opened in 1849 it was the world’s first dual-decked rail and road bridge.
Turn right at the end of the bridge and take a look at the medieval houses on Sand Gate, especially where Bessie Surtees lived, at no 41 – 44 (now English Heritage). In 1772 John Scott, the first earl of Eldon and later Lord Chancellor of England, eloped with Bessie Surtees making their escape after she had jumped out of an upper window and they were said to have made off up Dog Leap Stairs on horseback!
There are numerous places to stop for a snack or drink along the way and lots of nice places to buy a pocket money souvenir. I love The Baltic and Sage gift shops and Upside Down Presents at the bottom of Dog Leap Stairs. All are full of lovely things, many unique to the area.
Anna Skelton, editor
Please note - June 2020. There may still be covid-19 restrictions in place for some of the places mentioned. You can still walk the whole tour, you may not be able to access the Castle, Baltic or Sage just yet though.