Tag Archives: newcastle

Hadrian’s Wall Walk

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st. mary's lighthouse whitley bay

Last week we walked the first 21 miles of Hadrian’s Wall in the most glorious weather.  Part two of our walk is here.  Family holidays get a bit complicated when you have four kids aged 8, 14, 16 and 19.  It’s difficult to please everyone – well on a budget it is.  So, this year we decided to leave the two big ones at home – they both had stuff on.  The grand plan was to stay in a caravan on the coast at Whitley Bay just north of Newcastle – approx 1.5 hours drive away.  The idea being, if the weather is great we can do beach/outdoors stuff and if the weather is bad we can do city break stuff – shopping, museums, cinema etc.  Because we live in the country, our kids love city breaks but we love the seaside/outdoors too.

whitley bay

I have always wanted to walk Hadrian’s Wall which runs 86 miles coast-to-coast between Newcastle and Carlisle more-or-less.  My 14-year-old daughter was keen too, so we planned to start our challenge on this trip and do the rest over the next few weeks.  Well it was all wonderful.  We walked 21 miles of Hadrian’s Wall in two days.  My daughter’s friend came too since we had booked a caravan for six.  We started around ten in the morning and walked until early afternoon so we would have time to swim afterwards.   My husband dropped us off/picked us up and did special stuff with the wee man while we “girls” were hiking.  The lads visited the Discovery Museum and Beamish on the days we walked and they enjoyed both of them very much.  We all enjoyed our family meet-ups in the afternoon and having a swim together in the lovely camp site pool.

Hadrian’s Wall was built by the Roman’s in about 100 AD to mark the Northern limit of their Empire.  It runs just South of the Border between Scotland and England at the skinny bit of the country! Quite a lot of the Wall remains, especially in the centre where it is still very rural.  In the towns, the stone was long ago used for building new structures.  When I was small, I thought the Scots built the Wall to keep the Roman’s out but, of course, it was the other way round!  The Roman’s did, in fact, make it into Scotland briefly – before they were chased out by the scary Scots – they had a big settlement called Trimontium only a couple of miles from my house.

We started our walk in an area of Newcastle appropriately called Wallsend.  The first 15 miles then followed the River Tyne.  At five miles we hit the centre of Newcastle and the famous landmark bridges, Baltic Arts and the Sage Theatre.  We sat on the Millennium Bridge and ate our flapjack.  We bought an ice lolly each from an ice cream van and soldiered on in the heat.

baltic tyne newcastle sunny day

At mile 15, we took a sharp right and headed up a steep hill to a village called Heddon-on-the-Wall.  Here we we saw our fist big chunk of wall.  The next 6 miles of the path was in fields bordering the Military Road.  The road was actually built on top of the Wall using the stone as a foundation.  You can just see the Military Road next to the wall in the top left corner of this photo.

heddon-on-the-wall

We got two stamps in our official “Wall Trail” passports.

hadrian's wall passport stamps

hadrians wall trail path

hadrians wall trail path

hadrians wall trail path

Our caravan site at Whitley Bay was near a lovely lighthouse on an island which could only be reached at low tide. seaweed at whitley bay lighthouse

We visited the lighthouse and climbed the 137 steps to the top!

lighthouse steps whitley bay

We also visited the ruins of Tynemouth Priory and there was some amazing salty wind erosion on the gravestones.  We spent our last day together on the beach at Long sands beach at Tynemouth with chips and ice creams for lunch.  We then had a last swim in the camp pool, got dressed up and had a lovely dinner in an Italian restaurant before heading home. Happy Happy days.

tynemouth priory

eroded gravestone tynemouth priory

We had such a great time and I am feeling very smug indeed to have had such a great sunny holiday so close to home.  Our next leg is next week starting on my Birthday – we are going to walk all three days of our trip and stay two nights at Once Brewed Youth Hostel.

A Tale of Two Cities – Newcastle/Gateshead

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millenium bridge and baltic arts centre autumn sunset

After a dodgy start, our day out in Newcastle/Gateshead was wonderful.  We woke early to find that heavy overnight rain had wrought havoc on the roads.  I diligently listened to the radio – there were no reported problems on our proposed route.  Well – after driving through many “ponds” we came upon a lake where the road should have been.  I didn’t want to be one of those idiots that you laugh at on TV when their car breaks down in flood water so, sensibly, I turned around and took an even more scenic route – we made the train.  Phew.

From then on, not another drop of rain fell, the sun broke through the clouds and the day finished up with spectacularly clear skies – it was cold with a stiff breeze but the cockles of our hearts were warmed by the sun, the dialect and a delicious lunch (with a glass of wine for me) in an excellent Italian Restaurant.

The restaurant was called Francesca’s and was in a lovely area of Victorian terraces just North of the City – Jesmond.  Lunch was very good and very inexpensive – £1.90 for my glass of wine!  We practically never eat in restaurants so this was a BIG treat.  As an added bonus, a new shop had opened next door called “Made in Jesmond” which was filled with lovely hand made goodies and vintage treasure.  We had a lovely chat with the women there about the possibility of them stocking some of my “Made in the Borders” goodies.

For those unfamiliar with N.E. geography, Newcastle and Gateshead sit on either side of the great River Tyne.  Newcastle to the North and Gateshead to the South.  The Angel of the North is in Gateshead and the new cultural attractions of the Sage and the Baltic Art Centres are also on the Gateshead side. There are seven bridges over the tyne.tyne bridge

The wonderful Millennium Bridge, which has just celebrated its 10th Birthday, is an elegant foot bridge which connects the two.  Newcastle itself is full of beautiful buildings and grand streets.  Sir John Betjeman wrote of Grey Street…  “As for the curve of Grey Street, I shall never forget seeing it to perfection, traffic-less on a misty Sunday morning. Not even Regent Street, even old Regent Street London, can compare with that descending subtle curve”  Grey Street is named after the British Prime minister Earl Grey (1830-34) as is the tea! He was a local lad.

After lunch, I wanted to go to the Shipley Gallery in Gateshead – I promised the kids a visit to the nearby Saltwell Park – however, the park and weather turned out to be so fabulous that I couldn’t drag them away.  There was a huge flood in the play area but we managed to work around it, I took “puddle” photos while the kids played – happy times.

girl cycling through puddle with autumn leaves

autunm trees and leaves reflected in puddle

The fairytale house and gardens were built for a stained glass manufacturer called William Wailes, he bequeathed his quirky house and 55-acre garden to the people of Gateshead in 1876 and the park and house have recently been restored to their former Victorian glory.  We had an ice cream on the sunny terrace.  saltwell towers gateshead basking in autumn sun

Saltwell has been “Britain’s best Park” in the past and I can see why.  Can you see any of today’s “rich” giving such gifts? No, they are too busy avoiding taxes, chasing bonuses at any cost; and, gleefully risking other peoples hard-earned money for their personal gain.

autumn leaves on steps at saltwell towers park gateshead

autumn trees and leaves saltwell park north east england

fall autumn beech tree leaves

stone steps at saltwell park gateshead newcastle
In the early evening we visited two lovely shops near the station on Westgate Road.  First, the Amnesty International Second-hand Book Shop where we made several purchases of lovely books – actual paper books that had been thoughtfully bequeathed by altruistic intellectuals keen to share knowledge and reading pleasure while funding a very good cause – as opposed to kindle users who buy books for their personal use and entertainment –  and have nothing “concrete” to give or share.  The second shop, was an amazing art shop called the Newcastle Arts Centre – Oh my, we could have spent a week in there – they had everything an artist could want or need – plus a gallery and a coffee shop.  We bought some gorgeous and funky wrapping paper to be used as end papers for some books I am having re-bound by But n Ben Bindery – but that’s another story.

sage, millenium bridge and tyne sunset

Finally, the icing on the cake was our sunset walk along the Tyne, the air was still and the light amazing – we had the place to ourselves and just made it to the Baltic Arts Centre as it was closing it’s doors.  We wanted to ride the great glass elevators and have a drink in the restaurants’ little glass box at the top.  Timing is everything and we made it just in time to see the sun disappear behind the Tyne Bridge.  We each had an iced coke – from a glass bottle – and collapsed to admire the stunning views on the comfy sofas on top of the world – money just can’t buy you that sort of thrill.millenium bridge and baltic gateshead

sage gateshead and tyne bridge late autumn sunset

So, Newcastle gets five stars from me – but then I’m a patriot with a passion for people, art, architecture, history and geography  – Newcastle has it all.  I’ll be back – for a week next time.

late autumn sun setting on the baltic arts centre - formerly flour mill