Walk 63: Newcastle City Walk: Wae’aye man!

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Roughly 2.5 miles (4.02km). This is a linear walk so doesn’t return to the starting place

Time to walk: About an hour for a continuous walk, but this is a city with much to see & do, so including food & drink stops etc, could be a half or full day

Difficulty: All on hard paths. There’s a few steep streets, but nothing too demanding

Parking: Plenty of parking around the city. We were staying at the Travelodge on the Quay which is an excellent location with parking underneath

Public toilets: Cafes, bars etc

Map of the route:


It had been almost 30 years since we last spent a day in Newcastle, so when the opportunity to spend a couple of days working up there we jumped at the chance to have a closer look

Newcastle is the most populous city in the North East & forms the urban core of Tyneside. The city was part of the county of Northumberland until 1400, when it became a county itself, a status it retained until becoming part of Tyne & Wear in 1974. The regional nickname & dialect for people from Newcastle & the surrounding area is Geordie

The city developed around the Roman settlement Pons Aelius & was named after the castle built in 1080 by Robert Curthose, William the Conqueror‘s eldest son. The city grew as an important centre for the wool trade in the 14th century, & later became a major coal mining area. The port developed in the 16th century &, along with the shipyards lower down the River Tyne, was amongst the world’s largest shipbuilding & ship-repairing centres. Newcastle’s economy includes corporate headquarters, learning, digital technology, retail, tourism & cultural centres. Among its icons are Newcastle Brown Ale, Newcastle United football club, & the Tyne Bridge which we’ll see lots of on this walk

So lots to see &, as the light’s fading…

Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk begins in the backstreets of the city in Blackfriars at the old city walls…


With your back to the wall, walk down the hill passing Chinatown on the left


Vibrant Chinatown

Vibrant Chinatown

2. Blackfriars was where the religious foundations of the city were laid. On the left’s the Blackfriars Banquet Hall, the well preserved remains of a 13th century Dominican friary



To have a closer look at the beautiful courtyard, pass through the arched doorway. The Dominicans first came to Newcastle in 1239 & set up the friary on its current site in 1248 after an earlier one burnt down


3. Only the buildings of the cloisters remain. In the Middle Ages the cloister consisted of an open garth surrounded by a wide covered walk. The covered walk no longer exists. The friary church was at the north end of the cloister, but was demolished in the 16th century. The outline of the church can be made out in the grassy space that remains


4. Walk up the steps opposite the entrance & turn right & then right again into Low Friars Street…


This is a narrow street of bars & restaurants plus some other ‘interesting’ businesses


5. At the end turn left & then immediately right onto Clayton Street & straight over the crossroads


Ahead on the left is the towering spire of the Cathedral Church of St Mary


The Cathedral Church of St Mary is a Catholic cathedral & seat of the Bishop of Hexham & Newcastle. It was designed by Augustus Welby Pugin & built between 1842 & 1844. There’s a monument dedicated to Cardinal Basil Hume in the Monument Garden outside of the cathedral, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002

6. At the end of the street’s the colourful Centre for Life which we’ll come back to shortly…


…but in the meantime turn right along Westmoreland Road to have a look at The Discovery Museum



The Discovery Museum’s housed in an old victorian building known as Blindfold House, built in 1899 as the Co-op Wholesale Society Headquarters for the Northern Region. The Discovery Museum is a science & local history museum. It displays many exhibits of local history, including Turbine, the 34 metre long ship built by Charles Algernon Parsons to test the advantages of using the steam turbine to power ships. It also features examples of Joseph Swan‘s early lightbulbs which were invented on Tyneside


It also houses the regimental museum for the 15th/19th The King’s Royal Hussars & the Northumberland Hussars, exploring the human side of 200 years of life in the army. It’s one of the biggest free museums in North East England, & in 2006 was winner of the North East’s Best Family Experience award at the North East England Tourism Awards

7. Retrace your steps back towards the Centre for Life…


Maybe not...

Maybe not…

The International Centre for Life is a science village in Newcastle upon Tyne where scientists, clinicians, educationalists & business people work to promote the advancement of the life sciences


The Life Science Centre is a visitor attraction. It has a changing programme of events made up of temporary & permanent exhibitions, a Science Theatre, a planetarium & a 4D Motion Ride, as well as presenting a range of science-themed special events for children & adults. The Life Science Centre also has an educational programme providing science workshops to schools & other groups



8. Pass through the courtyard & round to the left towards the bridge. We fancied the Planetarium, but didn’t have time on this visit


Go under the bridge & then turn right down Ford Bank…


9. Walking down Ford Bank is where we get our first glimpse of what we’ve really come to Newcastle to see…the beautiful bridges


Newcastle is a city where you get fantastic opportunities to take great photos so keep your eyes open

10. This area’s called the Stephenson Quarter. The site was home to the Robert Stephenson & Co Locomotive Works, the crucible of the railway industry, where the revolutionary Rocket was built in 1829


Carry on down to the carpark at the bottom of the hill…


…to finally arrive at the mighty River Tyne (&, yes we did start humming the song in our heads)

11. The River Tyne is 200 miles long & is formed by the confluence of two rivers, the North Tyne & the South Tyne. These two rivers converge at Warden Rock near Hexham in Northumberland at a place dubbed ‘The Meeting of the Waters’

Shall we sing the song then?

The river divides Newcastle & Gateshead for 13 miles in the course of which it’s spanned by 10 bridges. With its proximity to surrounding coalfields, the Tyne was a major route for the export of coal from the 13th century until the decline of the coal mining industry in North East England in the second half of the 20th century

12. To the right’s the King Edward Bridge which carries the Tyne & Wear Metro between Newcastle upon Tyne & Gateshead. The line is underground on either side of the river & only emerges into open air to cross the bridge so is well worth a ride


We’re under the delightfully blue Queen Elizabeth II Bridge


There she goes...

There she goes…

13. Continue along the river towards the next crossing, which is the High Level Bridge


You can see several of the other bridges we’re going to visit from the point. The High Level Bridge is considered the most notable historical engineering work in the city

It was designed by Robert Stephenson to form a rail link towards Scotland for the developing English railway network & a carriageway for road vehicles & pedestrians to generate additional revenue. The main structural elements are tied cast iron arches. It was opened in 1849 and inaugurated by Queen Victoria.


If the weather’s good & you fancy a drinks stop then The Quayside pub on the left under the bridge’s pretty impressive


14. Time for another bridge?

Time for a bit of ‘Swing’ then…


The hydraulic power still used to move the bridge today is derived from electrically driven pumps. These feed a hydraulic accumulator sunk into a 60 foot shaft below the bridge & the water is then released under pressure which runs the machinery to turn it

The previous bridge on the site was demolished in 1868 to enable larger ships to move upstream to William Armstrong’s works. The hydraulic Swing Bridge was designed & paid for by Armstrong, with work beginning in 1873. It was first used for road traffic in 1876 & opened for river traffic on 17 July 1876. At the time it was the largest swing bridge ever built. The Swing Bridge stands on the site of the Old Tyne Bridges of 1270 & 1781

15. And now come the star of the show & the one that dominates this city for the rest of this walk..the Tyne Bridge. Every time we drive over this place we get a tingle & it’s easy to see why…


The Tyne Bridge was designed by the engineering firm Mott, Hay and Anderson who later designed the Forth Road Bridge & was built by Dorman Long & Co. of Middlesbrough. The bridge was officially opened on 10 October 1928 by King George V & has since become a defining symbol of Tyneside

It was also the prototype for the Sydney Harbour Bridge

We make no apologies for the number of photos of this iconic bridge that are included in the rest of this walk but we just love it


16. Instead of passing under the bridge turn left & have a look at some of the oldest houses in the city



The houses above date from the 17th & 18th centuries & were owned by the merchants who had grown rich from their trade on the river. One of the houses is open to the public & was owned by the father of Bessie Surtees


Bessie famously jumped from one of the windows to elope with a young local. He later went on to become Lord Eldon & Lord Chancellor

17. Facing the above houses turn left & around the corner & up the hill along The Side…


…to where there’s some more amazing photo opportunities under the bridge




18. We’re heading towards St Nicholas Cathedral, but first on the left’s some pretty good murals..



At the top of the hill on the left’s ‘New Castle’…


The Castle was built on the site of the fortress which gave the City of Newcastle its name. The most prominent remaining structures on the site are the Castle Keep, the castle’s main fortified stone tower & the Black Gate, its fortified gatehouse

Use of the site for defensive purposes dates from Roman times, when it housed a fort & settlement called Pons Aelius, guarding a bridge over the River Tyne. In 1080, a wooden motte & bailey style castle was built on the site of the Roman fort, which was the ‘New Castle upon Tyne’

19. Turn right though to arrive at St Nichol’s Cathedral


The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas is the seat of the Bishop of Newcastle & is the mother church of the Diocese of Newcastle, the most northerly diocese of the Anglican Church in England, which reaches from the River Tyne as far north as Berwick upon Tweed & as far west as Alston in Cumbria

Founded in 1091 during the same period as the nearby castle, the Norman church was destroyed by fire in 1216 & the current building was completed in 1350

20. Pass round to the front of the cathedral…


…& continue along the road, turning left up Grey Street

Lovely street

Lovely street

21. This is a cracking road which in the past has been voted Britain’s finest thoroughfare. Head towards Earl Grey’s Monument at the top. Before we get there though there’s an impressive theatre on the right


We can already hear the buskers around the monument


Grey’s Monument is a Grade I listed monument to Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey built in 1838. It was erected to acclaim Earl Grey for the passing of the Great Reform Act of 1832 & consists of a statue of Lord Grey standing atop a 130-foot-high column. The column was designed by local architects John & Benjamin Green & the statue was created by the sculptor Edward Hodges Baily (creator of Nelson’s statue in Trafalgar Square)


In July 1941, during World War II, the head of the statue was knocked off by a bolt of lightning. In 1947, sculptor Roger Hedley (the son of painter Ralph Hedley created a new head based on the preserved fragments of the original

A spiral staircase leads to a viewing platform at the top of the monument, which is occasionally opened to the public

22. At the monument turn right & follow the signs towards the Laing Gallery…


The Laing Gallery was donated to the people of Newcastle by Alexander Laing, a local wine merchant


When we were there the main exhibition was ‘Alice in Wonderland’


23. Follow John Dobson Street down the hill…


…& then left, then right into Croft Street where we find the Plummer Tower


The Plummer Tower was built in the late 13th century & is the only surviving two storey tower in the City Wall

24. Pass down the side of the tower & then turn right & up the long street to the junction…


…& at the top turn left & head down towards the Tyne again


25. We’re now in Pilgrim Street where we find Alderman Fenwick’s House…


The Alderman’s House dates from the latter part of the 17th century &, in the past, has been a coaching inn & a political club

26. Pass under the railway bridge & stroll out onto the magnificent Tyne Bridge. About 30 minutes ago we were walking underneath it & are now walking over…


The views from the bridge are pretty good…



…as is the crossing itself



27. Once over the bridge we’re no longer in Newcastle, but Gateshead…


There’s been a settlement on the Gateshead side of the River Tyne, around the old river crossing where the Swing Bridge now stands, since Roman times. The first recorded mention of Gateshead is in the writings of the Venerable Bede who referred to an Abbot of Gateshead called Utta in 623. In 1068 William the Conqueror defeated the forces of Edgar the Ætheling & Malcolm king of Scotland (Shakespeare’s Malcolm) on Gateshead Fell

The earliest recorded coal mining in the Gateshead area is dated around 1344. As trade on the Tyne prospered there were several attempts by the burghers of Newcastle to annex Gateshead. In 1576 a small group of Newcastle merchants acquired the ‘Grand Lease’ of the manors of Gateshead & Whickham. In the hundred years from 1574, coal shipments from Newcastle increased elevenfold while the population of Gateshead doubled to approximately 5,500. However, the lease & the abundant coal supplies ended in 1680. The pits were shallow as problems of ventilation & flooding defeated attempts to mine coal from the deeper seams

Throughout the Industrial Revolution the population of Gateshead expanded rapidly; between 1801 & 1901 the increase was over 100,000. This expansion resulted in the spread southwards of the town. In 1854, a catastrophic explosion on the quayside destroyed most of Gateshead’s medieval heritage & caused widespread damage on the Newcastle side of the river

In 1835, Gateshead was established as a municipal borough within the historic County Durham. By 1889 it had been made a county borough, but in the same year one of the largest employers, Hawks, Crawshay & Company, closed down & unemployment has since been a burden. Up to the Second World War there were repeated newspaper reports of the unemployed sending deputations to the council to provide work. The depression years of the 1920s & ’30s created even more joblessness & the Team Valley Trading Estate was built in the mid-1930s to alleviate the situation

In 1974, following the Local Government Act 1972, the County Borough of Gateshead was merged with the urban districts of Felling, Whickham, Blaydon & Ryton & part of the rural district of Chester-le-Street to create the much larger Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead

In the past decade, Gateshead Council has begun developing plans to regenerate the town, with the long-term aim of making Gateshead a city.  The most extensive transformation thus far has occurred in the Quayside, with almost all the structures there being constructed or refurbished in this time

The town centre has also been redeveloped, with the £150m Trinity Square development opening in May 2013

28. After crossing the bridge turn first left back towards it…



The futuristic building ahead’s The Sage, a concert venue & also a centre for musical education, which opened in 2004


The venue is part of the Gateshead Quays development, which also includes the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art & the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, both of which we’ll see shortly


29. Turn back down the narrow path towards the Tyne Bridge & turn immediately right at the bottom of the hill to pass The Sage…



It’s even more impressive from this angle

30. Pass the Royal Navy building on the left & walk down the slope onto the quay. Ahead now is the aforementioned BALTIC Centre


The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (BALTIC) is an international centre for contemporary art. It presents a constantly changing programme of exhibitions & events & opened in 2002 in a converted flour mill

The Mill was built by the Rank Hovis company to a late-1930s design by architects Gelder and Kitchen & completed in 1950. It was extended in 1957 by the addition of an animal feed mill. The mill was closed in 1981.  It was one of a number of mills located along the banks of the Tyne, all of which, due to their size, were prominent local landmarks

31. It’s time now to cross our final bridge…The Millennium


The Gateshead Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian & cyclist tilt bridge which was ppened for public use in 2001. The bridge is sometimes referred to as the ‘Blinking Eye Bridge’ or the ‘Winking Eye Bridge’ due to its shape & its tilting method


The bridge was lifted into place in one piece by the Asian Hercules II, one of the world’s largest floating cranes, on 20 November 2000. Six 45 cm diameter hydraulic rams (three on each side) rotate the bridge back on large bearings to allow small ships & boats to pass underneath. The bridge takes 4.5 minutes to rotate through the full 40° from closed to open, depending on wind speed. The view from it is spectacular…



What better place to end our walk – sunset over the bridges of Newcastle

So what was our impression coming back after all these years? The Quay area has really been regenerated & is a beautiful area to sit & watch life go by (there are benches on the Millennium Bridge). Newcastle retains the northern grit that made it famous &, after seeing more of Gateshead the following day, it’s even grittier

What makes these two cities though is the people & we were warmly welcomed wherever we went as will you be

We won’t leave it so long before our next visit