Many people pass through Newcastle upon Tyne on the way to the scenery and heritage of Northumbria and Scotland. However Newcastle has its own fair share of scenery and heritage combined with a vibrant city centre, as I found out during a recent short break.
Newcastle has good rail links and is connected to the motorway system via the A1(M). It has a wide range of first-rate hotels with all the major hotel chains being represented. This year I’ve stayed at two of the more modern hotels: earlier in the year at the Staybridge Suites and on this visit at the Hotel Indigo. TripAdviser ranks them as 1 and 4 respectively out of 82 Newcastle hotels.
They are part of a new breed of IHG group hotels. Staybridge Suites are typical of many US suite hotels in having a small suite of rooms and kitchen facilities – good for long term stays; the Hotel Indigo can best be described as ‘funky’. I enjoyed staying at both, but my preference is for the Staybridge Suites which is about half a mile east of the centre near to the Millennium Bridge, whereas the Hotel Indigo is in the centre and was quite hectic on a Friday evening – more suited, I think, to younger travellers!
Newcastle is a good city to walk around with many attractions within a short distance of the centre. However, I also travelled 10 miles east to Tynemouth Village – connected by the bus and Metro system.
The five highlights of my two day visit were:
1. Grainger Town. In the centre of Newcastle, with some fine Georgian buildings and a great range of shops and restaurants; Grey Street was voted in 2010 the ‘Best street in the UK’ by BBC Radio 4 listeners.
2. Jesmond Dene. A 30 minute walk from the centre through Heaton and Armstrong Parks brings you to a two mile long, scenic, wooded valley that follows the river Ouseburn. Jesmond Dene is a true haven of tranquillity in the middle of the busy city – with very good coffee at the Visitor Centre!
3. The Quayside. A gentle stroll from the iconic Tyne Bridge along the river bank to the Millennium Bridge – brightly lit up at night. On Sunday mornings there is a market along the Quayside near the Tyne Bridge.
4. Just across the Millennium Bridge is the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (the old Baltic Flour Mills) with several floors of modern art and nearby The Sage international music centre. (Okay, I do realise these are in Gateshead and not Newcastle!)
5. Tynemouth Village with its antique shops, wine bars and cafes. Perched on a headland with sweeping views over the harbour and beaches are the Castle and Priory, managed by English Heritage.
It proved a very pleasant way to spend a couple of days in late November, brightened by the friendly, helpful manner of everyone we met, especially in the Hotel Indigo.
The Millennium Bridge photograph was taken by John Esser.