Newcastle 2010

Saturday, July 24th 2010

We reached Kings Cross in plenty of time and had breakfast on a bench in this busy station. Very soon we heard an ominous announcement: it asked passengers for the 9:30 Edinburgh train to queue in aisle ‘C’ and apologised “for any inconvenience”. This meant that our train was late.

As we have reserved seats we remained seated on the bench until our platform was announced. Unfortunately, our places are not together and as the train is full, there is no possibility of finding a vacant pair of seats together.

Street scene, Newcastle
Street scene, Newcastle

The weather is warm but cloudy with sunny intervals and is somewhat humid. Of course, this may change as we pursue our journey north.

As the title indicates, we are going to Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne that is. As usual, we shall be travelling around, having acquired rail rovers for the purpose.

The clues in my Heading out post are explained as follows. Firstly, the castles. The first castle was a Norman motte and bailey built by Robert Curthose, the son of William the Conqueror. The second fortified building on the same site is the Castle Keep built by Henry II between 1168-1178.

The second clue refers to the visit of US President Jimmy Carter in May 1977, who greeted the crowds with “Haway tha lads!”, much to their delight.

The Earl Grey Monument
The Earl Grey Monument


When we arrived at Newcastle, we decided to take a taxi to the hotel. This was our first downer as we had a rather miserable taxi driver. When we told him our destination, he responded with obvious disappointment and was off-hand for the rest of the journey. Our little trip to the hotel was obviously not considered worth his while.

At the hotel, there were three receptionists on duty, one on the telephone ordering cabs for customers and two dealing with people. When it was our turn, these two disappeared, leaving us with the woman on the phone. Not exactly welcoming behaviour.

When the remaining receptionist was able to see to us, she was pleasant enough but said the room wasn’t ready. She stored our bags and we went out again, feeling somewhat low spirited as a result of the treatment we had received so far.

Golden lady clock (one of two that I saw)
Golden lady clock (one of two that I saw)

We walked about for a while looking for lunch, finally plumping for a branch of Frankie & Bennie’s.

After lunch, we had a further walk and discovered the new public library. We were very impressed with this. It has six floors but much of the ground floor forms an atrium rising about three floors, giving a very open and airy feel, like the interior of a cathedral.

On the top floor there is a viewing area, a carpeted space with a few chairs, and from here there are fine views of the city.

The City Library, Newcastle
The City Library, Newcastle

We then crossed the road to the Laing Art Gallery. Part of this is being refurbished but there is still plenty to see, including Japanese paintings and artifacts, a watercolour gallery and some modern works.

It also has a cafe where we had a rest and some refreshments before returning to the hotel to recover our bags and check in.

We were feeling a little more cheerful after our sour beginnings earlier and the assistant who checked us in somewhat restored our confidence in this hotel chain by being attentive, efficient and friendly.

A view from the library
A view from the library

The room is smaller than any other we have occupied at Premier Inn and in consequence of this, the bed is shorter. Let’s hope the latter circumstance is not going to be a problem.


I was feeling quite tired for some reason and thought I would have a little rest. It turned out to be a long rest as I fell asleep!

The Laing Art Gallery
The Laing Art Gallery

Eventually, I roused myself and we went out for further exploration and to look for supper. Thus it was that I discovered a new face of Newcastle.

It was Saturday evening and late enough for the young (and not so young) to be going clubbing. That statement, however, does not capture the flavour of the scene.

Near the hotel, every other building seems to be a club, complete with bouncers and queuing enclosure and all the rest. What is extraordinary is the people and how they dress. I have seen crowds of clubbers in London but they don’t look anything like the people I saw here.

Blue Carpet Square and its unusual paving
Blue Carpet Square and its unusual paving

The young men mostly wore shirts and slacks and there was nothing remarkable about them. But the women! Well, there was a strange sight indeed. I thought at first that there must be some carnival going on, so exotic were some of the costumes. I saw the shortest skirts I have ever seen but I also saw long skirts and complicated dresses that you might normally see only on the stage at the opera. And there were hats, as though the owners had been to a wedding or were on their way to Ascot. When there were no hats, there were often “fascinators” or other headgear. If not these, then there might be complex, multi-coloured hair arrangements.

I thought that my years in the city had made me hard to surprise but tonight I was surprised. It might sound unkind but I fleetingly wondered whether the city had organized a Festival of Bad Taste and these strangely clad women were competing for the prize. Of course, it was not so, and the startling display has simply been arrived at as the norm for this particular community. To my eye, however, something unique has been achieved.

John Dobson's Lying-in Hospital
John Dobson’s Lying-in Hospital (1825)
(but you had to be married to be admitted)

We looked at a few places advertising food but none was particularly attractive so we continued walking. We then saw a sign indicating Chinatown and followed its indications. It was good that we did so because we soon found a street of Chinese restaurants far away from the crowds of clubbers.

We chose a modest-looking establishment called Mangos and found that they offered a “vegetarian banquet” at an equally modest price. It was very good and sufficiently copious.

China Town
China Town

After this we made our way slowly back towards the hotel, seeing the sights and taking photos as long as there was enough light. The streets were crowded but everyone seemed in good humour.

By the time we had made tea and sorted out our photos it was past midnight, so we will have a little lie-in tomorrow.

A friend I met in the library
A friend I met in the library

Sunday, July 25th 2010

It looks to be another fine day with the sun shining from a prettily cloud-mottled sky. We are preparing ourselves in leisurely fashion this morning after our late night. I think we may manage to leave the hotel at 9 am to go in search of breakfast.

Lions on the corner of Grey Street
Lions on the corner of Grey Street

I was right to be concerned about the hotel bed. Tigger finds it short and I am taller still, so for me it is less than ideal. Fortunately, in this warm weather, it doesn’t matter too much if my feet stick out at the end of the bed🙂


At Newcastle Central station there is a bar called the Newcastle Hero. Last night it was packed with drinkers but this morning there are only the four of us, including two staff. We are trying them out for breakfast. After breakfast we went down onto Monument station on the Metro. We bought a day ticket each so that we could travel as and where we wished.

Resting on Newcastle station
Resting on Newcastle station

This was my first experience of the Newcastle Metro service. It is rather similar to London’s Docklands Light Railway though the stations are more reminiscent of the East Croydon tram service. I found the Metro very good and efficient.

The Newcastle Metro
The Newcastle Metro

We headed out of town to meet one of Tigger’s ex-colleagues and his wife. We were royally treated, being given lunch and a visit to Belsay Hall. Once a large and elegant country house, Belsay Hall fell upon hard times, suffering damage from flooding and other disasters. Today it is administered by National Heritage and is open to the public.

First floor landing
First floor landing, Belsay Hall

The interior has been stripped down so that the house today appears almost as though gutted but some of the rooms remain, albeit unfurnished and lacking all but traces of the original decor. An art exhibition is being held there.

The house has been stripped down
The house has been stripped down

The house stands in beautiful gardens that are well worth visiting and a noteworthy feature of the house is the breathtaking views of the countryside visible from the upper floors.

A view of the countryside from Belsay Hall
A view of the countryside from Belsay Hall

After the visit, we were taken to lunch at a pub restaurant called The Waggon.

The Waggon
The Waggon

After lunch we went on a couple of walks beside the Tyne. One of these walks included a visit to Wylam Bridge, affording fine views of the river, and the other, a visit to the old railway bridge called Hagg Bank Bridge.

A view from Wylam Bridge
A view from Wylam Bridge

After taking leave of our friends we again took the Metro following the Coast route to North Shields where we got off, hoping to take the ferry across the river and rejoin the Metro on the other side.

A walk near Hagg Bridge
A walk near Hagg Bridge

Unfortunately, we were too late as the ferry had ceased operating for the day. Accordingly, we retraced our footsteps back to North Shields station and took the Metro back to Monument, which is in easy walking distance of our hotel.

A quiet dinner at the hotel
A quiet dinner at the hotel

We had done an unaccustomed amount of walking and our legs ached so for supper we went to the hotel restaurant and had a meal there.

We were glad to get back to our room to rest, especially as we have another busy day tomorrow!

Sheriff's ceremonial coach now kept at Belsay Hall
Sheriff’s ceremonial coach now kept at Belsay Hall

Monday, July 26th 2010

Today is our first train day. We walked to the station, stopping for breakfast in a cafe bar along the way.

There are plenty of big clouds in the sky with the sun breaking through from time to time.

Big clouds over a quiet Grey Street
Big clouds over a quiet Grey Street

At the station, we dated our rover tickets and then went through the barrier to catch the Edinburgh train which will take us to Berwick upon Tweed. We have already visited this ancient frontier town and were impressed by it. Will we enjoy it as much today?


Spitting with rain at Berwick town hall
Spitting with rain at Berwick town hall

Arriving at Berwick station, we took a bus into town. It started spitting with rain so we went the the tourist information office where Tigger had a good root around and bought several items.

Traditional law and order in Berwick
Traditional law and order in Berwick

When we emerged, the rain had ceased and we went along Church Street (worthy of its name because of the number of churches that reside there) and up onto the Ramparts. These are the remains of stout walls that surround the old part of the city except along the river.

The Ramparts and an "arrowhead" tower
The Ramparts and an “arrowhead” tower

A characteristic of the design of the Ramparts is the “arrowhead” towers containing “flankers” or well protected emplacements for guns that can fire along the outside of the walls to protect them from attack.

A "flanker" gun position
A “flanker” gun position

Although fallen into a ruinous condition, the Ramparts have been stabilized and tidied up so that it is now safe and pleasant to walk along them. This gives access to good views, especially to seaward.

A view from the Ramparts
A view from the Ramparts

After this walk we returned to the town to look for somewhere to have lunch. We discovered a Forte cafe and enjoyed a very modestly priced but tasty lunch.

A gate in the Fortifications
A gate in the Fortifications

We now turned towards the river and the old quays. In times of war, mainly between England and Scotland (Berwick has changed hands 13 times), this side of the town would have been vulnerable to attack and was protection with a line of fortifications, like wall between the town and the river.

Walking along the Fortifications
Walking along the Fortifications

One can walk along the fortifications and have good views of the three bridges that cross the Tweed hereabouts.

Main Guard: an 18th century guardhouse
Main Guard: an 18th century guardhouse

Near the Fortifications now stands this building called Main Guard. Originally in Marygate, it was moved to this site to preserve it. When used, it would have been occupied by a body of troops responsible for the security and discipline of the town. It can be visited.

The three bridges of Berwick on Tweed
The three bridges of Berwick on Tweed

Berwick has three bridges and all are included in the above picture. We managed to cross all of them.The train carried us across the Royal Border Railway Viaduct (1850) when we arrived (the furthest bridge in the photo); we walked across Berwick Old Bridge (1634), Berwick’s first bridge, commissioned by King James, where this photo was taken; and, finally, the bus took us over the Royal Tweed Bridge (1928) on our way back to the station.

This intriguing little sundial sits on the Old Bridge
This intriguing little sundial sits on
the Old Bridge

Although it was not very late, only around 3 pm and there is plenty to see in Berwick, we decided to take the train back to Newcastle, as we had had two active days during which we had done an unaccustomed amount of walking.

One of the figures of Sean Henry's  Man with Potential Selves
One of the figures of Sean Henry’s Man with Potential Selves

Back in Newcastle we stopped for coffee and cake in Starbuck’s and thus rested an fortified, undertook a circuitous route back to the hotel, revisiting some familiar sights and discovering some new ones. Back at the hotel at last, we made tea and relaxed.

Lion spout on a drinking fountain (1894), Newcastle
Lion spout on a drinking fountain (1894), Newcastle


After some relaxation and a doze or two, we thought about supper. It was now quite late and we allowed ourselves to be seduced by the hotel restaurant a mere two floors below our room. The only disadvantage of this is that the menu does not change (it is the same as the menu in Chester, for example) and there are very few vegetarian options. Still, as a stop gap it is quite acceptable.

Fierce gate lion, Berwick upon Tweed
Fierce gate lion, Berwick upon Tweed

Tuesday, July 27th 2010

It is another warm but cloudy day with occasional sunshine. We breakfasted, as yesterday, in a cafe bar called Bristot. Then we made our way in leisurely fashion towards the station, visiting the magnificent Central Arcade on the way.

The magnificent Central Arcade
The magnificent Central Arcade

We are off to Whitby today, as it is within range of our rail rover tickets and we are very fond of the town. Also, I am wondering whether we shall see the lame gull we got to know on our first visit to Whitby. I called him "LJ" (for Long John) and wrote about him and his mate Jane in Whitby 2009.

A vigorous LJ as he was in 2009
A vigorous LJ as he was in 2009

There are direct trains to Whitby but they are few so we are taking the indirect route via Middlesbrough. We visited Middlesbrough on a previous occasion and what we saw there convinced us that a single short visit was largely sufficient. It remains an essential rail junction, however.

Middlesbrough, an essential rail junction
Middlesbrough, an essential rail junction

On reaching Middlesborough, we had an unpleasant surprise. There were no trains to Whitby before the direct Newcastle to Whitby service that would arrive in two hours. We had assumed, wrongly, that there would be a regular service from Middlesbrough. The Newcastle train would take about an hour and a half to get to Whitby, meaning we would arrive mid-afternoon.

We hurried through the streets of Middlesbrough
We hurried through the streets of Middlesbrough

So we called the Traveline (08712002233) who informed us that bus number 93 would leave for Whitby from Middlesbrough bus station at 12:20. So we hurried off to try to catch it. The bus station is probably a sedate 10-minute walk from the train station but we didn’t have 10 minutes. We did our best but arrived in time to see the 93 departing. The next would be in an hour.

Aboard the X5, hurrah!
Aboard the X5, hurrah!

Then Tigger spotted the X5 which was boarding. On the front it said “Whitby”! Traveline hadn’t mentioned this one, perhaps because it is a less direct service. Anyway, we hurried aboard. The journey lasted somewhat over an hour with the usual detours to take in towns and villages off the main road, but we arrived a lot sooner than if we had waited for the train.


On arriving in Whitby, we both had it in mind to go to Moutrey’s restaurant in Grape Lane for lunch, though we were not sure whether they opened at lunchtime. We had eaten there in 2009 (see Whitby 2009) and had been impressed with it.

The famous swing bridge, remains open
The famous swing bridge, remains open

We then found that the famous swing bridge was out of action, having broken down and needing bespoke parts for repair. This effectively cut cut off the eastern part of the town, with an inevitable effect on trade. A free bus service was running to take people to the other side via the A71 bridge but we decided to spend ÂŁ1 to be ferried across by boat.

Moutrey's was open
Moutrey’s was open

We were rewarded by finding Moutrey’s open and we enjoyed a fine meal. It is always good to find restaurants that maintain a high standard, as Moutrey does, both in food and quality of service. This time, I had the pleasure of introducing myself to Gary Moutrey, who had been kind enough to leave comments on my original page about our Whitby trip.

The steam bus
The steam bus

After lunch, we took the free bus back to the other side. Tigger was longing to have a ride on the steam bus but when we enquired, they had finished for the day. However, they kindly offered to give us a free ride to the cliff top, which we gladly accepted.

LJ, perched on his favourite lamp on the bridge
LJ, perched on his favourite lamp on the bridge

And yes, the good news is that we saw LJ, perched on his favourite lamp on the bridge. He was immediately recognizable by his deformed right leg, twisted into a form like a spoon. I was very happy to see him apparently still healthy despite his disability.

The ruined abbey against a stormy sky
The ruined abbey against a stormy sky

On the cliff top where the steam bus deposited us, we took refreshments at a small cafe shop and admired the scenery. The clouds were thick but open in places so that the Abbey was sunlit against a background of stormy sky.

A pair of gulls having a shouting match with others
A pair of gulls having a shouting match with others

The gulls were active, continually calling, arguing with one another and swooping to pick up scraps.


We worked our way slowly back towards the town, enjoying the different views and the changing light. We stopped off at Gatsby’s, near the swing bridge, for refreshments and then continued to the station, photographing favourite views. LJ was on station atop his lamp on the immobilized bridge. I wonder whether he will still here when we next return.

River, sky and sunshine lending enchantment to Whitby
River, sky and sunshine lending enchantment to Whitby

We are taking the 19:15 train out. We are not sure whether this train goes all the way to Newcastle or whether we will have to change at Middlesbrough.

Whitby station, no longer as busy as it once was
Whitby station, no longer as busy as it once was


No such luck as a through train. We have to change at Middlesbrough and take the 20:55 to Darlington. There, said the ticket inspector, we should board “anything going north”.

Evening sunlight in Middlesbrough
Evening sunlight in Middlesbrough

It’s quite amusing taking these local trains whose very existence is unknown to you until the moment comes to use them. The other passengers are mostly local people who use the trains to go to work, to go shopping, to visit family or go out for the evening. We, in contrast, are like exotic birds, blown off course and perching briefly here only by chance.


We arrived at Darlington and within a few minutes joined an Edinburgh train that had been delayed but was spot on time for our purposes.

Though getting to Whitby had proved more difficult than we had expected, it was well worth the effort because Whitby is an attractive and picturesque town which has managed to keep much of its charm intact despite the inevitable pressures to modernize.

Whitby Lifeboat Museum
Whitby Lifeboat Museum

The closure of the swing bridge was a minor annoyance to us (but not to the local traders) which was compensated for by a boat trip across the river, an adventure which enabled us to renew our acquaintance with Gary Moutrey’s restaurant, something we had wanted to do since our first visit.

Whitby's modern lifeboat
Whitby’s modern lifeboat

Special mention should made of the steam bus team who, seeing how disappointed we were at being too late to take the tour, cheerfully gave us a free ride up the hill to the cliff top.

The sun spotlights houses beside Whitby harbour
The sun spotlights houses beside Whitby harbour

For me, one of the highlights of the trip, and perhaps the highlight, was seeing LJ, the lame herring gull, again and finding him in good health.

An all too brief visit to this beautiful town reminded us that we must come again soon and stay over so that we can spend longer enjoying what it has to offer.

A somewhat bespattered Captain James Cook stares longingly out to sea
A somewhat bespattered Captain James Cook
stares longingly out to sea

Wednesday, July 28th 2010

It is a little chilly today with a grey overcast. The weather forecast says we may have rain. It is also quite windy. We breakfasted at Bristot and walked on up to the station. Today’s plan is to visit an important Roman archaeological site.

Hexham station
Hexham station, gutted but showing vestiges of a happier past

For the first leg of the journey we take the shuttle train to Hexham and there we should be able to join the special bus that will take us to Vindolanda, the Roman settlement.

At Wylam the sun showed itself but there has also been rain.


Hexham is quite a pretty little town with some fine stone buildings. One of these is the old Gaol, the first in this country to be built for the purpose.

A pretty path leads to town from the station
A pretty path leads to town from the station

From the station we took the path or lane to the town centre and bought strawberries at a market stall to eat along the way.

Britain's first purpose-built gaol is at Hexham
Britain’s first purpose-built gaol is at Hexham

In the big car park back down the hill is the tourist information office. Here you can catch the AD122, the bus that takes you to Vindolanda. If you are feeling lazy, you can wait at the train station because the bus calls there too.

The Moot Hall
The Moot Hall, once the gatehouse of the Archbishop’s
palace, dating from the 1400s


Statue of the goddess Juno
Statue of the goddess Juno

The visit to Vindolanda was quite interesting in its way though one should bear in mind that this is an archaeological site rather than a “living museum”, and the information, relating to finds on the site, is mostly conveyed through a traditional glass-case museum and films and talks.

Ruins that probably speak more to the expert than to the lay visitor
Ruins that probably speak more to the expert than to the lay visitor

If you expect to see a mock-up of a Roman villa or a kitchen in a Roman house or indeed any reconstruction of Romano-British life, you will be disappointed. The only item of this type is a replica of a section of Hadrian’s wall, with towers that you can visit.

Visiting the replica of Hadrian's Wall
Visiting the replica of Hadrian’s Wall


We caught the bus back to Hexham with the intention of going on to Carlisle by train. There would be a gap of only two minutes between the arrival of our bus and the departure of the train, assuming both were on time. Both were. Fortunately, our train came in on the nearer platform and we managed to board in time.

I liked this fine lion at Vindolanda
I liked this fine lion at Vindolanda but I don’t think he is Roman


At Carlisle, we first stopped for a cream tea and then went on a quick tour before catching the 18:37 back to Newcastle.

Carlisle has a rather fine station
Carlisle has a rather fine station

Not having much time to spend here, we could not get more than a brief impression of the town but that was enough to suggest that we should return for a longer stay.

Part of the Carlisle citadel which I think was never actually completed
Part of the Carlisle citadel which I think was never actually completed

We caught our train back to Newcastle and finished the day with a meal in Tandoori Nights, an Indian restaurant we had already made a note of. The vegetarian thali was the best we have had for quite a while.

The Carlisle Cross
The Carlisle Cross

I think I was slightly disappointed by Vindolanda, perhaps because I misunderstood its nature. It is one of the most important archaeological sites of the Roman era in Britain and some impressive finds have been made. The work will continue for a good few years yet and there are high hopes that more new knowledge will emerge to match the unique discoveries already made. However, for all that, it is an archaeological site and for the non-expert visitor there is not much to see apart from working archaeologists and some low ruins.

A view over Vindolanda from the replica wall
A view over Vindolanda from the replica wall

While the museum contains some unusual items not normally preserved elsewhere (including domestic objects in leather, cloth and wood), I don’t think it is worth making the journey for these alone. In fact, the most interesting information came from a film and you don’t have to go to Vindolanda to watch a film about it.

The Castle seen from the bridge in Newcastle station
The Castle seen from the bridge in Newcastle station

Hexham is a pretty little town, well worth seeing, and we could probably have spent more time there exploring what is has to offer.

Evening sunlight in Newcastle
Evening sunlight in Newcastle

Carlisle is in a different league, being a bigger town and historically important because of its position in disputed territory on the Borders. We saw some fine buildings and monuments (Carlisle seems to have a particular fondness for commemorating past mayors) but only scratched the surface. We will have to come and explore it more thoroughly another time.

Night falls upon the city
Night falls upon the city

Thursday, July 29th 2010

It is another cool grey day today. We breakfasted in a branch of Starbuck’s before walking through town to the station. On the way we visited Grainger Market which was starting up for a day’s trading.

Grainger Market, starting up for the day
Grainger Market, starting up for the day

Our planned destination is Barnard Castle, but we are not sure how to get there. Even the information desk at the station couldn’t give us much help. We have boarded a Birmingham train in order to travel to Durham, thinking that it should be easier to reach Barnard Castle from there.

Presumably not the author of The Compleat Angler
Presumably not the author of The Compleat Angler


At Durham we took a bus to the bus station and enquired for Barnard Castle. We learned that we should have stayed on the train and got off at Darlington instead. Nothing daunted, we boarded a bus for Darlington.

A brief glimpse of Durham
A brief glimpse of Durham

The good thing is that the sun has come out, lifting the mood and enhancing the beauty of the countryside visible from the bus.

All aboard the bus for Darlington!
All aboard the bus for Darlington!


The weather closed in again and it was threatening rain by the time we reached Darlington. We decided to break for lunch at Crombie’s cafe. All tables were occupied but we managed to share.

It was threatening rain at Darlington
It was threatening rain at Darlington

Emerging from Crombie’s, we saw a bus for Barnard Castle almost immediately.


Barnard Castle gives its name to the town around it. This is quite a pretty town, many of whose buildings are made of honey-coloured stone.

Barnard Castle: a pretty town
Barnard Castle: a pretty town

The castle is a noble ruin though its main lines can still be seen. We debated whether to pay the entrance fee but found the ticket office closed, so we stepped inside, took a few photos and left.

The castle: a noble ruin
The castle: a noble ruin

We took tea at the nearby Castle Cafe, a popular venue that makes a proper cup of tea.

The Castle Cafe
The Castle Cafe: they make proper tea

One of the landmarks of the town is the so called Market Cross, "so called" because it isn’t a market cross, but has traditionally been referred to by that name. It is also known as the Butter Market by virtue of the fact that farmers’ wives used it for a long time as a marketplace for selling their produce.

The "Market Cross" or "Butter Market"
The “Market Cross” or “Butter Market”

This curious building, now Grade I listed, has fulfilled many other purposes during its existence. These include court house, fire station and gaol, but that is probably not an exhaustive list. Today it acts as a traffic island and you have to take care in crossing to it. We did so and sat for a while on one of the benches, admiring the view.

You can sit here and admire the view
You can sit here and admire the view

Speaking of traffic, this town, like so many of its kind, is plagued by traffic. There is a never ending stream of vehicles moving in both directions through the main streets, and every available space is cluttered with parked cars.

Nice town; shame about the traffic
Nice town; shame about the traffic

After final refreshment – at Costa this time – we took the 75 bus back to Darlington. It was the same driver who had brought us and he greeted us. Funny how people tend to remember us!


At Darlington we visited the Market Hall and had a little look around. I am now getting a better impression of this town though not yet enough to feel that I can characterize it fairly.

Back in Darlington
Back in Darlington

We caught the 13A bus to the station and within a few minutes boarded the Edinburgh train. It was fairly full with people standing but Tigger found us two seats.

Darlington's Market Hall
Darlington’s Market Hall

We are not going all the way to Newcastle just yet, however. We intend to leave the train at the ancient city of Durham.

Yorkshire regiment bench, Darlington station Carved mouse
The Yorkshire Regiment bench, Darlington station

I am always intrigued by this bench on Darlington station, dedicated to the Yorkshire Regiment, as it has a pretty little carved mouse on one of the uprights.


As planned, we left the train at Durham and took the bus to town. I had been to Durham before but only for brief visits when I had no time for sightseeing. Tigger had never been before so it was as though we were both seeing it for the first time.

Durham's famous cathedral
Durham’s famous cathedral

Durham is of course well known as a beautiful and historically interesting town. We saw as much as we could in the time available and hope to return later for a longer stay.

The sanctuary knocker on the cathedral door (replica)
The sanctuary knocker on the cathedral door (replica)

We had supper at PizzaExpress – not exciting, perhaps, but dependable – and then wandered about the city though heading more or less towards the station.

The bus service between the station and the town ceases at 5:30 pm, hard as that may be to understand, and so, as we had done plenty of walking today, we took a cab.

Boats on the River Wear
Fancy a row? Boats on the River Wear

We did not have long to wait for a train to Newcastle where we strolled through town in leisurely fashion. We reached the hotel earlier than usual and stopped off at the 2nd floor bar for coffee and cheesecake.

This was the last train day of the current tour so tomorrow we will have to travel by bus.

The Journey by Fenwick Lawson
The Journey by Fenwick Lawson, in
Millennium Square, Durham

Today we revisited Darlington and got to know it a little better, and made the acquaintance of Barnard Castle and Durham. Both of these were well worth the visit and we will perhaps go to see them again.

Plaque on the Joseph Pease monument in Darlington
Plaque on the Joseph Pease monument in Darlington

Friday, July 30th 2010

Today is a bus day so we got started early. It’s another grey day but as long as it doesn’t rain we shall be fine.

Eldon Square bus station
Eldon Square bus station

For breakfast we picnicked briefly on a bench in Eldon Square then went into the nearby bus station to take a bus to Beamish, “The living museum of the North”.


Arriving at Beamish
Arriving at Beamish

On arriving at Beamish the first thing to do was have a cup of tea in the rather Spartan cafe. When it came to buying tickets to go in, we received a 25% discount because we had come by bus – a nice piece of environment-friendliness.

A rather Spartan cafe
A rather Spartan cafe


Beamish resides on a beautiful and large site. Its size allows for various forms of transport to be put into meaningful use. There are several areas to explore. You will find a map of these on the Beamish Web site and I will just mention four: the Town, the Pit Village (and coal mine), Home Farm and Pockerly Manor. Each of these contains appropriate buildings built from parts of genuine period houses, banks and shops rescued from demolition in various parts of the UK. Here is an example, a branch of Barclay’s Bank as it would have appeared in Victorian times.

Barclay's Bank, Victorian era
Barclay’s Bank, Victorian era

There were two trams in action and the first one we rode on was a single-decker.

The scramble for seats
The scramble for seats

I have to admit that my favourite part was The Town. That’s where the bank is, together with a row of beautiful old shops. There is also a Freemasons’ Lodge, and when we visited it, someone very knowledgeable – a Mason himself – was there to explain things to us.

A row of shops in The Town
A row of shops in The Town

We visited the garage and cycle works, that you can see in the above picture, the Co-operative store, and – not least – the first-floor tea-room! In the clothing shop, Tigger tried on some of the hats.

Inside the Co-operative store
Inside the Co-operative store

We visited all parts of the Co-operative store, had a quick look inside the pub – which was doing a good trade as an actual pub – and then went for coffee in the large tea room above the Co-op.

The Beamish Board School, 1891
The Beamish Board School, 1891

We had a look inside the large and well appointed Beamish Board School dating from 1891. I managed to squeeze into one of the desks, something I had not done for… for… well, for quite some time!

Interior of a miner's cottage
Interior of a miner’s cottage

There is a row of miners’ cottages beside the drift mine. Each cottage is furnished and decorated in the style of a different period.

1903 saloon car
1903 saloon car (replica)

To go back up the hill, we took a ride in this magnificent saloon car, whose design dates from 1903. It is an exact replica and was driven by a very informative chauffeur.

A double-deck tram
A double-deck tram

We also travelled on the double-deck tram, the site being large enough to give you a realistic trip. We thought of going upstairs but as the tram had been built in an era when people were smaller, it would have been a bit of a squeeze, so we stayed downstairs!

Stained glass, Masonic Lodge
Stained glass, Masonic Lodge

We had a very busy time at Beamish but did not cover the whole site. There were parts we gave cursory attention to and others that we missed altogether. We could go again and there would still be plenty to see. Our tickets are valid for one year, so we might well return.


We went to the bus stop outside the entrance, hoping to travel on to Chester le Street before returning to Newcastle. A bus soon arrived but it was for Newcastle. The driver told us that the next bus in 5 to 10 minutes would take us where we wanted to go, so we waited. Either he was lying or the bus alluded to didn’t run because it never appeared.

A more reliable bus
A more reliable bus

We waited 40 minutes until another Newcastle bus arrived and we boarded this one, now having lost our enthusiasm for travelling further afield. We were in fact feeling quite tired and thinking that we should return to the hotel for a rest.

After our rest, Tigger’s idea was to go down the Quayside as we had not yet seen it and there are plenty of eateries and perhaps more choice than in the centre. If all else failed, we could always come back and eat again at Tandoori Nights.

A lady crossing the road
A lady crossing the road

We boarded bus Q2 with destination St Peter’s Basin and Tigger pinged the bell at what looked like a good place. We dismounted and found we were at Quayside. Here we were spoilt for choice as there were restaurants of every kind. Walking and looking at menus, we chose an Indian restaurant, called Simla, offering vegetarian thali. This one had an interesting twist: you could choose any three items from the list of side dishes. They would even do matar paneer even though it wasn’t on the menu.

Bridges
Bridges

After dinner we went for a wander along the bank of the Tyne. With all the lights, the scene was very beautiful. We crossed the Gateshead Millennium Bridge to the south side of the river, in Gateshead. Very soon a Q1 bus hove is sight and we ran towards the stop, hoping to catch it. The driver kindly stopped and we boarded. The bus took us on a complicated trip around the quay area of Gateshead but eventually crossed the river into Newcastle and deposited us within easy walking distance of the hotel.

Bridge lights
Bridge lights

Today’s visit to Beamish was certainly one of the highlights of the trip. We probably saw no more than half of it but our tickets are valid for a year and we will try to return within that time to see some of what we missed.

The Millennium Bridge
The Millennium Bridge

This was our last day in Newcastle. Tomorrow we return to London. I can say that Newcastle held some surprises for me, and that there are many interesting and beautiful things to find here. The people are generally friendly and helpful. I sometimes wished they came with subtitles, though, and they didn’t always understand me straightaway, either.

Night streets
Night streets

Was it a good trip? Yes, undoubtedly.  Would I come again? Yes, but not immediately. There are other places I would like to discover or revisit first.

Tomorrow we return to London and I am looking forward to it, as always.

Newcastle at night and Earl Grey monument
Newcastle at night and Earl Grey monument

Saturday, July 31st 2010

Our train is at 10:05 so there is no hurry. We treated ourselves to a taxi to the station. Our driver was polite but as depressed-sounding as the one we hired at the station when we first arrived. Trade is slack, which does not induce happy moods.

We arrived at the station with half an hour to spare and found it busy. The Upper Crust stall was in a hidden corner so there were no queues or or delay ingetting served.

As before, our reserved seats are not together. I have a cramped window seat. We did think of trying to get non-reserved seats together but the crowds waiting for the train made it seem likely that this would be a difficult scramble so we allowed good sense to prevail. Maybe a pair of adjacent seats will become available further along the track.

I do feel that we have not exhausted the town or the region by any means and that there is therefore scope for further visits, quite apart from the fact that revisiting known places is also a pleasure.

Today is the greyest, darkest day so far but as we are returning home, this hardly matters. We have been quite fortunate, meteorologically speaking, because even when there was no sun, it was quite warm and the only rain was in the form of brief light showers.

Along the way
Along the way
Photo by Tigger

I think we have been quite active during this trip despite having, necessarily, to spend time sitting in buses and trains or waiting for them to arrive. We felt quite tired yesterday and returned to the hotel for a long rest before venturing out again in the evening. My feet and legs remind me that they have been put to good use during the week. I think that once the shopping has been done and Freya fetched from the cattery, Sunday will be declared a day of rest.

Normal life (as far as “normal” applies to our life) resumes on Monday. We have one more trip planned this year, apart from days out and – if we are lucky – courier runs. Then again, there are so many interesting places to go and fascinating things to see, that the temptation to dash off somewhere is always present.


At York, my seat companion disembarked. The seat was reserved from York to Kings Cross but the occupant did not appear. Tigger and I are together again!


The rest of the journey went as train journeys should go. We arrived at Kings Cross and took the bus to home.

After a rest we went out for a late lunch and the weekly shop. We did this today so as to leave tomorrow free except for my trip to Chingford to fetch Freya home.

Tomorrow will set its own agenda.

Copyright © 2010 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

4 Responses to Newcastle 2010

  1. Gordon T Lamb says:

    Enjoyed reading about your experiences in the North East. A native of Seaham Harbour, I know all the places well that you visited. Now living in the US and not been home for a goodly number of years. When you go back, there are some magnificent castles on the Northumberland coast well worthy of a visit, in particular Bamburgh, and also the Holy Isle south of Berwick.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I’m glad you liked my write-up. Perhaps you will get a chance to revisit your remembered places. I hope so.

      Thanks for the recommendations. We did have some of these on our list but our movements are somewhat limited by the need to use public transport so choices have to be made. I hope we can fill in some of the blanks in the future.

  2. Jeff says:

    Impressive itinerary. You’ll have stood out on a Saturday night in the toon if you wore anything more than a bandage, even in the Winter.
    And you took the time to see Grainger Market. Haven’t seen your Jersey page yet, but if you’ve been to St Helier you’ll have recognised the similarity. Since you visited, the market has had a few more interesting additions, such as a cooked fish stall and a simple but good noodle bar, both of which fit in unexpectedly well. It may be the ‘roll up, roll up’ feel of those old iron framed markets that allow for such difference.

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