From south of the Scottish borders down to the North Pennines, the North East is packed with magical places to visit, breathtaking scenery and cities to wonder at.
Whether it’s visiting the Harry Potter film set Hogwarts – aka Alnwick Castle – shopping in Gateshead’s Metrocentre or finding solace in the Kielder Water & Forest Park, the North East has something for everyone, says editor Victoria Galligan…
Hadrian’s Wall really has to be seen to be believed. Built 2,000 years ago, this 84-mile long wall isn’t just a wall. It’s a fort and has attracted millions of visitors throughout the years. Along the wall are plenty of historic sites and museums which tell the fascinating story of Rome’s rise and fall. Sights including the Sycamore Gap – a lone tree which featured in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – the ruins of many Roman forts and towns lie along the wall just a short distance away – including Corbridge Roman Town, Chesters, Housesteads and Vindolanda – a village which was occupied for 300 years. In the summer months (April-September you can watch live excavations and even see history being uncovered.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is well worth a visit – you can access via the causeway if you pass at the right time! A religious place built on a history of Saints and monks, it was the site of a bloody attack by Vikings in 793AD, when the monks in the monastery suffered a violent fate. The island is rich in heritage and a haven for wildlife too. It’s a National Nature Reserve and you can spot the six internationally important species of wildfowl and wading birds which spend the winter here, alongside its grey seal population. There is accommodation available on and close to the island – Berwick on Tweed is the nearest mainland town – and you’d be wise to visit over two or more days, as there is so much to see here.
New for 2019, St Oswald’s Hospice has brought the popular children’s storybook character Elmer the Elephant to Northumberland.
Elmer’s Great North Parade will take place for 10 weeks starting on 21 August, with individually decorated statues of the character positioned throughout Tyne and Wear. The Parade will culminate in a farewell weekend on 2 and 3 November 2019 so be sure not to miss this if you’re in the area.
One of Northumberland’s most famous tourist attractions, Alnwick Castle provided the magical set for the Harry Potter movies – so if you really wish you’d been a pupil at Hogwarts then this is a great destination for you. Along with its famous gardens which are perfect for a family picnic, Alnwick Castle offers all the Harry Potter-themed experiences and gifts you’d imagine – including broomstick riding classes. Hope you’re not afraid of heights!
Kielder Forest Park is a nature reserve which is so remote, people visit to take part in stargazing sessions without the light pollution affecting their view. Filled with surprises like the open-mouthed wooded head-shaped shelter ‘Kielder Belvedere’, the art installations complement the breathtaking landscape perfectly. Fishing, walking, cycling, horse riding and sailing are all on offer here, or you can just cosy up in a lodge and enjoy the peace and quiet. The children will love ferry rides and spotting water voles and there are plenty of events throughout the year to keep them busy and learning at the same time.
For city slickers
As famous Newcastle folk from Ant & Dec and Cheryl Cole to the cast of Geordie Shore will tell you, this is a city in which partying is a priority. Bars and pubs can be found across the city which will tickle everyone’s fancy – there’s even a ‘Gin Lab' in Decantus on Grey Street where you can take part in gin tasting sessions. If food is your thing, you won’t be disappointed in Newcastle either. New restaurants in the city include those in the brand new Grey's Quarter in Eldon Square, which has recently welcomed 30 new restaurants such as Filmore & Union, which has a menu focused on natural, wholesome ingredients.
For those who enjoy a spot of retail therapy, the second-largest shopping centre in the UK, Metrocentre is situated on the west side of Gateshead, alongside the River Tyne. There’s a railway station at the centre so it’s accessible for those holidaying without a car, or just wishing to beat the traffic. With all the usual brands you’d expect and plenty of eateries to choose from, check out the new bar Oh You Pretty Things – an achingly hip place with over 20 sparkling wines.
A shore thing
Not surprisingly, the Northumberland Coast is classed as an Area of Outstanding Beauty and it really does offer many sights to behold. Walk along the high cliffs of Castle Point, near Craster, or take a net to the rock pools of Bamburgh – the site of another castle! – and visit one of the many sandy beaches and coves in between. Basically, you can spend hours whiling away the time exploring, hiking and making sandcastles in the North East.
If you really want to get the best view of the coast, hop on a boat tour and get the full picture. Puffin Cruises in Amble near Morpeth will take you to see not just puffins, but other birds like the rare Roseate tern as well as seals – all with a guided commentary from the captain, to make your trip to the North East a memory you’ll want to cherish forever.
The Angel of the North - credit: Michael Conrad