Newcastle upon Tyne is the most northerly city in England. Travelling from the south by road or rail you cannot fail to be impressed by the outstretched arms of the Angel of the North welcoming you to this Geordie heartland. And what a warm welcome it is.
Newcastle upon Tyne, or ‘Newcassel’ as it is more commonly known and referred to, stands on and occupies the north bank of the River Tyne, opposite the neighbouring co-joined town of Gateshead on the south bank.
Newcastle developed from a Roman settlement, being at the eastern side of Hadrian’s Wall, and its name derives from the castle built overlooking the river in 1080. The city grew as an important centre of the wool trade and in recent centuries become synonymous with heavy industry, particularly coal mining, steel and shipbuilding.
The Victorians left a lasting legacy which no visitor to Newcastle can fail to admire and appreciate. Add to this the recent refurbishments and modern developments that have taken place and you have a modern vibrant city well worth a visit.
Start with a walk along the Quayside. Newcastle was once one of the busiest shipping ports in the country with shipyards all the way down the river to the coast. Now there is a pleasant walk and cycle path all the way to Tynemouth on the coast. But you do not have to be that energetic. A short stroll under the world famous Tyne bridge will take you past the old Victorian swing bridge and on to the modern Millennium footbridge, a stunning curved structure. Cross over to the Gateshead side and visit the modern art gallery in the refurbished Baltic Flour Mill. The view from the upper floors is particularly fine. Next door is the Sage, an international music centre with steel and glass domed roof to reflect the city skyline.
Move away from the river into the city centre and you are surrounded by a rich diversity of buildings old and new. The classical splendours of grand Victorian buildings and their warm yellow stone fronted facades curving gracefully along Grey Street, Grainger Street and Northumberland Street, the elegant Edwardian Central Arcade, permanent reminders of a grand past. All rubbing shoulders with a modern shopping centre and department stores, pedestrianised streets and The Gate, a new retail and leisure complex. Newcastle even has its own small Chinese quarter.
You cannot talk about Newcastle without mention of its proud football team. More of a religion than a sport in this part of the country, with the mighty stadium and stands of St James’ Park not at all looking out of place alongside the smart Edwardian terraced houses. Unfortunately the famous team, the Magpies, and their supporters, the Toon Army, are not enjoying the best of times at the moment. There are of course other sports and international venues too.
The warmest welcome of all is perhaps reserved for those experiencing the city’s famed night life! The pubs, bars and nightclubs of the Bigg Market and Quayside have become a mecca for hen nights and stag parties. Many of the older traditional pubs remain, albeit revamped. There are a wide variety of restaurants and it is possible to ‘eat all round the world’. Theatres and cinemas abound, many built in that grand Victorian and Edwardian heyday.
So, you now have a flavour of Newcastle upon Tyne and only one thing remains to be said. Visit that city in the north, taste it for yourself and feel those outstretched arms of its Angel gently pulling you to her heart.