Newcastle

There are plenty of hotels and guest houses. The Jesmond area, just north of the centre, is full of places to stay and lively night spots. If you’re overnighting in the city, there are hotels near the waterfront, down on the fashionable Quayside.

For a full list of hotels, call the Tourist Information Centre on T:+44 (0)191 277 8000

or get hold of the Newcastle Gateshead Accommodation Guide

ngi@ngi.org.uk by calling the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative on T:+44 (0)191 243 8800.

When in Tyneside, many like to stay around the Quayside. It is close to Central Station where the ride officially starts (or ends), so I have concentrated my entries in this area. The atmosphere is vibrant and the pubs and restaurants are among the best in town; however the hotels, as in most city centres, can be expensive. An alternative starting point is Tynemouth, on the end of the estuary. Who would miss the wonders of cycling down the historic Tyne?

The Newcastle route follows the Derwent Walk. This is both scenic and easy to ride, taking you through Hamsterley Mill, Rowland’s Gill and through some pretty landscaped areas alongside the river Derwent. When you get to the Tyne go left and over the bridge to the Hadrian’s Way path. Although you start off on a rather unpleasant industrial stretch, you are soon back beside the river. The ride along the Quayside is one of the high points for me. It follows the start of the Coast & Castles route, and the description of which follows borrows heavily from my guide book to that magnificent ride from Newcastle to Edinburgh (Coast & Castles – The Complete Guide). I make no apologies.

Newcastle is one of the most ‘happening‘ places in northern Europe. A magnet for shoppers and clubbers, diners and drinkers, it boasts some of Britain’s finest architecture and has gone through a cultural Renaissance. Recent restoration projects have included Norman fortifications, 16th century merchant houses and the great neo-classical designs of Grainger Town. There are also art galleries, museums and concert venues aplenty.

Newcastle and Gateshead, its neighbour on the south bank of the Tyne, have been voted England’s best short break destination. The two towns also teamed up to contend for the European Capital of Culture in 2008, a link symbolised by the arcing strand of the new Gateshead Millennium Bridge across the Tyne. Sadly, the gong went to a town arguably in greater need of culture: Liverpool.

Ever since the Romans arrived 2,000 years ago Newcastle has been a hub of trading activity. The town grew up around Pons Aelius, a Roman fortification about 10 miles inland from the North Sea. For the last 800 years a booming trade in wool, leather and coal have brought the city prosperity.

There are now art galleries, museums and concert venues, among them the magnificent Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art on the banks of the Tyne. Of 1930s Art Deco design, the redesignation of this former grain warehouse is typical of the vision and flare that has gone into the area’s regeneration.

Places of Interest

Castle Keep , Castle Garth, St Nicholas St T:+44 (0)191 232 7938 Built by Henry II between 1168-78 on the site of the so-called New Castle, built in 1080 by William the Conqueror’s son, Robert Curthose. It was after this edifice that the town was named. The New Castle itself was constructed on the site of the Roman Pons Aelius (Bridge of Hadrian). Admission: £1.50, 50p concessions.

BALTIC The Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead Quays T:+44 (0)191 478 1810 Opened in July 2002, BALTIC is the major new centre for contemporary visual art and stands grandly above the water on the south bank. Five galleries and more than 3,000 square metres. It is housed in an old grain store, part of the old Baltic Flour Mills.

The Sage Gateshead, opened 2005. Sir Norman Foster’s contribution to the Geordie quayside, a music complex catering for classical, folk, jazz, brass and choral. This is the home of the Northern Sinfonia. Ticket Office – 0191 443 4661. Switchboard – 0191 443 4666. Music Education Centre Reception – 0191 443 4627. Brasserie Bookings – 0191 443 4654. Coats Desk – 0191 443 4634. Fax – 0191 443 4551. www.thesagegateshead.org

Gateshead Millennium Bridge Takes walkers and cyclists from Newcastle’s Quayside across to Gateshead Quays and Baltic Square and the Baltic contemporary art gallery. The bridge opens and closes like a giant eyelid, allowing shipping to pass. Spectacularly lit at night, like many who inhabit these once louche purlieus. Great viewed at night.

Grainger Town – a rejuvenated architectural treasure trove with some of Britain’s greatest examples of Georgian and Victorian architecture, plus many of the city’s top shops.

Chinatown – around Stowell St. Restaurant standard is good and prices reasonable. Exotic supermarkets and craft shops. There are plenty of hotels and guest houses. The Jesmond area, just north of the centre, is full of places to stay and lively night spots.