‘If you look at Newcastle or Gateshead, even over twenty years, even with the previous administration, it has moved quite remarkably in transforming itself’ – John Prescott
They say the best ideas are born out of necessity so when my husband and I wanted to do a walking tour of Newcastle upon Tyne but couldn’t find a free one online, we decided to make our own!
Start off with lunch at The Strawberry Pub – right opposite Newcastle United’s home ground, St James’ Park. This pub is a Geordie institution and packed with NUFC memorabilia. It’s standing room only on match days but any other day you’ll be greeted by warm and welcoming staff and the food menu is as reasonable as it is plentiful.
After Lunch head southwest on Strawberry Place toward Strawberry Lane
Turn left onto Strawberry Lane then right onto Gallowgate and you’ll see the entrance to Chinatown marked by the distinctive Chinese Arch
Cross the road keeping the Chinese Arch on your left and you’ll instantly see the City Walls which were built during the 13th and 14th centuries, and helped protect the town from attack and occupation during times of conflict. This part of the old Walls is the longest continuous stretch still standing.
Walk the length of the walls, keeping them on your left then when you get to the end walk through the last arch which will make you turn back on yourself onto Stowell Street, the main street of Chinatown
Walk halfway down Stowell street and turn right through a little stone arch (Dispensary Lane) where you will see Blackfriars on your right. Only the buildings of the cloisters remain in this 13th century friary. The buildings now house a range of craft workshops and a restaurant.
Continue straight along Dispensary Lane and turn left when you hit Low Friar Street. Keep following the road and you will soon come to The Gate Entertainment Complex on your left. Opened in 2002 The Gate consists of a 16 screen cinema, casino and over 15 Bars and Restaurants (mostly chains like Nandos and TGI Fridays). Stag and hen do central at a weekend!
When you reach the end of Low Friar Street you’ll find yourself on Newgate Street. You’re not pretty much in the heart of the city. Ahead of you will be Debenhams which will lead you in to Eldon Square shopping centre.
Take the zebra crossing across the street towards Debenhams then turn right down Newgate Street. Continue to the corner of Newgate Street and Grainger Street.
Look left and you will see Grey’s Monument a Grade I listed monument to Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey built in 1838.There is a spiral staircase leading to the top which is occasionally open to the public to take in breathtaking views of the city.
Keep on walking in the same direction and you’ll find yourself in the famous Bigg Market which was once the home of Newcastle’s Nightlife (since the development of The Gate and more pubs and clubs on the Diamond Strip and Quayside the Bigg Market isn’t quite as popular as it used to be but still home to a few restaurants and pubs. Most Famously Balmbras,(which is sadly a tacky Motown themed bar now) named in the song The Blaydon Races; which is still the starting position of the race to this day.
The Bigg Market forks into two in the middle, take the street on the left (Cloth Market) to find Balmbras and ahead of you you’ll see St Nicholas’ Cathedral (also called Newcastle Cathedral) which was build in 1350 (and restored in 1777).
From the bottom of the Cloth Market turn briefly right onto Mosely Street then turn left onto St Nicholas’ Street. From here you’ll be able to see the Cathedral from all angles. Continue on St Nicholas’ Street and you’ll come across The Castle, of which Newcastle is named after. The most prominent remaining structures on the site are the Castle Keep, the castle’s main fortified stone tower, and the Black Gate, its fortified gatehouse.
This is all thirsty work right? Next to The Castle is The Bridge Hotel which is a great Real Ale Pub with great views of the Tyne Bridge on a clear day. Perfect for re hydrating and resting your weary legs!
Now that’s you’ve been suitably watered, leave the Bridge Hotel walking slightly to the right, round the back of The Castle (The Vermont Hotel will be on your left) in front of you you’ll see a narrow set of steep stone stairs. These are The Dog Leap Stairs made famous by the Dire Straits song ‘Down to the Waterline’ The name refers to ‘a narrow slip of ground between houses’. According to folklore in 1772 Baron Eldon, later Lord Chancellor of England, eloped with Bessie Surtees making their escape, on horseback up Dog Leap Stairs (must have been some horse!).
Turn right at the bottom of the stairs and you’re now pretty much on the Quayside. Follow the pavement round to the left and you’ll come across Bessie Surtees House. The house is best known as the scene of the elopement of Bessie Surtees and John Scott, who later became Lord Chancellor and was restored in 1930. An exhibition detailing the history of the buildings can be found on the first floor.
Cross the street now and directly opposite you’ll find the Guildhall and Merchants Court which is another Grade I listed Building.
Now follow the pavement round to the left and you’ll see the famous Tyne Bridge and Newcastle Quayside. Follow the footpath right along the River Tyne and see The Sage Concert hall and Baltic Flour Mill Art Gallery on the Gateshead Side and the Millennium Bridge in front of you.
Take a stroll along the river towards the Millennium Bridge and you’ll eventually get to the Pitcher and Piano Pub. Here’s where your tour ends (you’re probably ready for another drink now yeah?) If it’s a nice day try and get a table outside. The P&P is great for people watching as well as taking in the lovely view of the bridges!
Heading back up to the start? My advice would be take the Quaylink bus, it’s only about £1.50 and will take you to either central station of Haymarket Bus Station.
All pictures are my own unless otherwise stated so please ask before taking them!
1. The Strawberry Pub Exterior (Google Images)
2. The Pitcher & Piano Aerial View (Google Images)