A travel journal
to Newcastle upon Tyne by michaelhudson
Quote: The beaches of North and South Tyneside are among the cleanest in the UK with five of the country's 83 Blue Flags for the highest standards of convenience and cleanliness.
Tynemouth still has its Victorian station and the wonderful Front Street, lined with specialist shops and pubs and ending in the ruins of a castle and priory that stand on the headland above the sheltered sands of King Edward’s Bay. The more bustling South Shields has its own Roman fort, museum and ornate town hall along with a fairground and Victorian parks near the seafront. Along with Whitley Bay it also has the best nightlife in the area outside of Newcastle.
Tynemouth and South Shields are both locally renowned for their restaurants. Ocean Road in South Shields has a number of Indian restaurants, while North Shields Fish Quay, between the ferry landing and the Collingwood Monument in Tynemouth is the best place to buy seafood.
The nearest metro station to the start of the coastal path is Seaburn. The distance to South Shields is around six miles. Take your own food and drink as there are few facilities until you reach Souter Lighthouse.
The Tyne Ferry costs £1 each way. If you’re travelling further consider buying a Metro Daysaver for £3.20 which gives you unlimited travel on both the ferry and the metro.
Market days in South Shields are Wednesdays and Fridays. There is also a bric-a-brac market inside Tynemouth Station every Sunday morning, and outlet shopping at Royal Quays close to Meadow Well metro station.
Tourist Information is available at the entrance to South Shields museum and Tynemouth Priory.
The centres of South Shields and Tynemouth are both compact enough to be explored on foot. The distance from South Shields metro to the sea is around a mile, which is also the distance from the ferry landing in North Shields to the coast.
The leaning grey and black headstones of the adjacent graveyard have been chipped and cracked until most resemble scorched bubbles of melted, colourless cheese. Some seem to be slowly falling, others are barely legible and reveal only snatched fragments of existence such as 'formerly of Berwick', 'Served his King and Country faithfully for 26 years', 'foundered at sea', 'universally respected' and 'accidentally shot whilst in the execution of his duty.' Foremost among them all is Corporal Alexander Rollo who 'held the lantern at the burial of Sir John Moore at Corona.'
Around and across the graveyard weatherbeaten walls reveal the location of the old latrine and the Prior’s Chapel, littered with broken sculptures and stone tablets. The remains of the New Hall amount to 4 ft of stone, while the outer parlour is but a ragged line of rocks in the grass. The Prior’s Hall drops sharply into the ground, the old walls clearly perceptible but the steps and ceiling victims of dissolution and decay.
The castle walls run either side of the gatehouse back by the Gift Shop. First started by the Normans in 1095, the walls protected a site sacked by the Danes in 800 and holding the remains of Oswin, King of Deria (651), Osred of Northumbria (792) and Malcolm III of Scotland (1093). From the top of the steep banks the statue of Collingwood is clearly visible in front of the river and the hazy view over to South Shields Town Hall and the vast shipyard cranes along the Tyne. Middle-aged men walk dogs in the hilly moat below the ramparts and black shapes walk two-by-two up to the distant lighthouse at the top of North Pier. As seagulls glide over the upturned boats down at Prior's Haven, the frequent clack, clack sounds of croquet bat on ball can be heard from the white-shirted players to the left of the presbytery. Beyond the allotments and church steeples a teacher barks out instructions as the boys of King's School run up and down the Rugby pitch.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 15, 2003
Tynemouth Castle and Priory
Newcastle upon Tyne, England NE30 4BZ
+44 (191) 257 1090
Attraction | "Tynemouth"
Tynemouth station, first built in 1882 and Grade II-listed since the late 1970s, is the gateway to the faded grandeur of the surrounding village. Every 10 minutes, red and yellow metro trains stop below the elegant wrought iron and glass roof, held up by ornately carved beams winding up to red brick chimneys and cloudy skies. Double footbridges arch between wide platforms that house bric-a-brac and arts and crafts markets every weekend.
Outside the station, across the small car park and opposite a cluster of neat suburban gardens, King's School follows the bend of the Georgian classical Huntingdon Place round to Front Street. Look out for the blue plaque on the right hand side of the street commemorating the Italian patriot Garibaldi's visit here in 1854 to outline his plans for unification to local politicians. Lined with specialist shops, red telephone boxes, restaurants, and pubs, Front Street subtly meanders its way from the seated statue of Queen Victoria up to the 1861 clock tower in front of Tynemouth Priory and Castle, the skeletal ruins of which dominate the headland overlooking the mouth of the Tyne. Pier Road branches off to the south, running along the row of pretty coastguard cottages to the watch house and attached museum. A diagonal path cuts down the hill to the towering Collingwood Monument, eventually winding its way to the banks of the river, where a path continues along to the North Shields Fish Quay and the Tyne ferry.
North of the clock tower, East Street starts at the Rock of Gibraltar pub, split by an eye-shaped stretch of grass into Sea Banks and the stately three-storey sweep of Percy Gardens as it passes King Edward's Bay before the windswept Victorian splendour of Grand Parade takes over, all steep stone steps, high bay windows, and blustery sea views as it reaches out towards Cullercoats and the majestic spire of the Parish Church of St. George, commissioned by the Duke of Northumberland and designed by John Loughborough Pearson in 1884. The wonderful Grand Hotel, built in 1870 as the summer residence of the Duchess of Northumberland, is situated above the beach next to Tynemouth Park.
King Edward's Bay, or Shortsands as it is locally known, arcs to the north of Tynemouth Castle and Priory. Sheltered by high cliffs, the only access to the small, sloping beach is by a step of steep stairs.
The third beach, Prior's Haven, is no more than a sandy inlet at the very mouth of the Tyne. Once popular with the monks from the adjacent priory, the Haven was a bathing beach in the 18th century but is now off-limits to sunbathers as the home of the Tynemouth Sailing Club. A row of benches above the beach marks the former site of the Spanish Battery, a defensive site for the castle built in 1545 and manned by Spanish mercenaries.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 15, 2003
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Littlehaven Beach stretches from the Groyne to South Pier; this is the quieter, less crowded beach away from the funfair and amusement arcades, and referred to locally as the Little Beach. The beach consists of very fine light golden sand and is ideal for young families, throughout the summer weekly sandcastle building competitions and pirate treasure trails are held here to help entertain the kids, the sand shelves very gently into the North Sea and is suitable for even the smallest children to paddle in, there are ample Lifeguards on duty here, public toilets and a first aid building. The North Pier was actually built to stop the sand from Littlehaven beach washing out into the Tyne and the two piers give shelter to the beach.
Across the Promenade from Littlehaven beach is North Marine Park with beautifully laid out flowerbeds and a swing park for youngsters. There is ample ‘pay and display’ car parking opposite the Promenade. This is the area of the Seafront for a family day out without too many money-spending attractions.
Along the Promenade and at the end of Littlehaven beach there is a T-junction leading up to Ocean Road where the majority of Guest Houses and Private Hotels can be found, along with pubs, restaurants, Curry Houses and take-aways. Right on the T-junction you find The Pier Pavilion this is the home of Westoe Amateur Dramatic Society who give performances all year round. Outside The Pier Pavilion is the Woodhave Memorial and one of England’s first lifeboats, aptly named the Tyne, is preserved here with a short history of the areas contribution to the design and development of the lifeboat.
The T-junction brings you on to South Promenade past South Pier and Sandhaven beach, locally known as the big beach; this beach stretches along the coast for approximately three-quarters of a mile up to Gypsy Green Stadium and the Leas. Again the sand is fine, light golden in colour and very clean, with a backdrop of wonderful sand dunes; the beach here also shelves gently into the sea and is ideal for paddling, swimming and water sports. There are an abundance of public toilets, Lifeguard posts and first aid stations along Sandhaven; deck chairs, windbreaks and beach tents are all available for hire.
Bents Park is situated next to South Marine Park, near the model of the world's first lifeboat, designed by the locally born William Wouldhave; every Sunday throughout the summer Bents Park plays host to open air shows called ‘The Sunday Star Spectaculars’. Some of the celebrities that have performed here include The Bootleg Beatles, Rolf Harris, and Johnny Cash; the shows are free and are very popular. Next to Bents Park is Sandhaven Caravan Park, which offers space for both static and touring caravans.
The South Promenade has an elevated walkway giving you excellent views along the beach. Perspex screens overlook the beach below the walkway and there are a number of benches for people to rest and enjoy the views.
The Amphitheatre next to the elevated walkway and is the venue for a variety of free summer entertainment; every Sunday afternoon there is a Brass Band concert, live rock, folk and pop groups entertain the public every Monday and Wednesday evening. There is also children's entertainment every afternoon throughout the school holidays with magic shows, games and talent contests.
Just beyond the elevated walkway is the Marsden Rattler, a beer garden and a restaurant housed in an old Pullman train carriage. Sandhaven Beach Chalets are also located here, the chalets offer self catering accommodation with glorious sea views.
The largest pillar is known as Marsden Rock and stands over one-hundred feet high and was pierced by a natural arch; the pillar on one side of the arch was about one-hundred feet wide and the other pillar about two-hundred feet wide at its base; the rock is flat topped and at one time had a ladder fixed to its side to allow locals to reach the top, in the past a choir and a brass band have both performed concerts from the summit and many older locals have stories to tell of picnics held at the top of the rock in their youth. At low tide the rock lies about twelve-yards from the shore and the water around it is only about three feet deep so it is possible to wade out to the rock.
Marsden Rock is renowned for its sea bird colonies especially kittiwakes, cormorants, and fulmars, and in the 1960s, the ladder was removed from the rock to help preserve it as a bird colony. In 1996 the face of the rock was altered forever when the famous arch collapsed and the narrowest of the pillars had to be demolished for safety reasons but this has not detracted from the breathtaking beauty of the sheltered wide sweeping bay.
Marsden Bay has rock formations at the base of the cliff leading to a very sandy clean beach; the cliffs give shelter from the wind and create a suntrap. There are many small caves to explore with fine examples of stalagmites and stalactites and some of the caves echo and have a very eerie feel. There are numerous small rock pools full of sea creatures such as small crabs and starfish that have been stranded when the tide goes out. There are public toilets at the top of the cliff on the Lees and at The Grotto.
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Since its closure the Lighthouse has been taken over by the National Trust and has been renovated.
It's now open to the public and tours include a visit to the Engine Room where you will find the machinery that powered both the light and foghorn, detailed manuals describing the workings of the Lighthouse, children’s activities and puzzles to help youngsters understand the importance of lighthouses and hold their interest plus short easy to understand descriptions of the machinery.
In the Compass Room you get a feel of what life was like for Keepers of the Lighthouse, there are also displays of shipwrecks, smuggling and piracy, a variety of navigational equipment, a model boat where children are encouraged to do a spot of role play and dress up and the workings of the Lighthouse are also explained with the aid of videos.
If you have a head for heights you can climb the seventy-six steps to the top of the tower to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views of the coastline from the mouth of the River Tyne right down the coast to the mouth of the River Tees, the sight is magnificent taking in The Leas, the rugged cliffs and sandy beaches, as well as the changing moods of the North Sea down below.
Those who don’t fancy the climb to the top of the tower can enjoy the same view without leaving the Compass Room on the ground floor, there a is remote controlled CCTV camera in the tower operated from the Compass Room where the monitor is located, this is particularly useful to people with disabilities.
You can also look around the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage where authentic displays of rooms have been reconstructed behind glass screens and enjoy the home made refreshments on sale in Souter’s own tearoom.
After looking around the Lighthouse take a walk along The Leas, this is a wide grassy sweep, which follows the cliff top and stretches for nearly two miles north along the coast past Marsden Bay and Trow Rocks down to Gypsy Green Stadium, after the Stadium you come to South Shields promenade with a elevated walkway giving excellent views along the beach, the Amphitheatre hosting a variety of summer entertainments, the Fun Fare, a Tourist Information Centre, and the South Pier.
The National Trust Coast Road
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
A white stick propping up the northern edge of the bay, the lighthouse was built at the end of the 19th century and stands on a rocky island above a huddle of red-roofed cottages and whitewashed outbuildings. Reached on foot by causeway at low tide, you can climb the 137 steps to the top for a lovely panorama up and down the coastline.
The rest of the town can be skipped without any sense of loss. The beach itself, a 1.5-mile stretch of around 50m from cliff to sea, has won awards for cleanliness, but still looks distinctly unimpressive compared to those a couple of miles down the coast at Tynemouth, while the park around the war memorial tries its best to be nice, but feels bare and unwelcoming. What else is there? The kind of shops that you can find on any stagnant high street in any declining small town, an ice rink and golf course, metal benches on a concrete promenade, and the town’s only thriving industry: a congregation of pubs and clubs around the Rex Hotel that attract binge drinkers, stag and hen parties, and teenagers from all over Scotland and the north of England every weekend and bank holiday.
There’s a desperate feeling to this place; the remaining touches of Victorian grandeur are relics of another time. The modern attempts at a facelift are too few and far between to make any difference. Whitley Bay is dead.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on September 1, 2005
Off the A191 from Newcastle
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England NE2 2TJ
+44 191 200 8535
Nowadays, it’s largely young children and the elderly who crowd the sands in front of the 19th-century watch house and the lifeboat station, attracted by the cleanliness of the water and the caves at the southern end. Nowhere near as popular as the beaches at Tynemouth, Cullercoats has managed to maintain a village atmosphere; the tiny knot of streets between the slightly shabby metro station and the seafront are nondescript but presentable, and the place is too small to suffer from the wide open sense of decay up the coast in Whitley Bay. All in all, it’s a pleasant stop off on the walk from St Mary’s Lighthouse to Tynemouth Priory. Nothing more, nothing less.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 1, 2005
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom