North Tour Holiday – Part 2

This is part 2 of 3, covering the middle of my holiday. Part 1 is here, and part 3 here.

Day 5 (Friday)—Arrival

The Millennium Bridge is lit with ever changing colours each night


The Millennium Bridge is lit with ever changing colours each night

Having left Liverpool we had to change trains at York. That proved to be a minor problem as we arrived just outside York station and stopped (coincidentally just next to where I used to live) and waited. And waited some more. Using the live train tracking we could tell that one of the trains we saw passing us towards the station was actually our connecting train. Eventually we made it into the station, delayed by a steam train apparently though we caught but a glance of it going by. That meant we had a pick a random train for the last leg of the journey but there were seats available so all was well.

Newcastle safely gained there was a quick stop to show off the Centurion Bar in the station before a taxi took us to the nice hotel (a short walk from the Millennium Bridge, and Sage so not quite so out the way as it might feel). The bed was certainly comfy, so we slept.

Day 6 (Saturday)—Home Town

They've put the sign up on the Tyne Bridge about 2 weeks early

Great North Run Bridge

They’ve put the sign up on the Tyne Bridge about 2 weeks early

Heather had never been to Newcastle before so I was eager to show off my home town. We started at what has become an attractive quayside, walking down from the hotel, across the car park of the Sage and down to the Millennium Bridge. There I began Heather’s education to ensure she can now name the bridges across the Tyne, and in order! We crossed the river (unfortunately bridge tilt times for the winking eye Millennium Bridge weren’t convenient) and went along the more interesting and pleasant Newcastle side of the river bank. Going around the Guildhall by the Swing Bridge we came to some of the oldest of Newcastle buildings opposite, including the one from which Bessie Surtees infamously eloped via a window. From there we climbed the hill towards the city centre, heading ever higher up Grey Street towards the centre of town around Grey’s Monument.

We past round the outside of Eldon Square, taking in the Grainger Market before heading into the shopping centre itself. By this time Heather’s bag had managed to break so we actually had a purpose in looking for a new one. Eventually we wandered round Haymarket to Northumberland Street where Primark provided a new bag. As Heather needed to transfer bag contents I fulfilled something of a personal tradition and took her to Trillians.

Part of old Newcastle's defenses

Round Tower

Part of old Newcastle’s defenses

Ready for a bit of history I led the way back past Eldon Square to behind Stowell Street and the town walls. There was some drama as Heather went to explore Ever Tower and managed to slip and fall on her back—saved by the new bag! Luckily there was no great injury so we continued on to the rest of the wall remains before following the vanished course of the walls down Pink Lane to the station.

We came to the better of Newcastle’s cathedrals, St Nicholas. I’ve always liked that cathedral, it seems a more human scale than the sheer grandeur of some cathedrals, and it has the power to remind me of someone very special, so I don’t mind at all wandering its quiet places.

All the walking had worked up an appetite and hungry we headed for Stowell Street, famed for its Chinese restaurants, passing through the cloisters of Blackfriars on the way. Heather picked one out based on website recommendations. It’s hard to decide if the influx of Chinese was a good sign or not, given what they were being served obviously only bore a passing resemblance to the food cooked up for us but judging by the food we had possibly not. At least we didn’t have to worry about someone coming to our table with three or four waitresses seeming fighting over us!

That seemed quite enough for one day so we headed back to the hotel for what felt like well earned rest.

Day 7 (Sunday)—Back In Time

I don't think the destination board is quite right

Central Station Destination

I don’t think the destination board is quite right

Sunday saw us navigating the local bus network to reach a place Heather had demanded to go since I mentioned it as a possibility. Beamish is an open air “living” museum, recreating early twentieth-century life.

We hopped on a tram down to the pit village, a typical northern thing for the period. We looking into its hall before heading to the school, which always evokes memories of my old primary/junior school (particularly the big ceramic sinks at the entrance). There were plenty of children playing with the hoop and rings and sitting at the old wooden desks. I slipped behind a desk myself but thankfully avoided any of the exercises being handed out!

Relaxing in the kitchen


Relaxing in the kitchen

School out we explored the minor’s terrace with its period rooms and gardens full of vegetables (and in one kitchen, a cat). The rear of the terrace always feels so familiar. The drift mine proved to have too long a queue to bother with though, so we headed up to the Home Farm.

Having gotten past the great shire horses and a tractor we went in search of the promised new piglets. There was a pig, then some chickens (one being calmly but determinedly held by a young girl) until we eventually found the crowd around the pen in which the new piglets were feeding from their mother. I think I still prefer the ducks by the pond on the way back down the hill to catch the tram to the town though.

An old style store with shop keeper


An old style store with shop keeper

The tram took us to the town, which is mainly a terraced street with a few other buildings around. There’s a masonic hall which I don’t remember going around before, and a bank (the interior of which comes from a different bank to the exterior). The new bakers didn’t seem quite finished, but still had a huge queue, as did the sweet shop, so we skipped both. We did poke our heads in the general store, and clothing store and the carriage works though before making our way down the terrace itself (unfortunately no old style pharmacy as Heather was hoping). Wandering around so much produces a thirst and one can’t possibly visit Beamish without a trip to the Sun Inn. No women allowed in the bar of course so we sat through the back in the Select room (they don’t actually enforce such a rule now but it was the only room with seats).

Refreshed we went onwards to the terrace, the displaced Ravensworth Terrace. Rebuilt brick by brick, in its previous location it backed onto where my mam lived as a child and stood next to where my old school was. It wasn’t until I read it stood until 1985 that I realise I think I have a vague memory of them pulling it down (certainly I remember the rubble strewn field where it stood, before they rebuilt the school there). It’s been done to represent the well-to-do of the age, with a dentist and a lawyer’s office included.

Heather gets her turn on the carousel

Wave From The Horse

Heather gets her turn on the carousel

The obvious route then was on towards the railway station but running short on time didn’t have a chance to visit, not when there was a carousel (steam driven, no less) for Heather to enjoy—I suspect this may have been her favourite part. Then it was time to catch another tram from town and the last bus from the entrance back to Gateshead.

Travelling around in the past is pretty tiring so Heather got her wish to try out the hotel restaurant that evening. It was, like most hotel’s catering, pretty uninspiring but at least it was close.

Day 8 (Monday, again)—Visiting and Football

Centre of the castle

There's The Keep

Centre of the castle

Monday morning I thought it was probably best to finally introduce Heather and my Dad to each other. This had nothing to do with our borrowing his washing machine, honestly. We strolled up through Gateshead, stopping at Costa for breakfast, to his flat. More walking for Heather! After we’d chatted (and washed and dried clothes) Heather and I set of to a bit of Newcastle we’d been saving up; the castle keep.

The best view of the Black Gate we could get as it undergoes renovation

Black Gate

The best view of the Black Gate we could get as it undergoes renovation

As we both have a thing for castles it was an obvious destination and very enjoyable, though there are a lot of stairs all the way up to the roof—even if the views are worth it! It’s just a shame that almost all of the rest of the castle has been lost to time. We also couldn’t really get a good look at the Black Gate, the castle’s barbican, which was undergoing some renovation (hopefully it will be a much improved attraction when they’ve finished). There always seems to be more to the keep than I remember, from the top roof views down through the great hall to the chapel beneath the external staircase with various solars and the well room off one part or another, and an unfinished staircase. Tour concluded a quick trip through the small shop brought us back out, with a photo at the top of the forebuilding outside the impressive doors to the hall to finish.

Having explored the castle we walked round a bit more of Newcastle. We headed back towards the river, passing behind the central station to the extant section of town wall we hadn’t yet seen. Running out of walls we marvelled at the “was’oles” (blocked openings) in the old warehouses on the steep hill down to the quayside.

The walking and climbing had again certainly given us an appetite so we called into the The Quayside bar for food. I then had just enough time to walk Heather back as far as the Sage before being a very bad boyfriend and abandoning her for the evening to go and watch football (she didn’t mind too much, probably glad to get a break from me, though given the hammering the lads took I almost wished I hadn’t bothered).

Day 9 (Tuesday)—Return To York

Found one with her name

Heather's Boat

Found one with her name

Tuesday saw us heading off, aiming towards Scarborough. First though we had a day’s stop in York planned. The plan had been to go to the York Maze, however, when even the attraction’s own website cautions about the bus service it makes one think twice, particularly when there is a train to catch later. So having seen such warnings when checking travel on the way we abandoned that plan and decided just to do some of the bits of York we’d missed last time we were there.

The plan had always been to leave cases with the left luggage at York station so we went to do that, only to discover it wasn’t there! Due to “security concerns” the left luggage has been thrown out and moved down the road. So now instead of an X-ray machine and questions about fire arms there’s now a bloke in a portacabin!

Cases safely stored we wandered round a bit before more, calling in the Kings Arms—famed for its frequent flooding—then walking down the river (avoiding another boat ride even if there was a little red hire boat named for Heather) and round Clifford’s Tower before more or less stumbling over Fairfax House. It’s more Heather’s thing than mine, though the architecture of the attached ex-cinema is nice. It was OK though, even if I had to put up with “room guides” talking at us, a style of presentation I dislike.

An old building hiding at the centre of York

Adventurer's Hall

An old building hiding at the centre of York

That little adventure took us up to lunch time so we stopped in The Three Tuns for some food and drink. Then it was on to more adventure, in the Merchant Adventurers Hall. The Grade 1 listed scheduled ancient monument of a building dates back to the fourteenth century so is steeped in history. The main hall is impressive and the undercroft (formerly used as a hospital) and chapel are interesting. There is also an extension with not one, not two but three antechambers leading to the main room.

We more or less ran out of time after that so off we went to collect bags and sit waiting for our train in the station pub (the York Tap looks good, didn’t know that was there—one for next time). Then it was off through the sunny countryside for an hour to reach Scarborough and the seaside. There, after a brief rest in another pub, we headed for the B&B, making the mistake of walking what looked a much easier journey. The accommodation was functional at best but we didn’t intend spending much time in it anyway. Indeed, we headed out that night to find a shop, getting rather over excited with goodies when we did. And then to bed, ready for paddling and sand and sea, other wise know as part 3.


There’s a page of photos from Newcastle (and one from Beamish) and some from York.

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