Steaming Up North

Catching up a bit here, from the end of March/beginning of April, which saw Heather and I heading north to my home city of Newcastle, with a bit of an elongated weekend.

Butler Bot

At your service

We reached Newcastle quite late in the afternoon but still had time for the traditional arrival drink in the glorious surrounds of Centurions before heading up the road to check into the hotel.

We had a bit of time to settle in a bit before heading out to dinner at the always great old favourite Blackfriars, which as usual didn’t let us down in terms of delicious food. That was about all we had time for though, before heading off to bed.

View To Theatre Royal

With the magnificent sweep of Grey Street beyond

We had a bit of lazy morning before heading out into the world on Saturday. We wandered around to The Junction where I was left to watch the football while Heather and the Newcastle dwelling Gem went off to find some Roman (at Corbridge). The football went well in the end, but they’d barely got off the train by the time it finished so I was left with an afternoon to myself.

After a stop back at the hotel to grab the camera I went through a wander through town. Wandering back through Eldon Square I found myself at the ever impressive graceful curve of Grey Street. I headed down as far as the Theatre Royal before cutting across to take the more direct route of Grainger Street towards the station. I passed that by though (no intention of following Heather and Gem to Roman, of all things), and continued along to the calming interior of St Nicholas. The more exciting interior, the other side of the castle remains, was that of the Bridge Hotel however, which offered the advantage of refreshing beer.

Top Of The Bridge

The end of the High Level

From there it was across to my real home town of Gateshead, crossing my favourite bridge in the High Level with it’s marvellous views down the Tyne with the other bridges crossing, Glasshouse (no longer called the Sage) and Baltic on one side, and the modern and historic mingling on the Newcastle side. Reaching the Gateshead shores I decided to investigate some of the town’s industrial heritage, climbing the ramp to the remains of Central, which I got to visit for the first time (very familiar with the pub of course, but first time up to the roof). It was just about sunny enough to be a pleasant pint before I set off again, heading down the steep hill which was once the main route into Newcastle. Passing beneath the towering Tyne Bridge which eased that Newcastle route (just beginning to acquire the scaffold for major restoration work) I walked along the river to the newest of the many bridges, the Millennium Bridge adjacent the Baltic.

Through The Big Arch

Looking up the hill of Dene Street

The bridge gave me a route back to the Newcastle quayside, and the inviting Head of Steam. I had a good rest there because I knew I had to get myself back up the hill if I was going to see the city centre again. I went via Dog Bank, and past the now rather cut off All Saints—strange to think that the now cut in half Pilgrim Street was once attached here before the big road above cut it off. The hill wasn’t done with, as I made it up Side and back to the cathedral. I needed a rest in Centurion, before heading across the road to The Victoria Comet where Heather and Gem finally rejoined me.

They, and I, wanted dinner so we headed round the corner to China Town, and the reliable Red Diner before heading our separate ways to bed.

As Gem has a new place to live (on which I’m guarantor!) we thought we should visit her, so Sunday morning headed over to sunny Gosforth, causing her a mild panic when we messaged we were in an Uber on the way there. Her flat is a little studio place but it’s nice enough, and the area seems nice too. We hung out there a while before heading off towards the centre of Gosforth for Sunday lunch. We called in the Job Bulman on the way, which Heather and I had visited while hunting sheep but Gem had never visited.

Lunch was booked at the Brandling Arms which turned out to be a fine choice, with good food in a nicely relaxed atmosphere (and decent beer). We stuffed ourselves before heading back via the Spoons to Gem. After hanging about a bit more we headed more or less across the road from her to the Brandling Villa (I’m sure those two pubs never cause any confusion). That turned out to be nice too, despite the strange quiz going on. And then it was about time to head back to the hotel, and bed.

Steam Loco

Statically displayed engine

We met Gem at the excellent Black Sheep Coffee quite early the next day, because we had an adventure to go on. An Uber took us outside the city centre and into the heart of an industrial estate, where hides the Stephenson Steam Railway. It’s a small but enthusiastic little heritage railway which I’d never actually managed to make it to before, running down what was industrial freight track towards the Tyne. The history of the tracks goes back far enough that they predate the use of locomotives, rope haulage being used (hence the location of “Middle Engine Lane”). Loco works developed where the museum’s main (much later) buildings sit, and part of it was later used as test track for the Metro.


The Killingworth Billy, possibly the third oldest extant steam locomotive

Here Comes The Train!

Our ride for the afternoon ready at the platform

Inside are two or three locomotives, including what may be the third oldest extant steam loco in the world. There’s also a Metro cab on a trailer, which apparently once used to roam schools as an info display. It doesn’t take too long to wander around, even with an Easter egg hunt, but that’s fine because it was just about the right length of time before we were heading outside. There, in the incessant rain, a fiery red tank engine waited to take us for a ride down the tracks and back. It’s a surprisingly lengthy journey, probably made more so by the obvious speed restrictions it’s operating under. That does give time to enjoy the experience though, steam building up as we went beneath bridges. There’s also a good chance to get a proper look at the engine as it runs around at the end of the line before heading back up the hill.

The rain had become properly heavy by the time we made it back to off the train, so we abandoned any plans to walk down to the big Tesco and booked an Uber instead. Heather somehow managed to send us to the other large Tesco though, right across town, which made for an interesting car ride I suppose, and did get us slightly closer to Gem’s place. We then took her shopping in a poorly student has no food sort of way.

Eventually getting shopping deposited back to Gem’s we went to the pub again for some lunch before finding a Metro replacement bus service (the only bus Gem can manage to find) to get us back into town proper. That led to an early dinner at favourite Marco Polo, with dangerous numbers of cocktails.

Got Any?

Looking for treats

Up and out the hotel to Pink Lane Coffee, which was nowhere near as nice as Black Sheep. Never mind. From there we wandered up into town and a tour of the Grainger Market (don’t let me look in those stalls says Heather, before we end up in those stalls). That wasted away a good part of the morning, and a trip to the tourist information part of Newcastle library wasted some more (there always seems to be another book or five to buy there). In fact it took us all the way to lunch time so we went to meet Gem at Mog On The Tyne where we were booked in to have lunch with the cats. That was as excellent experience as normal, with tickles and the constant fight to at least try and keep the puds away from human food.

Of course a trip to the cats is seemingly not complete without a trip to the nearby Glamorous Owl and a visit to the Old George. we wanted a bit more interactive entertainment though, so headed up to the hotel and adjacent Junk Yard Golf for some crazy golf—always a great thing to do while on holiday. Then it was off to the Junction again for some more football (not quite as successful) to end the night.

The last day of our Newcastle break, and we were supposed to be going underground at the Victoria Tunnel. The tiredness and incessant rain caught up with us though, so we bailed out and took a gentle wander through town instead, before heading for Centurions to await the train home.


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