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5 Day Trips from Newcastle: Places to Visit in North East England

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Vibrant and fun with a young soul and a long history, there’s no doubt that Newcastle is one of the highlights of North East England. Modern Newcastle has changed dramatically from its roots as a gritty Victorian port and is a symbol of how the North of England has evolved. The city is now known for its electric nightlife scene, top restaurants, some quirky boutique hotels and its namesake castle.

Beyond the city limits, miles of breath-taking coast and countryside make day trips from Newcastle an ideal way to explore the best of North East England. Our 5 favorite day trips from Newcastle give you the chance to explore some of North England’s unspoiled countryside, rugged coastline and historic sites.

From the history of Roman Britain to the lively South Tyneside coast, historic Durham to the real life Hogwarts, these day trips from Newcastle offer some of the best of England’s North East.

1. Hadrian’s Wall Country

What is Hadrian’s Wall?

Running 73 miles across the breadth of Northern England, Hadrian’s Wall was built to protect the Roman Empire from invasion from the north. Construction began in AD 122 on the orders of Emperor Hadrian.

Contrary to common belief, Hadrian’s Wall didn’t mark the northern extremity of Roman Britain. In AD 78, the Romans had conquered modern-day Northumbria and Scottish Borders but it wasn’t until AD 142 that construction begun on a more northerly wall.

Upon Hadrian’s death, his successor Emperor Pius ordered the building of the Antonine Wall running between Edinburgh and Glasgow. At this point, Hadrian’s Wall was pretty much abandoned.

However, after two failed attempts to conquer Caledonia (the area of Scotland north of the Antonine Wall), the Roman Army retreated south and Hadrian’s Wall once again became their main barrier against the barbarians of the north. Hadrian’s Wall remained an important defence until the end of Roman rule in the year 410.

Best places to see Hadrian’s Wall

As Hadrian’s Wall runs the entire width of the country, you can’t see the entire wall in one day. Luckily, many of the best bits of Hadrian’s Wall are just a short distance from Newcastle. This means that visiting Hadrian’s Wall is one of the easiest (and most famous) day trips from Newcastle.

The best thing to do is start in the city and work your way west, along the course of some of the best parts of Hadrian’s Wall.

Benwell Roman Temple

Just a few miles outside the city center, the remains of a Roman temple can be seen. Benwell Temple was built as a shrine to the god Antenociticus and stood just outside Benwell Fort.

The coolest part of Benwell Temple is that the remains are literally in the middle of a residential area. Best of all, you can view them for free, at any time.

Heddon-on-the-Wall

Around eight miles further east, the village of Heddon-on-the-Wall is home to one of the longest surviving stretches of Hadrian’s Wall. The Roman Army’s defence strategy was to build small forts around a mile apart along their frontiers. These became known as ‘milecastles‘, one of which you can find in Heddon.

Corbridge

The highlight of your day trip from Newcastle along Hadrian’s Wall, the town of Corbridge was an important supply base in Roman times. Unlike Heddon, Corbridge wasn’t a fortification, but a bustling town supplying Roman legions and civilians with food and other goods.

A section of the preserved Roman town is open to visitors daily between 10 am and 5 pm. If you are visiting the Roman ruins at Corbridge, admission is cheaper when booked online.

Local tip: Take a break for lunch at Il Piccolo, a surprisingly high-quality Italian restaurant in the centre of Corbridge.

I always recommend their homemade pasta or delicious locally sourced fish and finish off with proper Italian gelato. After all, when in Rome

Getting to Hadrian’s Wall

By car

Like any traveler trying to find the best parts of Hadrian’s Wall, you’re probably thinking: how do I get to Hadrian’s Wall? The easiest way to get around Hadrian’s Wall country is to rent a car and drive. With your own car, you’ll be able to fit more in your day and stop at some of the more remote parts of Hadrian’s Wall.

By bus

That said, public transport along Hadrian’s Wall is good, and all three of the sites we’ve mentioned are accessible by bus. Go North East bus 684 runs every hour from Eldon Square bus station in Newcastle, stopping at Benwell, Heddon and Corbridge. Make sure to check their website for the latest timetables.

By tour

However, if you are a real history buff, you’ll want to get the most out of your time at Hadrian’s Wall. In my opinion, there really is no better way to visit Hadrian’s Wall than with a guided tour.

2. Durham

Durham feels like it’s in a different universe to Newcastle, yet somehow it’s only just over 10 minutes away by train. This charming cathedral city is steeped in history, with much of the old city being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Given Durham’s proximity to Newcastle, it’s no surprise that Durham is the most popular of day trips from Newcastle.

Top things to do in Durham

Durham Cathedral

Every visit to Durham must include a visit to Durham Cathedral. And no matter how you arrive in Durham, you’ll be able to see the cathedral long before you get there. Built in the 12th century, this imposing Romanesque building dominates the skyline and looks almost as if it’s standing guard over the city.

Durham Cathedral was built to replace the White Church, an Anglo-Saxon church which originally stood on the site. The cathedral is the burial place of Saint Cuthbert and Saint Bede, two of the most important saints from the Anglo-Saxon period.

Cuthbert, the patron saint of Northumbria, spent many years residing at Lindisfarne Abbey where he died in 687. Bede, dubbed Bede the Venerable, spent his years traveling between the abbeys and monasteries of England. He’s the only Brit to ever have been declared a Doctor of the Church by the Pope.

You can visit Durham Cathedral between 9:30 am and 4:30 pm (12 pm to 4 pm on Sundays). There is no entrance fee, but I’m sure they’ll appreciate a small donation towards the upkeep of the cathedral.

Durham Castle

Now part of the Durham University, Durham Castle was originally built in 1072 on the order of William the Conqueror. Following their success at the Battle of Hastings, the Normans moved north, building castles as a buffer between England and Scotland, just as the Romans had done with Hadrian’s Wall.

Right up until 1832, the castle served as the Bishop of Durham’s home. The last bishop donated the building to Durham University. The university opens the castle to visitors year round, with guided tours often run by students.

Opening times for Durham Castle do change, so before you visit make sure you check online and book a tour.

River Wear

Durham sits on the banks of the River Wear which runs right through the center. Wandering along the river is one of the top things to do in Durham. You’ll find a trail which runs for around three miles, including some of the best views of the castle and cathedral along the way.

Local tip: Make a stop at the Riverview Kitchen, just underneath the castle for coffee and cake.

Through the summer, the outdoor seating is the ideal place to relax and take in your surroundings.

Durham Botanic Garden

Opened in the 1920s as an experimental garden for the university’s science department, Durham Botanic Garden is now open to the public. Covering ten hectares on the south side of the city, my favorite section is the Carboniferous Garden.

Tours with resident botanists are available and there’s exciting exhibitions all year round.

Where to eat and drink in Durham

There’s no shortages of quirky cafes and restaurants in Durham’s city center. A couple of icons that you really shouldn’t miss are Café Cenno in the covered market and Tin of Sardines, a tiny gin bar built on the side of Elvet Bridge. When the sun’s out, outdoor seating pops up, making this the perfect spot for a tipple with a view of the River Wear.

If you fancy staying for dinner, check out Restaurant 17 to dine by candlelight with river views. Other good options include The Cellar Door, hosted in a 13th century wine cellar, and The Curious Mr Fox which serves classic English pub food in an ornate floral dining room.

Getting to Durham

Newcastle and Durham are very well connected by public transport. The quickest way to travel is by train, with a journey time of 10 to 15 minutes and up to five trains every hour. At such a short distance, can we really even call this one of the best day trips from Newcastle?

For the cheapest train tickets, you’ll want to make sure you book in advance, with tickets often starting from as cheap as £4.20.

3. Alnwick

Most famous for its castle, which served as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, the market town of Alnwick is one of the best day trips from Newcastle.

Top things to do in Alnwick

Alnwick Castle

Built by the Normans shortly after Durham Castle, Alnwick Castle’s primary purpose was as a stately home, but it did see a little bit of action during the English Civil War. Today, it is still the home of the Duke of Northumberland.

Alnwick Castle has been used in dozens of TV shows and movies including Harry Potter, Downton Abbey and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

The Alnwick Garden

The current duke’s wife, Jane Percy, created an extensive garden next to the castle in 2001 which draws just as many visitors as the castle itself. The garden features one of the largest treehouses in the world, measuring 6000 square-feet which is home to a café and a gift shop. Fascinatingly, the garden also includes a ‘poison garden’ with over 100 species of toxic plant, including narcotics.

Local tip: Tickets to the garden are cheaper when purchased online.

Bailiffgate Museum

A short walk from the castle, Baliffgate Museum tells the story of Alnwick’s history. The museum houses hundreds of objects, including a fascinating collection from RAF Boulmer, a nearby World War II airbase.

The museum’s most significant artefacts are the Davison Bible and the Rothbury Football. Both are ranked among the most important items in the history of North East England.

Baliffgate Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday. As you can probably tell by now, you will save 10% by booking online.

Alnmouth

Often considered one of the UK’s most beautiful villages, your next stop is Alnwick’s seaside neighbor, Alnmouth. This small town offers a magnificent spot to spend a couple of hours after you’ve seen all the sights in Alnwick.

Spend a while wandering along the golden sands before heading to The Red Lion for a traditional pub lunch.

Getting to Alnwick

Alnwick doesn’t have a railway station, but Alnmouth does, meaning visiting both is easy. Trains from Newcastle to Alnmouth take around half an hour, leaving roughly every hour (and more at peak times). If you want to get the cheapest tickets (often as little as £2.70), you’ll need to book in advance. From Alnmouth station, there is a bus to Alnwick every hour (it only takes around 10 minutes).

If you prefer to catch a bus all the way from Newcastle to Alnwick, the X20 leaves Haymarket Bus Station in the city center every hour. The bus ride to Alnwick takes just under an hour, making Alnwick one of the most straightforward day trips from Newcastle.

4. Beamish Museum

A visit to Beamish isn’t simply one of the best day trips from Newcastle, it’s one of my absolute favorite day trips anywhere in the UK. You’ll be surprised to learn that there are no galleries or cobweb-ridden exhibits in this museum.

This isn’t your typical museum, it’s the sort of place that even ardent museum despisers can enjoy.

Beamish describes itself as the “living museum of the north” and was the first of its kind in the country. Whereas many museums are rather picky over the items they collect, Beamish isn’t and never has been. Instead, Beamish collects and displays anything offered to them by local companies and individuals, meaning it really does have everything.

Top things to see at Beamish Museum

Eras

An entirely open air museum, Beamish is split into sections from different eras. In sum, each of these sections represent a period of time in the region’s history.

The oldest is 1820s Pockerley which includes a church, Quilter’s cottage and the Old Hall, with its resident tenant farmer. My favorite part of Pockerley is the Waggonway, a replica 1813 Georgian railway which you can take a ride on.

Moving forwards, the 1900s town shows life in the run up to the First World War. Take a walk along the main street of a typical North East town with a bakery, Co-op general store, pub and stables. A traditional sweet shop sells confectionary like cinder toffee and black bullets.

Sticking in the 1900s, a replica Pit Village gives a nod to the North East’s coal mining heritage. You can explore a typical mining family’s terraced house, a village school which served a nearby village from 1892 and a band hall, home to one of the famous colliery silver bands.

Moving forward a few decades, you’ll arrive at a 1940s farm which showcases what life was like in rural England during World War II. 1940s music plays on the wireless, evacuee children and Land Girls tend to the farm. If you’re lucky, the British Kitchen will serve up some wartime classics.

Beamish’s most recent addition is the 1950s era where town and farm life are shown. Coronation Park shares the excitement of Queen Elizabeth’s crowning, modern terraced houses and a community hall with the new post-War British lifestyle. My personal highlight is a hair salon where you can get a 1950s style trim for £5.

Transport Exhibits

The vintage transport collection is one of Beamish’s biggest draws. Beamish Tramway runs a circular route around the museum with two routes covering all the exhibitions – all using vintage electric trams. Similarly, vintage buses, including replica Edwardian London buses also run around the site. The bus depot carries out restoration works and is always open as an exhibit.

Getting to Beamish

Beamish Museum is located in County Durham, around a 30-minute drive south of Newcastle. The easiest way to get there by public transport is to take the bus. Go North East’s 28 runs every half-hour from Eldon Square in Newcastle and takes around 50 minutes. If you’re traveling kids, the direct bus means this is one of the easier day trips from Newcastle.

5. South Shields

Somewhere very few visitors to England can say they’ve been, South Shields is ideal if you want to experience a traditional British seaside town. It’s great fun for families and equally enjoyable for solo travelers and friends. You won’t find it mentioned in your guidebook and, sure, it appears a little gritty at first sight, but this is England as the English know it and love it.

Top things to do at South Shields

Ocean Beach

If you’re traveling around England with kids, you could spend all day at Ocean Beach Pleasure Park. It has all the rides you’d expect to find at the seaside, including: rollercoasters, bumper cars (‘dodgems’ as we call them in the UK), a carousel and waltzers. There’s also plenty of tamer rides for younger children.

In case the seaside rides weren’t enough, just head inside. Here, you’ll find an arcade with modern gaming machines plus the classic penny falls. There are several food outlets on site, too, from sit-down restaurants to stalls selling donuts and ice cream.

Ocean Beach’s closing times vary by season, with the longest opening hours during school holidays. Admission is free, but if you’re planning to go on the rides you’ll need to get a ‘Tap & Play’ card. You can pick one up from the ticket desk. Don’t worry, it’s all very straightforward once you get there.

Arbeia Roman Fort

Whilst South Shields isn’t on Hadrian’s Wall, Arbeia Fort was vital to the wall’s success. Built in 129, the fort grew with the completion of Hadrian’s Wall. Consequently, the fort served as the main base for legions serving in the area. With a coastal location, the fort was an important supply base for the garrisons and milecastles along Hadrian’s Wall.

The ruins of the site were discovered in 1870 and over the following century it was partially rebuilt to its current state. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Arbeia has some of the finest Roman reconstructions you’ll find anywhere in the UK.

South Shields Museum

For over 150 years, South Shields Museum has been offering an interesting insight into the history of South Tyneside. My personal highlights include an exhibit on the history of mining in the region, the story of shipbuilding on the Tyne and a fascinating description of the Jarrow Marches.

Jarrow, a couple of miles inland from South Shields, was the starting point of a march to the Houses of Parliament in London. On 5th March 1936, 200 men set off from Jarrow to protest against the poverty inflicted upon them by the closure of Palmer’s shipyard, the town’s largest employer.

When plans to replace it with a steelworks fell through, anger within the local community hit an all-time high, and locals decided to take action.

Budget travelers will be thrilled to know that, like most great British museums, South Shields Museum is free to enter.

Getting to South Shields

The quickest way from Newcastle to South Shields is to take the Tyne & Wear Metro, a light rail system. Trains depart Haymarket, Monument and Central Station in Newcastle city center every 12 minutes and take half an hour to reach South Shields. With easy transport options, you can decide quite spontaneously to visit South Shields. This makes it one of the easiest day trips from Newcastle.

Local tip: Rather than purchasing two single tickets, the best value option is to get an all day ticket which allows unlimited travel for £5.90.


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