I absolutely love travelling to different cities in the UK. I know it doesn’t sound as glamorous as heading overseas, but the truth is that there are some amazing things to see a little closer to home, so I think it’s fun to be a tourist in your own country from time to time and explore a part of the UK that’s new to you.
One of my top recommendations is Newcastle – a city that’s packed with historical buildings, amazing galleries and astonishing public art. And it’s just a stone’s throw from the beach, where you can find so many things to do in Whitley Bay just 45 minutes east!
And just as a quick confession before we begin, a couple of these are actually located just outside Newcastle – but I promise they’re all quick and easy to reach, and well worth the trip!
1) Castle Keep
We’ll start off in central Newcastle at the wonderful Castle Keep. Now, this is a particularly special place (not to mention an apt attraction to begin with) because it stands on the site of an old Norman motte and bailey castle, which is where the city got its name from. So, already it’s easy to see why it’s such a must-visit!
Aside from its ties to the city’s name, the fortification is known as one of the very finest examples of a Norman keep still standing in Britain today, and is a Grade I listed building. As a quick tip, you can also climb right to the top and I thoroughly recommend doing so – you get absolutely brilliant views of the city. Photography fanatics: you can see the city’s seven bridges from here, so it’s got some great photo opportunities.
2) Grainger Town
Next up is Grainger Town: historic area and shoppers’ mecca. It includes Grainger Street, Grey Street and Grainger Market – among a number of famous buildings and monuments – and is packed full of classical architecture. Most of this dates back to the 1830s, when it was designed by Richard Grainger.
One of the nice things about Grainger Town is that it’s right in the heart of the city, making it wonderfully easy to soak up a little history. And in fact, you can do so while hitting the shops because this part of Newcastle is actually home to some of the best stores in the city, including high-end brand names and independent boutiques.
3) BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
Next on my list is the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, which you’ll find on Gateshead Quays. This place is an art lovers’ dream, hosting a really exciting, varied programme of international art, as well as displaying pieces by local artists.
Interestingly, BALTIC is the biggest art gallery of its kind in the world, and it’s a great place to learn about art with the whole family, as well as checking out the latest works on display.
4) The Angel of the North
The Angel of the North is probably the most famous large-scale art installation in Britain today, and it’s one of those absolute must-sees that everyone should check out at least once in their lifetime.
Designed by Antony Gormley, the angel was created back in 1998 and is made from an incredible 200 tons of steel. Some 20 m high, the sculpture has a wingspan of a whopping 54 m. Unsurprisingly given its size, it’s not hard to find – it stands towering over the A1, where around 90, 000 drivers get to see it every single day.
5) St Mary’s Lighthouse
Last up is St Mary’s Lighthouse, which is on St Mary’s Island in Whitley Bay. This landmark was completed back in 1898 and guided seafarers until 1984, when more modern technologies replaced it.
While no longer operational, the lighthouse is certainly still impressive. If you can, make sure you climb the 137 steps to the top – from here, you can see some of the very best views of England’s north-east coast.
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