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Day Trip to Newcastle

Famous for football, friendly faces and fun nights out, there’s something in Newcastle for everyone. You’ll also find a wealth of museums, culture and food and drink hotspots. We’ve put together a handy guide on what you can do when you visit the home of the Geordies, and the best way to get there. We’ll get you sorted faster than you can say ‘whey aye, man!’

Getting There

Newcastle is situated on the East Coast Mainline between London and Edinburgh, so it’s easy to get to. You’ve plenty of choice as well, with some routes having multiple operators to choose from. Here’s what you can expect from a selection of key destinations:

The Main Sights – the City Centre

Newcastle Cathedral

First of all, let’s take a look at a few of the main sights. If you take a left turn out of the station and continue for a couple of blocks, you’ll reach Newcastle Cathedral, also known as The Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas. St Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and boats, which makes sense considering how important the River Tyne was, and continues to be for the city.

The current building was completed in 1350 and was heavily restored in 1777. It’s open every day (free entry) between 8am and 6pm, so you can pop in and take a look for yourself!

Newcastle Castle

Now, if you walk just a little further, you’ll find Newcastle’s Castle Keep and the Black Gate. This does answer the obvious question of whether Newcastle literally does have a castle! There’s been a castle here since Roman times, but this one dates from around 1177. From the 1500s to the 1700s, parts of the castle were used as a prison, and there were even some private houses within its grounds.

Nowadays, you can visit both of the attractions, which form part of Newcastle Castle. At the time of writing (February 2023) it’s open from Thursday to Sunday, and an adult ticket costs £9.95.

If you’re interested in tracing the history of Newcastle as a fortress, you could also search for parts of the old town walls. You’ll find a fairly complete section of the West Wall near Stowell Street, situated on the edge of Chinatown. It’s just a short walk from other City Centre attractions.

Grey Street

Heading back to the Cathedral, you can continue onwards a little to Grey Street. It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful streets you’ll find in a British city, and it was even rated the best street in the UK by Radio 4 listeners in 2010!

It was designed and built by Richard Grainger in the 1830s, and houses a variety of bars and restaurants. Most famously though, you’ll find the Theatre Royal at the very top.

Grey’s Monument

This brings us nicely to the last main sight on our whistle-stop tour, which is Grey’s Monument. It was built in 1838 to commemorate Charles Earl Grey’s work in passing the Great Reform Act of 1832, which increased the number of people able to vote in elections.

Nowadays, the Monument is the focal point of Newcastle. It functions as a Speakers Corner and plays host to events, performances, protests and more all year round. No matter the day of the week, there’ll probably be something gannin’ on!

Museums & Art Galleries

Newcastle is full of them! Most importantly, there’s a great deal of free ones, which is what we’re going to focus on. In the City Centre itself, you’ll find three attractions worth popping into…

The Great North Museum

Previously known as the Hancock Museum, the Great North Museum focuses on a mixture of natural history and the teaching of other world cultures.

You can learn about the wildlife of Newcastle and the wider region, and what makes it so special. Don’t miss the replica of a T-Rex either, we’ve checked and it doesn’t bite!

If you’re coming to the museum with your little ones, there’s a dedicated Mouse House to bring the rest of the exhibitions to life.

At the moment, it’s open between 10 and 5 every day. To reach the museum, you can walk to it or take the Tyne & Wear Metro from the station to Haymarket (two stops, five minutes).

You can find out more on the museum website.

The Discovery Museum

If you’d like to know more about the recent history of Newcastle, then the Discovery Museum is right up your alley. Located on St James’ Boulevard (turn left out of the station and continue straight on for around five minutes), it contains a variety of exhibitions about Newcastle, the river and its industry.

The centrepiece of the museum is the Turbinia, which was the world’s first Steamship, built in 1894. At the time, it was easily the fastest ship in the world, too. The ship itself was built in Wallsend, which is just a short distance down the river from Newcastle. Up until 2006, Wallsend was building ships that sailed to every corner of the world. A look at this list of ships built by one company there shows you just how powerful this small Tyneside town once was!

The Newcastle Story exhibition will take you through the history of the city from the Roman era to the present day, with all of the fascinating changes that came with it. Another feature is Destination Tyneside, which is the only permanent exhibition in the UK which tells the story of migrants who’ve made Newcastle and the wider region their home.

Of course, there’s something for the kids as well. The interactive Science Maze brings science and engineering to life. Whether that’s through exploring shadows and illusions, or having a go at a game of air hockey!

Right now, you can visit the Discovery Museum every day between 10 and 4 (11 and 4 weekends, closed Bank Holidays). You can find out more about everything on offer on the museum’s website.

The Laing Art Gallery

When you think of a traditional art gallery, something like the Laing Art Gallery will come to mind. The funds to build the gallery were left by Alexander Laing, so that it could be founded in 1901. He didn’t actually leave any art to it, but said that “by the liberality of the inhabitants [of Newcastle] it would soon be supplied with pictures and statuary for the encouragement and development of British Art.”

Sure enough, he was right! You’ll find a wealth of work by artists local and not-so-local. Artefacts from Newcastle and photography collections of the local area in times past have also featured before.

You can find out more about the gallery’s collection on their website. While most exhibitions are free, there might be a small charge for temporary ones. It’s open from 10 til 4:30 Monday to Saturday, and it’s located just off New Bridge Street – just a stone’s throw from Grey’s Monument and the rest of the City Centre.

The Quayside

The Quayside and the River Tyne have always been the lifeblood of Newcastle. In times past, it was teeming with industry. But, as this declined, the Quayside underwent a complete transformation. Nowadays, it’s a centre for hospitality, art and culture and just generally a great place to have a wander. Even today, Geordies always have a special place for the Tyne in their hearts. As the famous song goes, the fog on the Tyne is aal mine, aal mine!

The Bridges

Newcastle is famous for its bridges. As the old joke goes, there’s only one place that has the same number of bridges – Gateshead, on the other side of the river!

On the Quayside itself, there’s four main bridges that you’ll see:

The Baltic

If the art in the Laing Art Gallery isn’t quite for you, then you might enjoy what’s on offer in the Baltic. Originally a flour mill, it was converted to an art gallery in 2002. It’s located on the Gateshead side of the Quayside, right next to the Millennium Bridge.

It features guest exhibitions from a variety of artists around the world, who can choose to express themselves in an almost endless number of ways. Take a look at this exhibition by Hew Locke which was on display when we visited:

It might look a little ‘unusual’ at first, but it’s actually a look at ‘processions’ and how they form the cycle of life. You can find out more here. Above all, Baltic is about thinking ‘outside the box’.

If you’d like a view down the river, then head up to the fifth floor:

If the weather’s nice, you’ll also find an outdoor viewing terrace on the fourth floor. It’s also home to more nesting Kittiwakes, just like the ones under the Tyne Bridge!

The Baltic is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 til 6 and entry is free.

The Sage Gateshead

As the name suggests, The Sage Gateshead is located on the south side of the river. Containing three performance halls, it was designed as a concert hall and musical education centre, opened in 2004. It’s also designed to be ‘acoustically perfect’, meaning that the different halls can be adapted to suit any kind of music.

If you’re not seeing a performance there, it’s still possible to have a wander inside. You’ll find a cafe and gift shop, as well as some pleasant views of the river. Just know that at the moment, the only way to access it from Newcastle is by walking over the Swing Bridge. Once you’re over the bridge, turn left and then cross the road to follow a path that leads up to the venue. Despite there being bus stops outside the Sage Gateshead, they’re no longer in use by any regular bus service.

The patch of land to the east of the venue will soon become the site of The Sage, which will be a brand-new arena. It’ll also house an international conference centre, bars, restaurants and hotels. The Gateshead side of the Quayside will truly become a hub for culture and the arts!

Eating and Drinking

Newcastle is a true melting pot of different cultures and cuisines, so it’s impossible to list them all. You can try local specialities and a famous stottie cake in the Grainger Market, while Chinatown has a plethora of restaurants serving traditional dishes from across Asia. Put simply, if you fancy it, somewhere will offer it!

The city also has a thriving craft beer scene. You’ll find little hidden bars like The Wobbly Duck in Old Eldon Square, which serve local specialities in a cosy and inviting atmosphere:

If you’re looking for somewhere near the station though, we have a couple of picks. For some tasty Mexican-inspired food, you could try Zapatista. They were Newcastle’s first Mexican-inspired burrito bar when they first opened over a decade ago.

Choose from burritos, nachos or chilli, with a wealth of options to make it your own. You can expect change from a tenner and a hearty meal to go with it. We tried the beef chilli:

You can find Zapatista on Grainger Street, just two minutes from the station. Alternatively, there’s another branch on Ridley Place, in the north end of the City Centre.

If you’d prefer to fuse craft beer and fresh pizza together, look no further than the Newcastle Tap. It’s located just over the road from the station’s taxi rank and serves an ever-changing selection of local and world beers.

Along with the drinks, you’ll of course find the pizza. The Newcastle Tap has its own pizza oven and the option to ‘half and half’ your pizza if you can’t decide on just one type of topping! Pizzas start at around £9 and work their way up to £14-£15. You can click here to find out more.

Heading Further Afield

Of course, Newcastle is just a small flavour of what Tyneside has to offer. Here’s some of the other things that you could do in a day if you come to visit:

However you choose to experience Newcastle, you can travel smarter with Railsmartr. Book tickets with us and you won’t pay any fees if you need to change your plans.

Green Spaces near Stations: Our Top 5

Whether you’re visiting somewhere for the day or just passing through, you can’t beat somewhere peaceful to sit and take it all in. Maybe the kids are dying to let off some steam, or you’d just like some fresh air. Here at Railsmartr, as we’ve travelled across the North of England and Scotland, we’ve found some of our favourite green spaces. The best part is that they’re all within 15 minutes walk of a station!

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

If you’re not quite up for the slightly brutal hike up Arthur’s Seat, but still want some breathtaking views of Edinburgh and beyond, then Calton Hill is probably for you. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a number of different historical monuments.

We’ll be honest, there’s still some legwork involved! After all, it does still have ‘hill’ in the name. But, if you exit Edinburgh Waverley onto Princes Street and turn left, a short five-minute walk will bring you to the bottom of the steps. A short workout up some steps and a bank later, and this will be your reward:

green space - edinburgh calton hill

You can see right across the city and towards the Forth River, with a plethora of green spaces to kick back and relax in. If you’re looking for something more exciting, it also hosts the Beltane Fire Festival every April!

Linlithgow Park & Peel (Palace), Linlithgow

This is one of those green spaces where you truly feel like you’ve got away from it all. Despite backing onto the town of Linlithgow itself, there’s quite a ‘wild’ and isolated atmosphere. Perfect for some peace and quiet!

You have several options here. If you just want to sit back and take it in, there’s plenty of places to sit near the palace:

green spaces - linlithgow park

For the more adventurous, you can walk around the whole of Linlithgow Loch (pictured above). That said, it’s a pretty level and short walk (around an hour), so it’s perfect on a nice day with the kids or to walk the dog.

Of course, we can’t ignore the imposing and rather beautiful Linlithgow Palace:

This palace once served as a royal nursery for James V, Mary Queen of Scots and Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I). As of June 10th 2023, it’s open to the public again, too.

The current building was planned and built starting in 1424, but was largely abandoned when James VI became James I of England and moved the royal court to London in 1603. Despite efforts to rebuild the collapsed Northern Quarter of the palace in 1620, a fire in 1746 spelled the end of Linlithgow Palace as a royal residence.

As green spaces go, the area around Linlithgow Palace certainly has it all. If you’re coming from Edinburgh, you can get there by train in as little as 17 minutes.

Museum Gardens, York

Situated near the banks of the River Ouse, the Museum Gardens are just a short walk from the station. The main attraction (as the name suggests!) is the Yorkshire Museum, which tells the story of York and beyond from as far back as the Roman era.

If you want somewhere to wander or just relax though, then you’re still spoilt for choice. It can be quite the oasis of calm compared to the bustling nature of York itself. It’s the ideal place to start or finish a riverside walk, too.

As well as the green spaces, you’ll find a number of historical buildings to explore. One of these is the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, which date from between 1271 and 1294:

green spaces - york museum gardens

The park is open between 9am and 6pm all year. You can find out more about its history on the Yorkshire Museums Trust website.

Valley Gardens, Harrogate

This is one of the green spaces that forms part of Harrogate’s rich history as a spa town. Valley Gardens have more mineral springs in them than any other known place, with there being 36 wells alone in an area of the gardens known as ‘Bogs Field’. The gardens are English Heritage Grade II listed, too.

green spaces - harrogate valley gardens

In the winter months, you can expect plenty of places to walk and explore. The gardens also give way to the Pinewood Woodlands, so you can extend your adventure even further.

The gardens truly come to life in the warmer months, though. There’s a number of cafes selling light refreshments, as well as outdoor activities to keep everyone of all ages amused. You can choose from mini golf, a paddling pool, tennis courts and more.

If you’re looking for somewhere a little more sheltered, why not relax in the pavillions?

On Summer Sundays, you’ll even find outdoor concerts taking place.

Vimto Park & Sackville Gardens, Manchester

Finally, how about two green spaces for the price of one? The first one, Vimto Park, may be one that you’ve seen from the train. Who could miss the giant Vimto bottle looking up at us from the street below? The drink was born in Manchester in 1908, so this seems like a pretty fitting way to pay homage to it:

green spaces - manchester vimto park

It’s located on the Science Campus of the University of Manchester, around a five-minute walk from Piccadilly Station. To get to it, you’re best using the Fairfield Street exit (follow signs for the Metrolink and the taxi rank). While it’s only a small space, it’s a little oasis of calm in the city centre. It’s perfect for watching the trains go by, as well!

A short walk away down Sackville Street, you’ll also find Sackville Gardens. The land was originally purchased by the Manchester Corporation in 1882 so there’d be an interrupted view of the Manchester School of Technology (now the Sackville Street Building).

Nowadays, it’s a great place to relax and reflect, as it’s home to various LGBT+ memorials. One of these is the Alan Turing memorial:

Sackville Gardens is also around five minutes from Piccadilly Station and it backs onto the popular Canal Street.

No matter which of these green spaces you might choose to visit, you can book your rail tickets with Railsmartr. We don’t charge any fees if you want to change your plans, either.