Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 25 September 2020

A local's guide to Newcastle, England: where to eat, shop and explore

Creative director Nick Donaldson tells us why he believes the city he was born and raised in deserves all the accolades it gets

Newcastle is an unexpected gem of a destination
Newcastle is an unexpected gem of a destination

Newcastle is an unexpected gem of a destination, with beautiful architecture, stunning bridges and Norman castles. It has a rich history stretching back to the Romans, laden with war, industry and innovation. There’s a colourful, exuberant nightlife scene to be discovered, with fantastic restaurants as well as vibrant cultural spots – from theatres to art galleries and museums. There are gorgeous, though chilly, beaches and jaw-dropping countryside within 30 minutes of the city centre. But, most importantly, Newcastle is home to the friendliest people in Britain, with the thickest accent. Geordies, as we’re called, will make any visitor feel at home.

A slice of history

Wallsend, to the east of the city, is where you’ll find one end of Hadrian’s Wall, dating from the Roman Empire, and Roman Fort Segedunum. The wall has snaked from here for 134 kilometres west to the Irish Sea since 122AD and there are plenty of remains along its length, including some within the city.

If castles are your thing, you’re in luck, as there are many – a legacy of when this was a borderland fought over by the Scottish and English for a thousand years. The one that gives the city its name isn’t actually that “new”, having been built in 1177. Climb to its battlements and get rewarded with stunning views. Elsewhere, outside the city, is beautiful Bamburgh, sitting high over a windswept beach. Nearby, there’s also Alnwick, which you may recognise as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, if you are a Harry Potter fan.

For a glimpse into the city’s industrial past, go to the Discovery Museum and the open-air museum, Beamish. Built on coal and shipbuilding, Newcastle gave the world railway engines, light bulbs, turbine engines and windscreen wipers. It was also where Sir Jony Ive, the man behind the iPhone, trained. So there’s lots to learn from us.

My favourite walk

Newcastle is a compact, walkable city. At the heart of it is Grey Street, voted the finest in Britain, with Grey’s Monument at the top and the Theatre Royal halfway down its broad sweep to the river. Here, you’ll find seven bridges spanning the River Tyne. A stroll over the “winking” Gateshead Millennium Bridge, which tilts to let ships pass beneath it, gets you to Gateshead, where you’ll find the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art and the Sage concert venue. The former is a converted flour mill, while the other a modern glittering glass edifice.

My top food spots

If you get peckish, grab a stottie. This is a thick, flat and round type of bread that originated in the northeast, and nowadays you can find sandwiches made with the stuff all over the city. Worth a trip is Riley’s Fish Shack, which is a 30-minute Metro ride to Tynemouth on the coast. Situated on a quiet beach, the venue is dripping in atmosphere and taste, and produces some fabulous seafood dishes. Make sure you wrap up warm, though – it’s no Saadiyat Beach!

My best advice

To get a taste of real life in Newcastle and mingle with the people, get a ticket to see Newcastle United play at St James’ Park, which is bang in the middle of the city. You’ll see the full range of emotions – from agony to ecstasy (more often than not, it’s agony).

And all of this is a direct Emirates flight from Dubai. “Gan canny”, as we Geordies would say.

Updated: December 14, 2019 08:42 AM

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