Today, and for the next 72 hours, I find myself in Whitley Bay, Tyneside. I mostly know this seaside resort on the North Sea from the POV of my in-laws’ living room, but I’d like to know more. I shouted my intentions to the Twitterverse, and a surprising number of suggestions came back: I had no idea so many contacts were connected to Whitley Bay. Oh the power of weak ties.

Here’s a list of the things to do in and around Whitley Bay:

Druridge Bay for “lovely sand dunes”
From Wikipedia

Druridge Bay is a 7 miles (11 km) long coastal bay in Northumberland, England, stretching from Amble in the north to Cresswell in the south.

Northumberland Coast Country Park is situated within the bay, and part of the bay (the section near the village of Druridge, in the centre of the bay) is owned by the National Trust. Areas within the bay are set aside as nature reserves.

Click here for more

Kielder Forest Observatory
from Wikipedia

Kielder Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, England. It is situated close to the Scottish border on Black Fell near James Turrell’s Kielder Skyspace. The site is comparatively excellent location being relatively free of light pollution.

The observatory is administered by a group of volunteers who have collectively created the Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society. Their aim is to bring astronomy to surrounding community.

Click here for more.

Newcastle Quayside: Baltic art centre
The dynamic Quayside, with its many bridges, has loads of eating & drinking venues, but the Baltic Mill on the Gatehead side dominates the landscape. From the official Baltic website:

Housed in a landmark industrial building on the south bank of the River Tyne in Gateshead, BALTIC is the biggest gallery of its kind in the world – presenting a dynamic, diverse and international programme of contemporary visual art.

BALTIC has no permanent collection, providing instead an ever-changing calendar of exhibitions and activities that give a unique and compelling insight into contemporary artistic practice. The BALTIC programme ranges from blockbuster exhibitions to innovative new work and projects created by artists working within the local community.

BALTIC is a place where visitors can experience innovative and provocative new art, relax, have fun, learn and discover fresh ideas.

For more on the Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside, click here

Tyneside Cinema
From the official website

The man who built the Tyneside in 1937 thought a film should be an event and set out to design a picture palace, complete with mosaics and oriental decoration, which began the job of transporting you out of your everyday from the moment you crossed the threshold.

We believe that he had exactly the right idea and hope you’ll see that the new Tyneside Cinema is made to be more than just a soulless place to see the latest flicks.

Inside the building you will find a range of beautiful spaces, great cafés and exciting activities that are all designed to allow you to indulge your passions, enrich your spirits and spice up your life.


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I went to Hexham when i first came to the UK, in 1994. I stayed with a local family. They introduced me my favourite building in the UK, Tynemouth Priory, an old sandstone building that’s been worn away by the elements over the many years. Had a typical English picnic, with scotch eggs, flasks of tea and rain. A first all around.

Back to Hexham.

Hexham and its surroundings have a wealth of experiences to offer the visitor. Overlooking the beautiful Tyne valley, its medieval buildings form an imposing skyline. At the centre of these is Hexham Abbey, dating from 674AD and a must for any visitor. The town’s market is held in its shadow every Tuesday, and its narrow streets are a magnet for shoppers.

Hexham is surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside you could wish to see. Historic Hexhamshire gives way to the Tyne Valley, and then the lonely Northumberland hills. Charming villages such as Corbridge and Bellingham are well worth a visit, and the area has some of the best walking around, not to mention the country pubs. There is plenty to see and do, whether you are staying or just passing through.

More here.

Another little village, near Hadrian’s Wall.

From the official tourist site:

Rothbury is a small market town which straddles the River Coquet. The town has a pleasant mix of old stone and newer brick-built properties. Although technically a town with a proposal a year or so back to install a town mayor (defeated) everyone still tends to call it a village and it has a village feel about it.

Rothbury has had a turbulent and bloody history. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the Coquet Valley was a pillaging ground for bands of Reivers who attacked and burned the town with terrifying frequency. Near the town’s impressive All Saints’ Parish Church stands the doorway and site of the seventeenth century Three Half Moons Inn, where the Earl of Derwentwater stayed with his followers in 1715 prior to marching into a heavy defeat in battle, at Preston.

Lord Armstrong’s Home (Cragside, now in the ownership of the National Trust) was the first house in the world to be lit by hydro electricity. The Hall and its majestic grounds are situated two miles east of the town. Travelling west you pass through some of the most exquisite and peaceful countryside in Northumberland.

An historic village, classified by the National Trust.

From Wikipedia

Morpeth is the county town of Northumberland, England. It is situated on the River Wansbeck which flows east through the town. The town is a mile from the A1, which bypasses it. Since 1981, it has been the administrative centre of the County of Northumberland. In the 2001 census the town had a population of 13,833. Nearby villages include Mitford and Pegswood.

Lots of landmarks and historical sites. Find out more here.

Alnwick Castle
A Harry Potter and Blackadder location!

From the official website

Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England, and has been the home of the Percys, Earls and Dukes of Northumberland since 1309, making this year the 700 year anniversary.The earliest mention of Alnwick Castle in the history books appears soon after 1096 when Yves de Vescy became baron of Alnwick and erected the earliest parts of the Castle. The Castle was first restored, primarily as a fortress, by the 1st Lord Percy of Alnwick in the early 1300’s and portions of this restoration remain today, including the Abbot’s Tower, the Middle Gateway and the Constable’s Tower. Since then generations of Percys have continued to make their mark. During the late 17th century the Castle fell into decay until Elizabeth Seymour and her husband Hugh Smithson, later to become the first Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, took up the challenge and turned it into a family residence of “gothick” style with the help of architects such as Robert Adam and the landscape designer, Capability Brown.

And it’s in the stunning town of Alnwick, which you can find out more about here.

“Wayne’s World for 7th Century monks”

From the official website:

The extraordinary life of the Venerable Bede (AD 673-735) created a rich legacy that is celebrated today at Bede’s World, Jarrow, where Bede lived and worked 1300 years ago.

Who on earth is this Venerable Bede?

Bede was born in AD 673 on the lands of the monastery. Of his family background we know nothing, save that he was entrusted at the age of 7 to the care of Benedict Biscop, the founder of the monastery, and then to Ceolfrith who in AD 681 was appointed Abbot of the new foundation at Jarrow. Bede spent the rest of his life in the monastery. He was ordained deacon at the age of 19 and priest at 30. He observed the Rule of the monastery and was punctilious in his attendance in choir at the daily offices. Outside of his time in choir, he worked as scholar and teacher; he records that “It has always been my delight to learn or to teach or to write”. And he explains that “I have made it my business, for my own benefit and that of my brothers, to make brief extracts from the works of the venerable fathers on the holy scriptures, or to add notes of my own to clarify their sense and interpretation”.

Want to know more? Wikipedia’s got the answer.

“Look up Winslow Homer, one of your countrymen, who lived in Cullercoats”
He did indeed. According to Wikipedia, the celebrated American landscape painter lived in Cullercoats for two years.

“big concrete blocks on the beach”

There’s also castle, an astronomical society and a flower show.

Apparently the castle is a rather magnificent place for hide and seek.

“long chilly walk” on the miles of white sandy beaches!

A ‘large village’ with a population of 454 and an eerie castle that was the seat of the former kinds of Northumbria.

More from the official parish site

Fish & Chips at Staithes
Staithes is a geologist’s fantasy, with loads of natural minerals and ores. It was also home to Captain James Cook.

So says the official site.

“Go eat at Jesmond Dene House”
Yes please.

Official site

Victoria Tunnel
Now this looks interesting.

766 yards (700m) of this old underground waggonway has been newly restored by Newcastle City Council and includes audio-visual effects and “Rainbow Code” – an exciting, responsive artwork.

Official website

Whitley Bay Historic Trail
Only a three miler, from the Whitley Bay railway station to the New Coliseum.

At the height of its popularity Whitley Bay was a busy seaside resort attracting visitors from far and wide. Here generations of families enjoyed everything that the traditional British seaside holiday had to offer. However, as air travel became more accessible in the 1960s, holidaymakers began to seek out ever more exotic destinations where sunshine could be guaranteed. Holiday patterns would change forever. As you step out on this walk you will discover for yourself some of the fragments of Whitley Bay’s rich and varied past.

Official website

Holy Island
This place always makes me think of Summersisle, the fictional setting of The Wicker Man. But it’s not.

In 635AD St. Aidan came from Iona and chose to found his monastery on Lindisfarne. The Christian message flourished here and spread throughout the world.
However Holy Island is not only a centre of pilgrimage. Its tranquillity, spirituality and scenic beauty attracts a multitude of visitors to its shores every year. Undoubtedly, it is the jewel in the crown of Northumbria.

Don’t forget the mead

Official website

“Go down the amusements and play defender, then have some greasy chips”
Methinks this would be a blast from the past for toastkid

“wander down and explore the cute harbour, then walk a bit further to the lovely beach cafe in Tynemouth Sands”

From Wikipedia

Cullercoats is an urban area of North East England, with a population 9,407 in 2004.1 It has now been absorbed into the North Tyneside conurbation, sitting between Tynemouth and Whitley Bay. There is a semi-circular sandy beach with cliffs and caves, and the village is a popular destination for day-trippers. The name is thought to derive from Dove (or Culver) Cotes.

I can attest to the loveliness of the sands.

Official website

And finally, a stroll to see the “nice lights in the tree on Park View”

Many thanks to suethomas internetsdairy, tomhcooper, joeldamian, Karen_Friar, paultweedy, megp, ChristinaWatson, francismuir, socialtechno and scott_cawley