Newcastle and Gateshead are just a short drive south of Alnwick (approx 45 minutes) and are full of modern museums, bridges and shops for the days that you don’t feel like seeing the historical side of Northumberland. A must see for visitors include a visit to the sparklingQuayside in Newcastle, the GatesheadMillenium Bridge, The Sage at Gateshead and the BALTIC centre for contemporary art.
The Quayside, now lined with stylish cosmopolitan hotels, designer bars, restaurants and public art is a very popular place to visit. Newcastle Quayside has some of the best restaurants in the city. Many different cultures and styles of food can be sampled here and you can be guaranteed a wide range of cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. There are plenty of designer boutiques stocking cutting-edge labels and colourful independent galleries and craft shops full of original artwork and handmade treasures.
The Gateshead Millennium Bridge, which opens and closes like the blinking of an eye is a work of art in itself. It arches across the Tyne to link the City to the Gateshead Quays. Designed by and built by Gateshead-based construction company – Harbour & General, it is still the world’s first and only tilting bridge! The unique design is based on the simple idea of a pair of steel arches – one is the deck, the other supports the deck. The whole bridge tilts, undergoing a metamorphous into a grand arch, in an operation that evokes the slow opening of a huge eye. At night, the bridge is lit spectacularly and is very popular with photographers and tourists taking dramatic pictures.
The Sage Gateshead provides world class facilities for acoustic music on a prime riverside location overlooking the famous Tyne Bridge. This £70 million project is seven buildings in one, designed from the inside out and then clothed by a spectacular curved roof. A glass fronted public concourse and foyer links all the areas – offering spectacular views.
The BALTIC centre for contempory art is housed in a landmark industrial building on the south bank of the River Tyne. The BALTIC is the biggest gallery of its kind in the world – presenting a dynamic, diverse and international programme of contemporary visual art. This £46m project has transformed the former Baltic Flour Mills, a disused 1950’s grain warehouse, into one of the biggest and best contemporary art spaces in Europe.
One of Europe’s largest shopping centres, theMetro Centre in Gateshead has almost 330 shops ranging from high-street favourites and major department stores to smaller independent outfits in atmospheric themed areas. All with free parking, late night opening and open seven days a week.
The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle upon Tyne is a 32,000 square foot converted Victorian factory selling artwork. They sell everything from paintings, prints, sculpture, ceramics, glass, furniture and jewellery. There is a restaurant/cafe, artist led workshops, framing, delivery, commissions and art hire available.
Further afield, South Tyneside is a popular coastal area on the south banks of the River Tyne with stunning cliff tops and award winning beaches as well as awe-inspiring Roman and maritime history. Journey back to Roman times at the Arbeia Roman Fort, learn about Anglo-Saxon history at Bede’s World, visit a keeper’s cottage at Souter Lighthouse or explore beautiful sandy beaches and enjoy traditional seaside fun at the lovely resort of South Shields.
For outdoor and nature lovers, no holiday to Northumberland would be complete without a visit to Kielder Water & Forest Park. Home to northern Europe’s largest man-made lake and England’s largest forest, the Park’s remoteness and clean air and water offer a fresh outdoor experience. Children will love playing in the grounds of the Kielder Castle. There is also a children’s adventure playground. For those wanting to explore the forest, the castle is also the hub for outdoor enthusiasts. Mountain bikers won’t be able to resist the fantastic array of trails designed to provide something for every level of cyclist. Walking trails take in the vast scale of the park and wider views of the Border Country.
For those looking for a bit of adventure in the car, Kielder Forest Drive is a spectacular 12 mile (19 km) drive on forest road from Kielder Castle in the west to Blakehopeburnhaugh. The Forest Drive is one of England’s highest roads. Here the views over Northumberland are simply breathtaking.
Water enthusiasts will not be disappointed either. Kielder Reservoir is the largest man-made lake in Northern Europe. You can hire a row boat, take a canoe trip, have a kayaking lesson, go sailing, take a trip on the ferry or water ski. There really is something for everyone. Kielder Water & Forest Park is also an ideal base for exploring the rest of Northumberland, Cumbria, Hadrian’s Wall Country and the Scottish Borders.