Chasing Ed Sheeran to Newcastle

Sarah Freeman on 15 July 2018
My favourite artist Ed Sheeran was playing in my home town, but I just wasn't quick enough to secure tickets, hence why I'm now at Stockport Station and in less than three hours I’ll be in the land of the Toons.

Newcastle. One of the most iconic cities in the UK with its industrial heritage, scenic bridges and lively nightlife. I'd booked a three-day weekend – plenty of time to explore the sights and sample the infamous Geordie hospitality.

My hotel, Hampton by the Hilton was literally across the street from the train station and while it’s 1970’s dreary façade was a little off putting, inside the friendly staff, clean and modern bedroom, 24/7 bar and help yourself breakfast made up for it.

I’d brought along my mum for the trip and promised her an afternoon of shopping. What’s nice about the city is that everything is close by and very walkable – a quick 5-minute walk to Grey’s Monument and you were in the middle of shopping heaven. Whether you prefer the big high street retailers on Northumberland Street or in the Intu Centre at Eldon Square, the infamous Fenwick or the independents in Central Arcade or Grainger Market you’re spoilt for choice.

Newcastle is known as a creative hub so make sure to look out for local street artists work. Check out Sean Henry’s “Man with Potential Selves” consisting of three bronze, 2.5m tall statues. Admire the region’s “Famous Faces” mural by miner turned artist Bob Olley and don’t miss “Nine Things To Do On A Bench” glass etchings on the back of various benches, a lovely collaboration between Cate Watkinson and Julia Darling.

Being on holiday gives you license to dine out and the difficult part was deciding where to go. Newcastle offers every type and price range of dining option. Given it’s a university city there’s the usual plethora of fast food joints but also fine dining establishments. We dined at Jamie’s Italian, Mr Oliver’s franchise and then found a great hole in the wall Italian joint called Roberto’s La Dolce Vita. The décor was typical, and it needed a spruce of paint but what amazing food and service – huge portions (pizza’s like flying saucers!), fresh ingredients and quick service.

After dinner, we hit the row of bars on Westgate Road/Collingwood. The area is made up of the usual UK big city chain pubs so don't expect anything unique but with a mix of lovely stone facades, outdoor seating, live music, fruity cocktails and hearty pub food you can’t go wrong:

The Mile Castle – A Wetherspoon’s pub, in the imposing Grade II former National Savings Bank, download the app so you can order drinks from your table.

The Waiting Rooms – a modern narrow style pub stretching nearly a whole block, eclectic seating, known for specialty gins and award-winning pies.

The Union Rooms – with bars set over two floors this venue packs in a crowd with its Sky Sports offering.

The Laundrette – a Manchester implant, think cocktails and carbs, more of a restaurant, you have to order food if you are drinking. Revolution Bar – another bank conversion, 30ft ceilings, marble pillars and leather banquettes with a lounge like atmosphere.

On Sunday I’d booked a tour through Newcastle Gateshead Tourist Information with a local volunteer, meeting outside the JG Music Store. Brilliant value at £5 for a 90-minute walk with a wonderful narrative of the local history.

My “avourite sights: Grainger/Grey Street

Grey’s Monument – Grade I listed monument built in 1838 for Charles Grey, ex British Prime Minister who gave his name to Earl Grey tea! You can climb the 164 steps to the top on a guided tour but book early as slots sell out quick.

Grainger Town – beautiful development of 1830’s classical buildings that are part of Newcastle’s Central Conservation Area. Built by Richard Grainger, the 450 buildings are mainly four storeys high and feature a mixture of turrets, domes and stone columns.

Theatre Royal – designed by brothers John and Benjamin Green, the theatre opened in 1837 but was sadly ravaged by a major fire in 1899, now restored to its former glory the theatre hosts national British tours.

Old Newcastle

St Nicholas Cathedral – Over 900 years old, this Church of England place of worship is the seat of the Bishop of Newcastle, look inside at the wonderful craftsmanship of the alter carvings and stained-glass windows. Castle and Keep – Dating back to Roman times, the site has seen a turbulent past evolving from a timber fort to its current stone incarnation built by King Henry II. Today you can visit the Black Gate and Castle Keep, which have been lovingly restored and it’s a great place to learn about how the city got its name.

Old City Walls – the defensive walls date back to the 13th century and helped secure the town from Scottish invasion, originally 2 miles long, large areas were demolished over time but check out the remains on the western side near Stowell Street. Bessie Surtees House – close to the quayside, this 16th century Jacobean merchant’s house holds the tale of requited love as high society Bessie climbed down from the first-floor window to elope with John Scott, a lowly coal merchant’s son who eventually became the Lord Chancellor of England.

The Quayside

Sage Gateshead - you can’t miss the imposing silver snail like structure that dominates the skyline and is one of the premier live music venues in the UK, offering a whole host of concerts, festivals and workshops.

Millennium Bridge – the winning design from a council competition in 1996, is the world’s first and only tilting bridge. Spanning the River Tyne, the bridge allows pedestrians and cyclists access to the Gateshead’s Quays arts quarter. Make sure to get quayside for 12noon to see the bridge in action.

Baltic Centre – a former flour mill, now a centre for contemporary art, featuring frequently changing exhibits from international and local artists alike. Don’t miss the 6th floor rooftop restaurant for amazing views.

Sunday market – check out the artisan market selling all manner of tasty local treats and handcrafted goods. Highly recommend New Vintage Boutique where I picked up a lovely summer top.

St James’s Park

Football Stadium – home of Newcastle’s Premier League Football Team. The 52,000-seat stadium is only a 10 minute walk from the centre and as well as football matches, also hosts major international music acts and conferences. You can even don a hard hat and enjoy a rooftop tour!

And as they say up north “seeya, gan canney fre noo!”