Hidden Newcastle: 5 places you’ve never heard of (but will wish you had)

Newcastle is about more than nightlife, bridges and the Angel of the North. There’s another side of this city to explore – hidden Newcastle

1. Walk beneath the city streets at Victoria Tunnel

The one for: learning about Newcastle’s coal mining history

Steam trains, mills and factories would’ve got nowhere without coal. It was food for the Industrial Revolution.

Coal is a main player in the history of Newcastle. The city was surrounded by coalfields – and in 1913 the North East produced a quarter of Britain’s coal.

As well as employing 250,000 men, the Great North Coalfield also powered the shipbuilding and steel industries Newcastle was famed for.

Get an insight into these days at Victoria Tunnel, where an expert guide will lead you beneath the city streets along a tunnel used to transport coal from the mine to the River Tyne. The tunnel itself is a magnificent feat of Victorian architecture. Fascinating stuff.

 

2. A slice of Jacobean life at Bessie Surtees

The one for:  ornate interior design – Jacobean style

Hark back to Tudor times when powerful merchants built fine homes on the banks of the River Tyne.

The 2 houses that make up Bessie Surtees Milbank House and Surtees House were lived in by bonafide bigwigs in the 16th and 17th century. Marvel at carved oak panels, intricate plasterwork and ornate fireplace surrounds. Ostentatious, moi?

Love’s young dream: Swoon at the tale of Bessie and John Scott the coal merchant’s son, who eloped to Scotland in 1772. Bessie leapt from a first-floor window to marry her man. Swoon.  

 

3. Lunch at Grainger Market

The one for: a real taste of Geordie grub at Newcastle’s iconic food market

This food market is as Geordie as a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. Bakers, fishmongers, butchers and greengrocers have all been bartering for the custom of local folk since the market opened in the early 1800s.

But it now also does a roaring trade in street food – making it the perfect spot to grab a bit of lunch. We love the butties at the French Oven – officially the best bakery in England and Wales in 2014, according to the Food Awards.

At some point officials wanted to knock Grainger Market down, but it’s now a Grade-I listed building – so it won’t be going anywhere. While munching your sarnie, glance up at the domed ceiling – quite majestic. A bit like the grub.  

 

4. Taste the teas of the world at Tea Sutra

The one for: broadening your horizons beyond a cup of PG

Tea Sutra is an Aladdin’s cave of terrific teas. From China to Nepal and India to Africa, fine teas from the world over have been found and brought home. That’s dedication the cause.

And the result of their mission is this delightful, beguiling tea-house-cum-shop. Browse rare blend upon rare blend – it’s like a sweeties pick ’n’ mix, only much more bohemian.

Sink into a chair while sipping a cup of Assam and embrace the zen. Seriously smug-but-laidback vibes. 

 

5. Check out another famous bridge

The one for: Newcastle’s slightly less famous but pretty damn important bridge 

Folk have built bridges across the Tyne since the days of Hadrian and his wall. There are 22 bridges crossing the river which snakes through the city en route to the North Sea.

The best known of these is the Tyne Bridge, and then perhaps Gateshead Millennium Bridge. But if you’ve still not had your fill of bridges, then check out this one.

The hydraulic Swing Bridge was opened in 1876 to let bigger ships move further up the river. It became easier to move shipments of coal, and it allowed for bigger ships to be built on the Tyne.