Beaches, castles and waterfalls: Why England’s North East should be your next staycation
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
Contrary to popular belief, the North East of England has more to offer than a funny accent, questionable football and a Greggs on every street corner.
Having spent 18 years growing up in Durham, right in the heart of the region, I couldn’t wait to escape to university and go out and see the world. That’s exactly what I did and I never looked back — until now. A few weeks into lockdown with no real end in sight, I decided the best thing to do would be to head back north and weather the COVID-19 storm from home.
I’ve always thought the North East was beautiful, but spending the past eight weeks here has really opened my eyes to just how incredible this region is, and how lucky I am to be able to call it home.
Given that we’re in a time when international travel is pretty much on hold, this look into the North East could give a bit of inspiration for planning a 2020 staycation.
Stunning coastline and beaches
When you find yourself daydreaming about the beach, you’re more likely to think of the warm waters of the Mediterranean rather than the bone-chilling waves of North Sea beaches. Well, I’m about to change all that. The beaches and coastline of the North East might not be as warm, but they are as beautiful.
With roughly 100 miles of coastline stretching from Saltburn-by-the-Sea in the south to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north, there are plenty of sandy spots that will have you forgetting about the Costa del Sol in no time.
Crimdon Beach, Hartlepool
Crimdon Beach spends most of its time being forgotten about, but when you remember it’s there, you get a pleasant surprise. It’s the perfect beach for long family walks with the dog, or even just to admire the views and listen to the waves while enjoying a cheeky portion of fish and chips.
Related reading: 7 traditional ‘bucket and spade’ British seaside resorts
A little farther up the coast, around six miles south of Sunderland, is the small but lively seaside town of Seaham. The dramatic coastline surrounding the town has been battered by the unforgiving North Sea, carving out rock formations and creating rock pools for exploring when the tide is low.
If relaxing on a sandy beach is what you need, then head to North Beach instead.
Way up in Northumberland is the sleepy seaside town of Seahouses, around 50 miles north of Newcastle. I have many a fond memory of lazy Sunday day trips with my family when I was growing up. Back then I was more interested in the candy rock and dozens of gift shops, but going back as an adult, it’s the unmistakable charm of the place that strikes me most.
Longsands Beach at Tynemouth is one of the most popular beaches in the entire region, and it’s not hard to see why. On a sunny summer’s day, its Blue Flag-awarded golden sands are crammed with sunbathers and the waters filled with surfers trying to catch a wave — it’s pretty much the Geordie version of Australia.
No, this isn’t a joke.
While you might be right in thinking that packing the factor 30 would be a bit much, the North East is actually one of the driest places in the whole of the U.K.
It’s thanks to the Pennines, which bare the brunt of most of the Atlantic rain, that sweep in from the west, meaning that some of the driest places in the U.K. are in Teesside and the Northumbrian coast. If you still don’t believe me, here’s the proof.
Castles and cathedrals
The many castles in the U.K. attract visitors from all over the world, and the North East is home to many of them, as well as a couple of fabulous cathedrals for good measure.
Durham Castle and Cathedral
Sitting high and proud above the narrow cobbled streets below, the Durham Catedral is one of the first things you see as you roll into the city’s railway station from the south. Dating back to 1093, visitors come from the across the world to take in its Romanesque architecture.
To the left of the cathedral in the photo below is Durham Castle. Now converted into one of Durham University’s 16 colleges and student accommodation, it was also used as a film set for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”.
Looking out over the unforgiving North Sea and standing guard over the Northumberland coastline, Bamburgh Castle and the surrounding landscape is a photographer’s dream. If you need a break from it all, a couple of hours spent at Bamburgh Castle will have you transported back to Medieval times.
You don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to witness Mother Nature’s gifts, as there are some incredible places right on our doorstep, some of which are hidden away in the North East.
Related reading: 6 UK National Parks to visit and what makes them special
The North Pennines
As well as being an Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB), the North Pennines is recognised globally by UNESCO and is one the organisation’s Global Geoparks. It’s easy to see why, when it’s full of beautiful off-the-beaten-track spots like this, just south of the tiny village of Hill End.
High Force, Teesdale
Also in the North Pennines, High Force is known as one of the most impressive waterfalls in England and should definitely be added to your list of things to do and see when visiting the North East.
After a gentle stroll through Pennine woodland, you arrive at the plunge pool where the Tees river plummets 21 metres over the edge of a rock face. Leave your swimmers at home though, as the waters are too unpredictable for even just a little paddle.
Derwent Reservoir, County Durham/Northumberland
If calm and tranquil waters are more your thing, then look no further than Derwent Reservoir. There are several miles of trails to walk if you’re looking to hit your 10,000 steps or even try a spot of fishing or windsurfing.
And as for sunset locations, it doesn’t get much more magical than this.
It’s not just London that has all of the best landmarks — there are several worth seeing in the North East, too. Here are a few of the best.
Tyne Bridge, the Sage and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge
When there’s no fog on the Tyne, you can take in the sights of three of the most iconic Geordie landmarks: the Tyne Bridge, the Sage and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, which are all a short walk from each other along the banks of the Tyne Bridge.
The Tyne Bridge opened in 1928 and is one of the most iconic symbols of the North East, connecting Newcastle and Gateshead across the mighty River Tyne.
Angel of the North
Sculptor Antony Gormley’s 20-metre-tall contemporary art piece, locally known as “the Rusty Flasher”, caused quite a stir when it was completed in 1998 just before the turn of the Millennium.
When travelling from the south, either by road or rail, just before you arrive into Newcastle you’ll be greeted by this giant steel angel that is now considered by many locals to be a real symbol of home.
Getting to the North East
If you’re coming from any farther south than Birmingham, the most practical way to get to the North East is probably by air. The region has two airports. Newcastle (NCL) has regularly scheduled flights to London (LHR) as well as several other regional airports around the U.K., including Aberdeen (ABZ), Belfast (BFS), Bristol (BRS) and Southampton (SOU).
Durham Tees Valley (MME) has fewer flights, though is still well connected to other parts of the U.K., including a new addition to London City (LCY).
East Coast Main Line runs directly through the middle of the region and offers services from London and the rest of the U.K. direct to Darlington, Durham, Sunderland, Chester-le-Street, Newcastle, Middlesborough, Morpeth, Alnwick and Berwick.
The region is also well served by the A1(M) motorway that continues north to Scotland and south to connect to pretty much everywhere else in the country.
The North East of England is a reminder that we should be thankful for what we have on our doorstep, and use a time like a global lockdown to make the most of it. It won’t be long before we’re up in the air again, but until then, my home is definitely worth considering for your next staycation.
Featured photo by travellinglight/Getty Images
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