Full of brilliant bars, pubs and galleries, Newcastle is a great place for a city break. What I particularly love about it, though, is that there’s quite a lot of history in the mix too, and checking out some of the oldest sites here is the perfect way to get a feel for the place.
To help you work out where to go and what to do, I’ve put together a list of what I think the city’s top historical features are, while you can find out more about things like hotels and such on this website.
Located at the heart of the city, Castle Keep is one of the icons of Newcastle, as well as one of its most historical features. In fact, it stands on the site of the castle that gave the city its name – another good reason to visit!
It’s also one of the most impressive Norman stone castle keeps in Britain today, being both a Grade I listed building and an ancient monument. As well as admiring it from the outside, you can head up to the top of the keep and get some amazing views across the city. This includes scenes over the seven bridges that cross its river – a really dramatic landscape.
The Victoria Tunnel
Over on Stepney Bank in the Ouseburn Valley is another historical highlight – the Victoria Tunnel. Believed to be one of the most incredible feats of engineering in Newcastle, it was originally used to transport coal wagons from the west of the city to ships on the Tyne.
It then became an air-raid shelter for the local community during World War II. Since then, approximately 700 m of the tunnel has been restored, and it’s now open for the public to tour. You should bear in mind, though, that you do need to book your tour in advance, and they take place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with the times varying each day.
Bessie Surtees House
Next up is Bessie Surtees House, which is at 41-44 Sandhill (on the Quayside). The house is actually made up of two merchants’ homes, which are five storeys apiece. Dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, the house is one of the city’s oldest remaining examples of residential architecture.
That’s only part of what makes it famous, though. The clue is in the name – this was the place where Bessie Surtees absconded with the to-be Lord Chancellor of England John Scott.
Make sure you spend time exploring the first floor thoroughly, because it’s home to an exhibition on the history of the houses.
The Literary and Philosophical Society
Rounding off my list is the Literary and Philosophical Society, which is on 23 Westgate Road. This stunning building has an equally impressive history, having been founded in 1793 and acting as the home of key thinkers of the day.
Today, it is still an important place in terms of both literature and thought, and regularly hosts cultural events, while the building is also a tourist attraction in its own right. A highlight is the reading room (where most public events take place), which has stunning decor and books lining every wall. It’s worth checking if there are any readings, lectures or other events being held here during your stay.