Quayside is one of the most beautiful parts of Newcastle – with vast arching bridges and a collection of both antique and modern architecture just mere footsteps away.
We’ve taken various walks, steeped ourself in the culture and history of the city and downed more than a couple of drinks in the neighbouring taverns to create what we believe is a short and sweet itinerary to make your first stroll through the city absolutely perfect.
First you’ll need to head east when leaving Tune Hotel Newcastle and follow it onto Queen Street where you’ll pass underneath a section of the Tyne Bridge as well as some pretty Georgian buildings that have been relatively well maintained and now house a small collection of bars, shops and moderately priced apartments. Continue down Queen Street and then turn right onto King Street. You may at this point wonder why we seem to be leading you away from what you want to see but all will become clear.
Once you emerge from King Street, you’ll be on the banks of the river between two of the city’s larger than life bridges. To your right – the incredible Tyne Bridge – with whom you have already been acquainted and to your left the modernist arch of the Gateshead Millennium footbridge.
The view down river to the Millennium Bridge is best enjoyed in the evening when the bridge is illuminated in all shades of neon light and acts as a kind of architectural frame to the hills in the distance.
Across the water you will also now see the incredible Sage building. Designed by Norman Foster, this cloud like metallic glass structure holds a performing arts centre and is quite easily one of the most inspiring pieces of modern architecture in the north east of England.
An interesting fact: the building was constructed with a special type of concrete that contains extra air bubbles to help with sound-proofing and acoustics and each of the three halls that make up the building are separate beneath the exterior, which enables the structure to achieve an additional amount of acoustic circulation.
Now continue along the riverside in the direction of the even larger arch of the Tyne Bridge. You’ll note that this bridge is similar in style to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was even built by the same architects – Mott, Hay and Anderson.
Be sure to venture up onto the bridge for a wonderful view of the city, and while there look out for the now redundant fixings for the tramlines that once ran over into Gateshead.
As you continue to walk you’ll notice that a low lying bridge, which hangs almost at river level, comes next – this is the Swing Bridge. This one doesn’t look like much but it’s the insides that count. The bridge uses hydraulic engines (invented in Newcastle, no less) to swing the roadway around so that ships can easily pass up and down each side of the river. It isn’t used quite so much as it used to be, so you’ll be extremely lucky if you get a chance to see it in action.
Historically – the Swing Bridge did wonders for local trade – improving connections to much of the country and leading to the opening of the Armstrong Elswick shipyard.
The next bridge is the High Level Bridge – which is the oldest of all the surviving bridges in the area, and was built out of necessity for the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway, and also completed the line for the London to Edinburgh railway (The East Coast Mainline). The bridge is both a road and railway bridge and was built by George Stephenson in the 19th century. The two traffic types are split over two levels – the lower floor carries vehicular traffic while the upper floor is where you’ll see the trains fly by over the rail tracks.
If you’re a romantic you might want to head up onto the bridge to take a look at a Parisian fad that has taken hold right here in northern England. The bridge is now home to hundreds of “love locks” where couples have left a note on a padlock (in the same manner as those left on Paris’ Pont des Arts), attached it to the grating of the bridge and flung the key into the water below; cementing their romance into the history books forever and quite possibly leading to a build-up of brass in the river.
If you want to join in, you should note that the entrepreneurial folk running the tourist stalls now sell locks to star-crossed lovers as they make their way to the quayside.
Newcastle’s incredible collection of bridges doesn’t end there – in fact there is a series of 3 more bridges as you go further along the river – carrying railway, road and underground railway traffic, which you can easily see by continuing along the river for another 30 minutes.
However, if like us, you’d prefer at this point to head into town – then we suggest aiming in the direction of the beautiful Grey Street and its astoundingly elegant collection of neo-classical architecture.
Tune Hotel Newcastle’s excellent location on the doorstep of the River Tyne makes an ideal base for exploring the sites and attractions of Quayside.