Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne is one of England's best kept secrets. A party city that rates alongside New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. A centre of culture and architecture. The starting point for tours of the Northumberland coast and Hadrian's Wall. Home town of the Geordie culture, with a rich heritage of folk music and dance and its own obscure dialect. Tear yourself away from the traditional tourist spots of London, Cambridge, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon and pay a visit to Newcastle.
Newcastle started life as a Roman town at the end of Hadrian's wall, the border between Roman controlled Britain and the unconquered wilds of Scotland. The ruins of one of the forts marking the end of the wall can be seen at Segedunum (A short walk from the Wallsend Metro station). It developed into an important port and during the 19 century was an industrial centre built on the strength of the local coal industry. As heavy industry went into decline, Newcastle's fortunes took a dip. The city has now re-invented itself as a Cultural centre and Science City, and is possibly one of the trendiest places to live or visit in the UK.
Newcastle International Airport is located about 5.5 miles north-west of the city. Travel options into the city centre include:
Services to and from London run approximately every 20-40 mins during the day. The journey time is usually about 3 hours. Newcastle also has trains to Oxford, Birmigham, Edinburgh, York and countless other destinations throughout the country.
In the UK, tickets can be bought on the day at the station using cash or debit/credit card, but it is often cheaper to book in advance for journeys to/from other cities. Times and fares information is available from National Rail +44 8457 48 49 50, or the booking office within the station.
If you buy something to eat at the station, you'll have to carry the wrappers with you until you get somewhere else. There are no rubbish bins at the station for security reasons.
At Newcastle Central Station, you will need coins to buy a ticket for the Metro system, the local underground and light rail network. There are snack stalls and newsagents where you can break notes. Buses and taxis are easily accessed just outside the station, the main intercity coach station is 3-4 minutes walk, and bus interchanges are 10-15 minutes walk.
Newcastle upon Tyne is well signposted from both the North, South and West. The city lies at the joining of the A1 (the main East Coast route from London to Edinburgh) and the A69 (a major east-west route to Carlisle and the M6). The A1 bypasses the city to the west.
There are a number of 'park-and-ride' points around the city to avoid the hassle of parking in the city centre. From these points, the Metro or bus will take you into the city for between £1 and £3. Otherwise, there are over 10,000 spaces in the city centre, though for stays of more than a few hours this may prove expensive. Generally, parking in the city centre costs between £1 and £2 per hour, while parking about 10 minutes walk from the centre will set you back about £0.50 per hour.
Newcastle Coach station is located at the southern end of St James' Boulevard, near to the Centre for Life and is just a short walk from the centre of town. National Express is the main intercity operator, offering regular services to several UK towns and cities. Most National Express tickets include free travel on the Metro system , but check this out before you board the Metro.
North Shields, 7 miles east of the city centre, has daily ferry connections to Ijmuiden and a twice weekly service to Norway (both operated by DFDS Seaways). Special buses run from the Central Station to the ferry terminal, which are free for those travelling on the ferry.
Newcastle is a reasonably cycle-friendly city. There are a number of places to lock a bike up in the city centre and a number of cycle lanes (though these are often shared with buses or taxis). Most Metro stations also provide secure storage for bicycles, as only fold-away bicycles are permitted on Metro trains. Unless you're touring the UK on pedal power, the best use for a bike is to explore the Quayside, Ouseburn and Jesmond Dene areas, travel to out-of-town attractions or head off to more distant places such as Whitley Bay and Seaton Sluice on the coast.
The Sustrans National Cycle Network Route 1 (East Coast) passes through Newcastle from the North to the South.
The city has an efficient bus network that is co-ordinated by Nexus. Journey details are available from Traveline, +44 (0)870 6082608. A new electric bus service called Quaylink runs between the Haymarket bus interchange, central station, quayside and Gateshead. The single fare is 70p or £1 for an hours unlimited travel. Buses run every few minutes, from early morning until midnight, or after midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Newcastle city centre is relatively compact and is therefore easy to navigate on foot. Many areas are pedestrianised. Being on the banks of the River Tyne, some areas slope quite steeply. Buses and taxis are cheap and plentiful should this pose a problem.
The city has a well-run and efficient Metro system, the Tyne and Wear Metro. Day tickets cost anything up to £4, depending on the time of day and destination. This is useful to access the suburbs, airport, rail station and coast.
There are two universities in Newcastle:
It is seldom difficult to find bar work in Newcastle's many pubs, clubs and bars.
Newcastle is (in)famous for its culture of social drinking, and is a popular destination for hen and stag parties. The Bigg Market and the Quayside and now the Central Station area with its "Diamond Strip" of new upmarket bars, are the centres of nocturnal activity in Newcastle, though the city has a wealth of bars and pubs. Some of the more interesting include
Newcastle is home to Newcastle Brown Ale, called by the locals Broon. There are a significant number of local breweries producing real ale that is widely available and of good quality. Brewers to look out for include Mordue, Wylam and Big Lamp.
The city's gay district, The Pink Triangle, is built up around The Centre for Life, and includes a range of bars and nightclubs.
Newcastle is a generally safe city to stay in. Beware of the usual nuisance of petty theft. The Bigg Market and the Quayside can get pretty rowdy on Fridays and Saturdays, are nevertheless still safe. Take care after a big derby match (Newcastle United vs Sunderland) - though there has been no significant violence for some years, emotions tend to run high amongst supporters.
Newcastle folk are very safe, even if they wear next to nothing in the middle of winter, just go with the flow - tourists are spotted by how much clothing they wear.
Places to visit around Newcastle:
The historic town of Alnwick is about a one hour drive north of Newcastle. Alnwick Castle, used in the filming of the Harry Potter films, is worth a visit. The castle is also home to the Alnwick Gardens. Bus services to Alnwick depart from Haymarket and are operated by Arriva. The train can also be used from Newcastle central station, but only as far as Alnmouth station, where a connecting shuttle bus is provided to Alnwick town centre. The shuttle departs shortly after a train arrives, but if you've time to spare, you could take a look at the picturesque village of Alnmouth, which is home to several traditional British pubs and small arts and gift shops.
About 25 minutes by car, or 50 minutes by bus, is the Beamish museum. Beamish tries to show what life was like in a typical northern town in the early 20th century — much of the restoration and interpretation is specific to 1913. Aside from the main town however there is also the manor house and the railway which are based on 1825. Tram and bus services operate around the museum, and there are a number of interactive displays and tours such as a dentist surgery and coal mine.
Bede's World offers an insight in to the extraordinary life of the Venerable Bede (who lived from 673-735AD). There is an interactive Age of Bede exhibition in the a newly constructed museum building, the Anglo-Saxon monastery of St Paul, medieval monastic ruins, an Anglo-Saxon herb garden, rare breeds of animals and recreated timber buildings on Gyrwe, an Anglo-Saxon demonstration farm, a café within the historic Jarrow Hall as well as a museum gift and book shop. 
The attractive village of Rothbury and the historic house and grounds at Cragside are also worth a visit. Cragside was the first house in the world to be powered completely by electricity. A special bus service operates from Newcastle city centre during the summer, details are normally posted on the Northumberland County Council website. Otherwise, either can be reached in about 40 minutes from Newcastle by car.
There are many sites along Hadrian's Wall which are easily accessible from Newcastle. A special bus (number AD122) runs from Newcastle along the length of the Wall's path. The bus service runs year-round, with a tour guide on Sundays and Public Holidays during summer months. A reduced service operates during the winter, check with the operator, Nexus, before travelling.
The historic town of Hexham is about 30 minutes by car or train, and 40 minutes by bus. The smaller village of Corbridge is slightly further, but can be used an intermediary stop on the way to Hadrian's Wall sites such as Vindolanda and Housteads. Both Hexham and Corbridge sit on a section of the River Tyne.
Sitting within the Northumberland National Park, about 1 hour 45 minutes drive from Newcastle is Kielder resevoir and forest. A number of activites are possible here such as abseiling, canoeing, hiking and mountain biking. A special bus service operates from Newcastle city centre during the summer, details are normally posted on the Northumberland County Council website.
There are several beautiful villages and coastlines along the Northumberland coast which are well worth a visit. Warkworth and Bamburgh are particular noteworthy for their castles and tea rooms. Both are easily accesible by car, or by bus from Newcastle Haymarket. Druridge Bay country park offers one of the most outstanding beaches in the country, and includes a lake, which is often used for watersports. The holy island of Lindisfarne is easily accesible from Bamburgh.
East of Newcastle, Tynemouth easily accesible by Metro, and boasts an impressive Priory, some nice shops and beautiful beaches. Tynemouth long sands even has a cafe which on the beach! Perfect for a warming hot chocolate in the winter, or summer ice creams!
Located in nearby North Shields, near the International Ferry Terminal, is the UK's largest water park, Wet-n-Wild. The park is indoors so there's no need to worry about bad weather!