I’m sure that everyone can think of somewhere close to home that they haven’t really explored. Either somewhere you go with a specific purpose, such as to work, or somewhere you’ve been but never really tried to get under the skin of. It’s very easily done and might be because you don’t think that place is worth exploring, but it’s often nice to discover things that are right on your doorstep.
For me, one of those places has been Newcastle. It’s only about an hour away from where I grew up, and from where I was at university, but it has never been somewhere I’ve particularly explored. Usually I go into the city centre for shopping and then head home, rather than exploring the more cultural side to the city. However, due to its useful location I’ve now visited a couple of friends there, and with more on our agenda than just shopping.
My most recent visit took me to Newcastle Castle, the gateway to old Newcastle and somewhere I had never really considered visiting previously. Whilst the buildings that remain today were originally part of a much larger fortress, you can see around the Black Gate and the Castle Keep and get an idea of what it would have been like through the information provided. The Castle Keep was particularly good fun to walk around as there were lots of different passageways and levels so it felt like you were constantly stumbling across something new. The view from the top of the Keep is excellent, so I’d recommend going on a clear, dry day to make the most of this!
After lunch on the quayside overlooking the Millenium Bridge, Harri and I decided to venture into BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts (it now seems to be a tradition that we explore random art galleries together…). I won’t lie, a lot of the works displayed inside weren’t to my taste, however it was still an engaging place to visit and some of the works had some interesting concepts behind them. The viewing box and external viewing terrace provide some good views, although getting the lift back down might make your stomach feel a little strange! The external viewing terrace is also a good place to take a closer look at some of the Kittiwakes which live on the quayside (it was nesting season when we were there). Entrance is free so it’s worth going to have a look even if it’s not the sort of place you would usually go. We also spent a disproportionate amount of time in the shop as there were loads of fantastic gifts and interesting books. Somewhere I may need to return to before Christmas!
Other Newcastle suggestions
On a previous visit (but once again with Harri) I explored the Laing Art Gallery which focuses on British oil paintings, watercolours, ceramics, silver and glassware. Whilst there were still a few things which I couldn’t really appreciate (I’m not an artist if you couldn’t tell), this was generally more up my street. Again entrance is free so I’d recommend going to have a look around.
The Discovery Museum is another place with free admission (a trip to Newcastle doesn’t have to be expensive!) and plenty to keep you entertained. James and I once stumbled across it by accident, but were really impressed and I came away knowing a lot more about the city than I had done previously. The museum focuses on the area’s maritime, scientific and technological importance.
Admittedly it is several years since I went to the Life Centre but it was fantastic and I would love to go again at some point. If you like hands on science, or have children, then this will be much more up your street than art galleries! As well as all the hands-on activities there’s a 4D motion ride, Planetarium and science theatre shows – plenty for a day out!