Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear, UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear, UK

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Found in the county of Tyne and Wear in England, Tyneside is the group of settlements on either bank of the River Tyne. It stretches as far east as the sea at Tynemouth, but its largest, most urban areas are Newcastle-upon-Tyne and, the not-so-famous Gateshead.

It's fair to say that Newcastle is one of the furthest northern cities in England, and can be argued to be the largest in the North. Newcastle sits on the northern bank of the river Tyne. Gateshead is its smaller settlement directly across the river on the southern bank.

Newcastle still has its city walls; it naturally has a fine castle, a gracious and noble cathedral, lots and lots of Geordies who are said to be the only people in England who know how to really, really enjoy themselves, a number of famous bridges across the mighty Tyne, one of which was a prototype for the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, and the best-preserved Georgian city centre in England.

It also has lots of famous sons and daughters:

  • Flora Robson - actress of the stage and screen.

  • St Bede - English monk who wrote the earliest history of England.

  • Emily Davison - one of the leading suffragettes in the Edwardian era.

  • Sting - the singer, formerly with The Police.

  • Paul Gascoigne - genuinely gifted footballer, famous for his outbursts, drinking and tendency to cry at World Cup matches.

  • George Stephenson - who invented one of the first miner's safety lamps and was famous for his locomotive inventions.

  • William Armstrong - he was a scholar, scientist and an industrialist in the Victorian era.

  • Jimmy Nail - singer, song writer and more recently Madonna's co-star in Evita.

  • St Cuthbert - one of Britain's great holy men - he fought the Mercians, opposed the Romans and was immortalized by St Bede in his history of England.

  • Bessie Surtees - was the daughter of a wealthy merchant in the 18th Century. She fell in love with someone who was considered to be below her station, so she climbed out of the window and they eloped to Scotland.

Getting Around

Probably the best way to get around central Newcastle is on foot, where there are many shortcuts and pedestrianised zones, but otherwise it depends on how willing you are to walk.

The Metro - This connects most of Tyneside together, and most places you will want to visit will be near a station. It's a bit like the London Underground would be if it was cheap, easy to understand, clean, reliable, and with mostly new trains. Definitely recommended for visiting most places.

By Bus - Buses, like they are everywhere else, are often late, run confusing routes and schedules, and are generally unreliable. Sometimes the best way to get around - usually when it's the only way to get around. Recommended only if you have a fair idea of the services and the area. Otherwise, buses are mostly useful to get to and from the Metro.

By Car - Not advisable in the middle of Newcastle city centre, as parking and traffic can be difficult. In Gateshead and other areas of Tyneside it's the perfect way to get around. You'll usually be able to park close to where you want to be, and, unless you hit rush hour, the traffic won't be too bad.

By Taxi - Don't try to hail one, you won't have much luck. Either ring a taxi firm and get one to pick you up, or find a nearby taxi rank.

Often a major thing to consider is how to cross the river. If you're on foot or in a car this can be done by finding one of the many bridges, mostly in central/western Gateshead/Newcastle, or the Tyne tunnel or pedestrian tunnel in more eastern parts of Tyneside. Near the coast, pedestrians can cross via the Shields ferry, between North & South Shields.

The Local Lingo

Geordie is spoken in Newcastle and strictly speaking it's a dialect and not an accent. Apparently it has connections with the older Scandinavian languages.

Here's a short list that will help you get lips around the lingo:

  • Geordie - 'Anyone born on the banks of the Tyne' - so basically anyone born on Tyneside. Also refers to local accent and dialect.

  • Geordieland - another name for Tyneside.

  • Toon - means town.

  • Gannin yerm/hyerm - means 'I'm going home'.

  • Canny - a very difficult one, as it depends on context and can mean anything - especially astute and clever.

  • Macam/Mackem - anyone who comes from Sunderland, supports Sunderland football club or speaks with a Sunderland accent.

  • Charver/Charva - youths who spend the best part of the day outside the local corner shop.

Geordies tend to speak of themselves in the plural (us instead of me/I).

As far as idioms go, if you want someone to hurry up with your drink, you say 'Howay, man! Give us me drink!' 'Howay' is Geordie for 'Come on' (as in 'Howay the Lads') or 'Hurry up'. That should just about do you.

What to See

You've got there, you've practiced the lingo - now you want to pick through the bones of the city - Here you'll find bit and bobs that no guide book would ever give you.

The Angel of the North is a recent, controversial sculpture found on the edge of the western bypass (actually more in Gateshead than Newcastle). It's a massive abstract-style angel made entirely out of weathering steel, which now looks rusty, but will eventually turn green. Its true scale is only recognised when there is someone at the base.

Penshaw Monument is more ancient, set on the top of Penshaw Hill, which the Lambton Worm wrapped itself around in local legend. Supposedly there is a stairway up one of its columns. It can be seen from much of South Eastern Gateshead and Boldon, especially at night, when it's floodlit.

Grey's monument, often called the Monument, is in the middle of Newcastle city centre outside the Monument Metro station, is a large column topped by a statue, it was built because of the Great Reform in 18321.


Now, you're in Newcastle, you've had a quick look round and there's one topic on everyone's lips - football.

Newcastle United, aka the Magpies because of their black and white strip, are the pride of Tyneside. The Toon Army, as they are also affectionately called, are still a very vociferous group of supporters. The recent upturn in their fortunes has lifted spirits. Kevin Keegan said he'd never return to football until he was offered the job in charge of Newcastle. He started the revival and was referred to St James's Park - home of Newcastle United. After he left to manage Fulham he was replaced by Ruud Gullit, who had a very unsuccessful year. Then Bobby Robson, a Geordie, former player and ex-England manager, took the reins before the rot sank in too deep and has started to work on the basis of a successful team originally laid down by Keegan.

Newcastle United last won the league in the 1920s and the cup in the 1950s but the Keegan Revival which started in 1992 certainly lifted spirits amongst the fans. This is where it gets complicated. One side of the coin says that Keegan produced a fantastically entertaining team that came very close to winning the league title for the first time in years, the other says that Keegan spent over £100 million pounds and won nothing. Both are true but there was always a rift between Keegan and chairman John Hall which led to Keegan's resignation swiftly followed by John Hall's.

On the board though, things are a little different. Douglas Hall and Freddie Shepherd, two board members, lambasted Alan Shearer, Newcastle's Captain, calling him Mary Poppins, and then boasted about how much money they were making from the fans who were 'thick' to pay £40 for a strip made in the far east for less than £5. To add insult to injury, they allegedly called the Tyneside women 'dogs'. Needless to say, public relations haven't been quite the same since.

St James's Park is the home of Newcastle United and is undergoing huge redesign. This means it now squats over the city like some sort of giant insect, visible from just about everywhere in town. As part of the changes, the powers that be have decided to kick the season ticket holders to the back of the stadium to make way for 'corporate hospitality' areas. This has not pleased the average Magpies fan - and has resulted in a court case which is even now winging its way to the court of appeal.

Despite all the tiffs, the team are still the pride of their town and will remain so for a while to come and they remain the best supported, if not the best team, in the world.

Broon, Stottie and Places to Eat

Newcastle has two delicacies that are famed the world over. We'll start with that elixir of Nothern life - Newcastle Brown Ale. Often called Blue Star Broon, this is one of the few beers to be placed on the Protected Foods list (the thing that says that Champagne can only be produced in the Champagne region of France). Brown Ale can now only be produced in Newcastle, by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries.

Newcastle Brown Ale is not known as 'Newkie' on Tyneside - this is the name used by anyone outside the area, usually southerners. Generally, Geordies drop either 'Newcastle' or 'Ale', making an order of 'newcastle brown' or 'brown ale'.

Newcastle Brown Ale has the reputation of being quite strong - in fact, it's not that alcoholic, it's only 4.7% ABV - making it but a mere pup in the world of alcohol.

Once the Blue Star Broon has hit the spot, you'll need something to take away that pang of hunger or the brittle edge from that hangover. Why not try a stottie? An 8 inch round, 1.5 inch thick chunk of oven-baked bread filled with bacon, egg and sausage for breakfast - it will carry you anywhere through the day.

Stottie cakes are usually only available from local bakers in the North East. However, it would be easy to make one yourself. You use a standard bread dough recipe, and then instead of making it into a loaf, you just bake it as a huge bun, about ten inches in diameter and about 1 to 2 inches thick. Put the bacon, egg and sausages in and eat.

If you're stomach can't handle a stottie, then there is something for everyone:

  • Chinese food - Chinatown has a large number of restaurants and can be found just past the town wall, down from St James'. Also worth a look is the Side (leads up from Quayside) where the Kublai Khan can be found, which serves both Mongolian and Chinese food. Also, if in Tynemouth there's an excellent Chinese restaurant next to a refurbished church.

  • Mexican food - Go to Chiquito's next to the Warner cinema, or near the UCI cinema.

  • Italian food - Fleet Street is filled with proper Italian restaurants. There's one on High Bridge Street, and there's also Frankie & Bennie's at Boldon.

  • Drink coffee - the small café on top of the Tyneside cinema (the small, independent cinema directly across the road from the Odeon) is a must. Try their stottie cakes. There are also lots of coffee shops knocking about such as Coffee Republic beneath MVC.

A Night on the Toon!

Newcastle is renowned for being among the top cities in the world for the best night. There are millions of places to eat and drink, most of which are situated in Newcastle itself, but the centre for drinking is undoubtebly the Bigg Market area. This used to be a market, as did the Haymarket, Grassmarket and Greenmarket - the latter still is a living breathing market.

Newcastle has the largest variety of UK nightlife outside of London. The Bigg Market is basically a street full of pubs and is where most people end up - Monday is normally the best night as it's cheap and packed out. Bigg Market also has the reputation, though somewhat dubious, of being one of the most sexually-licentious areas of Britain.

The Tuxedo Princess, lovingly called the Floater, is a nightclub on a boat in the Tyne. Its main feature is a revolving dance floor - so you can let it swing and let it rock 'n' roll.

If you'd just like a nice place to have a drink of good beer, then Fitzgerald's is a good pub - while you're there, try the brew from the Mordue Brewery.

Other watering holes of note are Gotham Town (opposite the train station), the Empress (end of the high level bridge) with shots for under £1 on selected nights and Klub Ikon which has a reputation for a young crowd.

One word of caution though. Do not touch the bar staff. Do not even insult them. Do not even say anything that might slightly annoy them. They have the ear of the bouncers and they control your drink.

The thing about Newcastle bouncers, the men who may have given Newcastle men their tough image, is that you don't have to misbehave to annoy them. All you have to do is look at them in a funny way. So the advice is be nice, be courteous and be ready to grovel.

1This is the name given to three bills that liberalized representation in Parliament.

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