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Including the counties of Co Durham, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and the Tees Valley.
To visit North East England is to enter the old kingdom of Northumbria, formed when Bernicia – which stretched way into what is now Scotland – unified with Deira to the south, between the Tees and the Humber. North East England is bisected by the remains of Hadrian’s Wall (a world heritage site) through Northumberland and Tyne & Wear, which ran more than 70 miles from the Solway Firth in the west to Wallsend in the east. North East England has strong links with early Christianity, which was reintroduced to England by Celtic monks from the monastery on Lindisfarne, long after the end of Roman rule. Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, is famed for the Lindisfarne Gospels and the revered saints, Aiden and Cuthbert. The venomous Bede, 8th century author of ‘A History of the English Church and People’, lived down the coast in Jarrow and the Prince Bishops used to wield their power from Durham Castle.
The region has a proud industrial heritage in addition to its ancient one: coal mining, steel, shipbuilding, chemicals, manufacturing, have all shaped the land and the towns. The world’s first passenger railway opened between Stockton and Darlington in 1825. Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside are heavily built up, whereas parts of Northumberland, which stretches its finger up along the North Sea coast to the Scottish border, can feel surprisingly remote. Here, you’ll find Northumberland National Park, which includes the vast landscape of the Cheviot Hills on the border with Scotland, and Kielder Water, Europe’s largest artificial lake and the surrounding Kielder Forest, reputedly the largest man-made woodland in England. Northumbria boasts some of England’s most iconic castles, such as Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh, perched on a dramatic coastline famed for its wildlife. In the west of the region, the North Pennines, part of England’s backbone, is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and divides the country east from west.
There are three major cities in the North East: the largest, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, is famed for its nightlife, native ‘Geordies’ and sparkling Quayside; a little to the south east is footballing rival, Sunderland, a major port also renowned for its long history of glass-making and whose inhabitants are colloquially known as ‘Mackems’. The ancient City of Durham with is dominated by its magnificent cathedral and castle (another world heritage site), towering on a rocky outcrop over the River Wear.
It’s easy to lose yourself exploring the North East. Parts of the landscape have a unique ‘feel’, and there are some historic gems within the large conurbations. By the way, the North East tends to be drier than the North West, though, my word, it can get cold!
Frankly, if you’re looking for things to see and do in North East England, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Click here for a selection of 10 of the best places to visit.
East coast trains run between Edinburgh and London King’s Cross. Newcastle has an excellent international airport about 7 miles to the north, though it is connected by a good underground rail system (the Metro). The A1 (M) and A1 link the region from north at Berwick to the south. For scenery, follow the A1068 and B1340 to take in the spectacular coastline in the north. Take the A688 via Bernard Castle from the south west and follow the A68 through the Northumberland National Park. If heading east-west, an alternative to the A69 between Carlisle and Newcastle is the B6318, which follows the path of Hadrian’s Wall between Gilsand in Cumbria and Heddon-on-the-Wall just west of Newcastle; the scenery is spectacularly different.
The official tourist board is Visit North East England.