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Visit and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:

Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear. Approach this impressive regional capital, if you can, from the South for a quick survey, from one of the five bridges that reach across the Tyne, of the city packed on the steep north bank. It is a complex scene of blackened masses of old building, tall new blocks, the ornamental crown of St Nicholas Cathedral, the pretty spire of All Saints, the square-shouldered castle keep, the quays, warehouses and industry. The city holds up, upon scrutiny, to the first impression of a rather special place, particularly in the area of most concern to visitors, the square mile between the riverside and the Town Moor.

Newcastle began as a minor fort and bridge on Hadrian's Wall, which started from neighbouring Wallsend, the ship-building town on the East. Westgate Road now follows the line of the wall and vestiges can be seen along it. A causeway crossing the vallum and relics of a temple can be found in residential Benwell, rather comically surrounded by tidy brick houses. After the Romans came an obscure religious colony known as Monkchester and then the Normans, who in 1080 established the “new castle” on the Roman site. A stone castle replaced the wooden one from 1172 onwards. Of this, the very complete keep and l3th-century fortified Black Gate survive as museums now hemmed in by railway lines and the High Level Bridge. The restored battlemented roof of the keep is a good place from which to look at the Tyne.

Medieval Newcastle was a base for the continuous warfare with the Scots. It lay inside 2 miles of city wall begun in 1280. A part of the restored West Wall can be seen in Bath Lane. The Plummer Tower in Croft Street now houses 18th-century furnishings from the Laing Art Gallery; the Sally-port or Wall Knoll tower at the top of Causey Bank Steps, off City Road, has been restored by the Corporation for meeting rooms.

Newcastle established itself as a market town and seaport because of the surrounding coalfield, one of the first to be worked in England and the first to export coal. But the 19th century brought the greatest growth and firmly established the city as a major heavy engineering centre. Most of the city seen today dates from this expansive period. One way to explore it is from the riverside up the hill, roughly the way it grew.

Of the great bridges that overshadow the waterfront, the High Level for rail and road traffic was earliest, flung across the Tyne gorge by Robert Stephenson in 1849. The Swing Bridge designed by the inventive Lord Armstrong replaced a medieval span in 1876. The King Edward, now the main railway bridge, opened in 1906 and the Redheugh and Tyne road bridges are 20th-century. Near the Swing Bridge is the 17th-century Guildhall with a 1796 fašade, that has been renovated. The centre of local affairs until the 19th century, it is still used by the freemen. Merchants lived in timbered houses in Sandhill and from No. 41, Bessie Surtees in 1772 eloped with the man who became Lord Eldon and Chancellor of England. A popular Sunday morning market is held on Quayside where an obelisk marks the spot on which John Wesley first preached in 1742. Trinity House in Broad Chare is the ancient headquarters of the mariners. St Nicholas's Church became a cathedral in 1882. A mainly 14th-century building with rare l5th-century crown and spire supported by delicate arches, it is richly endowed with monuments, fine woodwork and a charnel chapel or crypt discovered in 1824. All Saints was designed in 1788 by David Stephenson and survives as a beautiful example of a rare elliptical style. It contains the largest memorial brass in England, to Roger Thornton who died in 1429.

Richard Grainger, with John Dobson as his architect, and John Clayton, the Town Clerk as his supporter. were the courageous planners responsible for the sense of order and space in the present commercial centre which they thoroughly reconstructed between 1835 and 1840. Grey Street is their masterpiece, with its curve of gracious fašades culminating in the stately Theatre Royal, by Benjamin Green, sweeping uphill to Grey's Monument. Their Grainger Street leads into broad Neville Street with Central Station, also by Dobson, behind a grand-scale portico. Covered markets are a city centre feature.

The Civic Centre at Barras Bridge dominates an interesting precinct of the city which was rural land when the 19th-century planners were at work. Cool white office blocks and a mushroom-capped round chamber bring Newcastle well into the 20th century. The centre was designed by City Architect George Kenyon. The main 12-story block is capped by a copper lantern and beacon with three gold castles from the coat of arms 250 ft above the Street. A carillon in the tower plays Tyneside tunes four times a day. Impressive use is made of modern sculpture with, most noticeably, a 16-ft-long River God Tyne by David Wynne.

In the neighbourhood are the proliferating buildings of the University of Newcastle; the Hancock Natural History Museum famous for amphibian fossils; and three other museums connected with the university: the Greek Museum, the Hatton Art Gallery, and the Museum of Antiquities with one of the most important collections of Roman inscriptions and sculpture in the country and a reconstructed Temple of Mithras. The Laing Art Gallery, with a fine permanent collection of British art, is near the Central Library in New Bridge Street and the Municipal Museum of Science and industry is in Exhibition Park.

Foremost of Newcastle parks is the vast Town Moor which gives this highly industrial city its unique breathing space in 927 windswept acres. The country's biggest fair or “hoppings” is held there in June.

Nearby cities: Sunderland

Nearby towns: Blyth, Chester-le-Street, Gateshead, Jarrow, Killingworth, Morpeth, Newburn, North Shields, South Shields, Tynemouth, Wallsend, Washington, Whitley Bay

Nearby villages: Backworth, Blaydon, Chollerford, Cullercoats, Derwent Haugh, Dinnington, Dudley, Dunston, Elswick, Felling, Fenham, Forest Hall, Gosforth, Heaton, Hebburn, High Heaton, Jesmond, Kenton, sKirkwhelpington, Lamesley, Lemington, Longbenton, Low Team, Low Walker, Monkton, Old Walker, Ovingham, Ponteland, Scotswood, Seaton Delaval, Sheriff Hill, Shiremoor, Simonburn, Swalwell, Town Moor, Usworth, Walker, Walker Gate, Whickham, Willington Quay, Winlaton, Woolsington, Wylam

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