Big skies, open roads, and some cracking pubs; a few days roaming from the Tyne to the Scottish Borders. First up, Newcastle and then the Northumbrian Coastal Route to Bamburgh....
The sun was shining as I headed north. No change there, then, as it has been doing just that for virtually all the past few weeks. First port of call was a stop off for a lovely catch-up with my daughter and her fella and youngest grand-daughter in Washington, then it was on to Newcastle for an overnight stop.
I got checked in to the hotel, then the priority was to find a pub which was likely to be showing the World Cup Final, hopefully with some decent beer on. I decided to chance the GBG-listed New Bridge in Manors, which looked about a 10 minute walk from the Premier Inn. I found it easily enough, and despite the fact that there were 3 screens showing the game, it was pretty quiet, with only a few groups and individuals dotted about. On the bar were 4 hand pumps, from which I selected the Anarchy Citra Star, and grabbed a seat near to the biggest of the screens to watch the match. As Croatia equalised, a large cheer rang out, and an animated guy at the bar challenged anyone to bet against Croatia winning for a pint. They should have been ahead at half time. I bought another pint and settled down to watch the 2nd half. As France gradually took control of the game, inspired by Pogba, Griezmann, and Mbappe, a young lad on the table next to me nodded off, and a group of three older blokes discussed their favourite recipes. As France were celebrating the win, the lad woke up, the three were discussing what they were having for tea, and the animated guy went out for a smoke. I liked the New Bridge, very much a locals pub but very welcoming.
I headed east, intending to check out if the Cluny had any music on. However, before I got there, I could hear some pretty decent-sounding blues rock coming from below the bridge I was walking over on my way towards Byker. I followed the music to its source, which was the Tyne Bar, situated beside the Ouseburn before it meets the Tyne. It was busy, the band were playing on an outdoor stage, and after buying a pint of Anarchy Blonde Star, I went to join the crowd watching the Alex Fawcett Band. Most enjoyable.
It was time for food, so I walked up beside the Ouseburn Beck to the Cluny. No music on there, although there was a gig on that evening in Cluny 2 next door. I ordered a burger and a pint of Space is the Place, a pleasant malty ale from Out There, yet another local brewery. Food consumed, and beer drunk, I wandered up to the Cumberland Arms. I bought a beer and went out on to the terrace to sit in the sunshine. I looked at my phone, and saw that a friend of mine had just checked into the Cumberland Arms! I looked around and spotted Rob, who was chatting to a couple of guys, so I went over to join them. Small world! Rob, a photographer who produces striking images mainly in black and white*, had been up in Seahouses, and was planning to stay over in his camper van in Newcastle, which he had parked behind the Free Trade Inn. As that was to be my next port of call, we moved on after finishing our beers and walked the ten minutes or so to this classic street-corner boozer overlooking the Tyne, where graffiti in the Gents is an attraction in itself! It didn't disappoint as ever, and we enjoyed a couple of excellent beers whilst having a good natter and taking in the views.
I bade farewell to Rob, and headed down the steps to the Quayside. On a summer's evening, this is a fantastic place for a stroll; the odd cyclist, a couple of joggers, and groups out for a stroll like myself, taking in the wonderful vista of buildings and bridges. The kittiwakes were out in full force on the Baltic Exchange, with a further large contingent at the High Level Bridge as I headed for my customary when-in-toon last pint at the wonderful Crown Posada, before heading back to the hotel.
The following morning, I decided to head out along the river to Tynemouth to check out the Tynemouth Lodge, which has been in every edition of the Beer Guide since 1983. It is situated on the main road into town on the border with North Shields, a splendid tiled exterior adorning this former house of correction. It was like stepping back in time, a spectacular wood-panelled bar, carpeted throughout, and with traditional decor on the walls. On the bar the beers included Draught Bass, and it felt appropriate to have a half. The landlord brought a couple of the day's papers for my perusal, maybe a reward for being the day's first visitor. The beer was excellent. I would have loved to have lingered, but sadly time didn't permit. This is an excellent pub, and well worth a visit. Indeed Tynemouth, with its Castle and Priory, spectacular views, and leafy streets with several pubs and restaurants, looks to be worth checking out.
|Draught Bass, papers, and wood panelling; the Tynemouth Lodge|
I drove up through Whitley Bay and Cullercoats as it started to drizzle, and shortly after picking up the Northumbrian Coastal Route, I came to my next port of call and the first pub on the route, the Delaval Arms at Old Hartley, which dates back to 1748. Situated on a bend, the exterior could definitely do with a lick of paint. This is a rambling place with several rooms, a long bar with wooden back panelling but quite light and airy despite that. A serving hatch looks after another room. There were a few older types sitting around, chatting or reading the paper. Nobody seemed to be watching 'Bargain Hunt' which was blaring out from a large TV beside the bar. Despite that, the half of Workie Ticket I had was very good and the girl behind the bar very pleasant. All in all, quite a quirky place, but worth calling in.
|No introductions necessary|
From there, I headed through Seaton Sluice and Blyth to my next port of call, Newbiggin-by-the-sea, whose name had always intrigued me. On a grey, drizzly afternoon, it was very quiet, and when I walked into the town's GBG entry, the Queen's Head, there was just one other customer in. I ordered a half of Summer Simcoe from the rarely-seen-these-days Nick Stafford Hambleton Ales, and sat in a corner. This was another fine interior, with a spectacular Edwardian bar. It is basically one room, but the back of the bar serves to separate it into two halves. Hundreds of beer clips decorate the walls, and there was no problem with the quality of the beer. It was a pleasant quiet pub, and no doubt at one time slaked the thirsts of the miners and fishermen of the town. Coincidentally, a couple of days later I was listening to 6 Music and Steve Lamacq was talking to a lady in his 'Good Day, Bad Day' feature who just happened to be opening up a micropub in of all places...Newbiggin-by-the sea! Apparently it is in an old tattoo parlour and will be called the Ink Spot.
|The Queens Hotel, Newbiggin-by-the sea|
It was a shame that the drizzle was persistent, as it deterred me from stopping to have a potter at Druridge or any of the other spectacular bays which line the coast of this once-industrialised area. I was, though, getting hungry, so I decided to have a stop-off at Amble, a small port at the mouth of the River Coquet. It is a pleasant place, and still a working fishing port. I had a potter around the harbour, where a friendly seal kept popping up out of the water. I spotted a wooden hut which I recalled a friend of mine from Mossley had been eulogising about following a recent visit. This was the Fish Shack, and I have to say the cod and chips were wonderful. I didn't have a beer in Amble, but it is home to the excellent Credence Brewery.
I left Amble, had a brief stop at Warkworth Castle, and then followed the route up towards Alnmouth, followed by Embleton, Beadnell, and Seahouses before arriving at my hotel in Bamburgh. It was a shame the weather wasn't a bit better, but I have certainly left enough along the Northumbrian Coastal Route for another time.
Next up, a trip into the Scottish Borders, a wonderful micropub, and some Northumbrian village pubs....
*To check out examples of Rob's work, visit www.robertnorbury.com
|New Bridge, Manors; venue for the 2018 World Cup Final|