Quayside Circular Walk
This 3.2 km (2 mile) walk takes you along the Quaysides of the River Tyne on both the Newcastle and Gateshead sides of the river, crossing over the iconic Gateshead Millennium Bridge as well as the High Level Bridge, and passing sights such as the BALTIC Art Gallery, the Sage Gateshead, Newcastle Castle and plenty of lovely food and drink stops too. So just take your time, soak in the beautiful views, stop for a coffee and cake, leisurely lunch or pint of ale in an old Newcastle pub and enjoy!
We start this walk at The Guildhall building (green star on map below), down near the Quayside by the Tyne Bridge.
The Guildhall – once the centre of the commercial life of the area, it has recently been transformed into a Tourist Information Centre. Behind it you’ll see the River Tyne and five of its bridges: The High Level (1849); The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge (1981); The Swing Bridge (1876) , Gateshead Millennium Bridge (2001) and, of course, The Tyne Bridge (1928), Newcastle Gateshead’s most famous landmark.
From The Guildhall, walk up Side with the Guildhall behind you.
A few more metres up on your left you will find The Crown Posada – one of the oldest pubs in the quayside area and a real step back in time with its high, ornate ceilings, embossed wallpaper and stained glass windows.
Turn right from Side into Queen St.
You will find the Akenside pub here. Mark Akenside (Newcastle poet and physician) was born on this site in 1721 and there is a plaque with information about him on the side of this pub (including a somewhat unflattering quote about his appearance being “unpromising, if not grotesque…”).
Walk past the pub on your left hand side under the Tyne Bridge, forking off to the left up Akenside Hill just under the bridge.
At the top of Akenside Hill you will see steps up to All Saints Church (1786) (Map Point 1). Take these steps up to the church if you wish to look around, otherwise (and also for a step free continuation of this route) continue over the hill, passing the modern housing on your left, down into Dog Bank, and then turn right into Broad Chare.
On the corner of Dog Bank and Broad Chare you will find Trinity House. Founded in 1492 and from the mid-1500s onwards this location was responsible for collecting the tolls and taxes from ships using the Tyne.
Continue down Broad Chare, passing the Live Theatre on your right, to reach the River Tyne. Cross over the B1600 Quayside road when safe to do so to turn left to walk along the pedestrianised promenade along the Quayside towards the Gateshead Millennium Bridge (Map Point 2).
Gateshead Millennium Bridge(Map Point 2). Opened to the public in 2001, it has already won a host of accolades including the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize. It is the world’s first and only tilting bridge! Designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects and engineered by Gifford, the bridge takes its place at the end of a line of distinguished bridges across the River Tyne, including the Tyne Bridge and Robert Stephenson’s High Level Bridge. Linking Gateshead with Newcastle via Gateshead Quays (described as one of the best places in Europe by Tony Blair) and Newcastle’s Quayside, the bridge not only serves a functional purpose as the River Tyne’s only foot and cycle bridge, but its grace and engineering attract people from all over the world. Anyone travelling on a pleasure boat up the River Tyne will pass under the bridge and those watching from the banks of the river will join the thousands who enjoy this view every year.
Cross over the Gateshead Millennium Bridge to the other side of the River Tyne.
Here you will find theBALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art(Map Point 3)which houses an ever changing contemporary art programme. With a history that stretches back much further than its 2002 opening, the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, housed in a completely renovated flour mill, is the biggest gallery of its kind in the world. Visitors can experience innovative and provocative new art, relax, have fun, learn and discover fresh ideas, and complete their visit with a relaxing coffee overlooking the magnificent quayside. All four of BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art spaces are accessible and the centre also offers walking stick stools, mobility scooters, large print information, subtitles on selected BALTIC films and sensory equipment. Assistance dogs are also more than welcome.
The building itself has quite a history as back in the 1950s it was used to store grain, with the River Tyne being used as a key route for trading with Scandinavian and Baltic states. The company which built it had a habit of naming its warehouses after famous oceans of the world, hence its name.
Cross over BALTIC Square and head along the alley to the left of the naval base up onto South Shore Road, and towards the glass and steel structure that is The Sage Gateshead (Map Point 4).
The Sage Gateshead is the internationally acclaimed music venue and home to Northern Sinfonia. If you wish to enter the building, a step free access is around the far side, further along South Shore Road/Hillgate.
Opposite the Sage Gateshead is the Gateshead Visitor Centre in St Mary’s Church. Here you will find fantastic views and postcard opportunities ahoy!
If you visit the church then head back down the hill to continue along Hillgate road underneath the Tyne Bridge.
Tyne Bridge – The first bridge over the Tyne was built in circa AD120 by the Romans and was known as Pons Aelius or ‘The Bridge of Aelius’. Aelius was the family name of Emperor Hadrian, famous for the construction of Hadrian’s Wall which divided Roman Britain and what is now Scotland. The Tyne Bridge is an amazing piece of architectural engineering. When it was officially opened on October 10th 1928 by King George V, it was the largest single span bridge in the world. The design is called a ‘through arch’ as the road cuts through the arch at either end. The steel arch weighs 3,500 tonnes, is 531 feet (162 metres) long and the road deck is 84 feet (26 metres) above the river. The bridge cost £1.2 million to build. It was designed by the engineering firm Mott, Hay and Anderson, who based the design on the Hell Gate Bridge in New York.
Underneath the Tyne Bridge you will now find the By The River Brew Co Container Park & Streetfood Market – This is an independent container community on the Gateshead side of the river. It consists of a Brewery & Tap Room, Träkol (an Open Fire Kitchen), the Backyard Bikeshop which is a Custom Build Bike Shop, Coffee House & Covert Cocktail Bar. At weekends, you can sample the delights of the vibrant Hawker Market which hosts a great selection of street food and independent traders.
At the end of Hillgate, turn right onto Bridge St / Cannon St and at the pedestrian crossing cross to the other side when safe to do so and continue your walk to the left along the river into Pipewellgate.
Walk underneath the High Level Bridge and take the path off to the left up into the trees. Follow this path through the trees up onto High Level Road and turn left along this road to head back towards High Level Bridge (Map Point 5).
Opened in 1850, this was the world’s first combined road and railway bridge, built for distributing and trading coal. At that time, coal exports were vital to Newcastle’s economy.
Turn left to walk across the High Level Bridge over the River Tyne to come out on the other side near the Castle (Map Point 6).
New Castle(Map Point 6). Here is the spot which gave Newcastle its name. In 1080, Robert Curthose, son of William the Conqueror, was ordered to build a “new castle” on the high ground overlooking a crossing point on the River Tyne. This new castle was a royal castle and was often home to the early Norman kings – somewhere they could hold court, sit in judgement and entertain. The Keep was the principal stronghold of what would have been a much larger castle complex than survives today. If you climb to the top of the battlements you will be rewarded by a bird’s eye view of the city.
Just by the Castle is Moot Hall (1812) – “Moot” is an old English term meaning a meeting place. Usually a meeting place of judges or magistrates and where sentences or punishments could be announced. This Moot Hall was designed by architect John Stokoe who was influenced by the classical style of ancient Greece. Walk around the outside of the Castle Keep until you see cobble stones set into the pavement. These mark the position of the Roman Fort, Pons Aelius. Walk beneath the railway arches and you’ll see another significant part of the castle complex which is Blackgate. This massive gateway originally strengthened the defences of the castle on its vulnerable west side.
At the end of the High Level Bridge turn right just in front of the castle into Castle Garth. A little further ahead on your right you will see the Castle Stairs – take these all the way back down to Sandhill road along the quayside.
(For an alternative step free route, don’t turn right into Castle Garth after exiting the High Level Bridge but continue straight ahead into St Nicholas’ St. Walk around the back of The Black Gate and to the right into Side. Follow Side down to the mini-roundabout underneath the tall arches, and continue ahead along Side all the way back down to The Guildhall where this walk began. From here you can walk along the sections of Quayside that follows in the remainder of this route)
Turn left along Sandhill, and cross over using the pedestrian crossing when safe to do so. Ahead of you is the historic Swing Bridge.
The Swing Bridge gets its name as it rotates 90 degrees to allow ships to pass along the river. It was first used for road traffic on the 15th June 1876 and opened for river traffic on the 17th July 1876. The Swing Bridge is the fourth bridge to have been built on the same site over the Tyne at Newcastle. The first, constructed of wood and stone in c120 A.D. by the Emperor Hadrian, was known as Pons Aelii. This bridge stood until 1248 when it was destroyed by a fire, that also destroyed a great part of the town. The second or Mediaeval Bridge was of stone construction and stood from 1320 until 1771 when a section was washed away in the great flood of 1771. The remaining portions had to be removed and the third bridge, constructed of stone with nine arches, was completed in 1781. This bridge was removed by the Commission to make way for the construction of the Swing Bridge.
Once you have seen the Swing Bridge continue your walk along the Quayside underneath the Tyne Bridge. Turn left into King Street then left again into Queen Street. Walk under the Tyne Bridge and turn left into Side to bring you back to The Guildhall where this walk began.
Just a little further around from the Guildhall you will find Bessie Surtees house, an Historic England property.
Bessie Surtees was the eldest daughter of a Newcastle banker. She eloped with John Scott (he was from a poor family and her family considered him not up to scratch) and this is the actual window she climbed out to elope with him. Their fate? Bessie’s parents eventually accepted the marriage and John went on to become Lord Chancellor of England. Talk about a window of opportunity!
Overview of Route:
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