Tyne and Wear
Tyne and Wear comprises five distinct districts based around the major settlements of North Shields, Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, South Shields and Sunderland. It is justly famed for its warm and friendly welcome.
As you arrive from Northumberland in the north, Whitley Bay is the first stop heading south, with its many pubs and cafes (and fish and chip shops) along the sea front. The golden beaches here stretch for 5 km southwards, past Cullercoats and ending at Tynemouth, where the River Tyne meets the North Sea. Perched above the rivermouth on a headland are the historic Tynemouth Castle and Priory.
Turning up the River Tyne, more maritime interest follows, with the Fish Quay at North Shields and then the modern ferry terminal at Royal Quays (for destinations in Scandinavia and the Netherlands). The river can be crossed by pedestrians and cyclists at two points in this area - by ferry to South Shields or tunnel to Jarrow - but the North Sea Cycle Route carries on westwards up the Tyne. At Wallsend you meet Segedunum, the Roman fort marking the end of Hadrian's Wall, before reaching Newcastle along a former railway line.
Newcastle itself is a lively, cosmopolitan city, with a great variety of shops, pubs and restaurants. Newcastle is of course home of Newcastle United Football Club, whose ground St James Park dominates the skyline. An overnight stop should be considered in this lively city just to sample the famous nightlife - party city UK!
Newcastle's increasingly confident neighbour across the River Tyne, Gateshead, now boasts award winning cultural developments. These include an art gallery in the converted Baltic floor mill and the brand new Sage music centre. Importantly for cyclists, 2001 saw the opening of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge linking Newcastle and Gateshead at low level.
From the bridge you cycle eastwards again along the south bank of the river to reach Jarrow and its world famous monastery and Bede's World visitor centre. The next stop is South Shields with its market, shopping areas, recreated Roman fort called Arbeia and your return to the North Sea proper. Pointing south once more, you pass from family beaches to impressive cliffs within a kilometre or two.
After 4 or 5 kiolmetres more, there are more bathing beaches at Seaburn and Roker as the route heads into Sunderland, last stop in this region. The City sits astride the River Wear, which once led the world in ship-building, and rivalled Newcastle in exporting coal. In common with other parts of the region, ship-building and coal-mining have declined and have been replaced by new homes, industry and parkland. After crossing the City Centre, the route heads towards County Durham, taking in the sports complex and impressive dry ski-slope at Silksworth on the way.