Friday 27th February
There wasn’t a chance that we two Geography graduates would take the direct motorway route from home to Whitley Bay. Rose likes to rally drive, I liked doing Geography Field trips. Rose wanted to drive, honestly she did. I wanted to not drive as my aches were particularly achy. So after a bit of weather watching the route up was determined. M6 to Lancaster, back roads via Ingleton (lunch stop), Ribblehead Viaduct, Hawes, Tan Hill, Barnard Castle, back to the A1 then A19 and the Tyne Tunnel to the Grand Hotel in Whitley Bay.
I was quite pleased with this photo from the hotel window.
That is enough detail of our travels. I am sure you want to know about the pubs we visited, the game and the journey home.
Metro from Whitley Bay to Newcastle Manors station, a walk over the main road to Grey Street and:-
Pleased to Meet You
The pub was so busy we couldn’t get within three deep at the bar so a quick retreat opposite to the
Duke of Wellington
Beer: Durham Evensong
Comments: Good pub, great beer. No beer board so thank goodness the pub wasn’t too busy. If a pub has lots of beers I will annoy everyone else by taking time to choose my beer. A board with basic information certainly helps narrow down the choice and time to decide. Music too loud for me.
Beer: Brewsmith Oatmeal Stout
I once said:
I find it hard to believe this pub has only been here since 2003. The whole street was rebuilt and it has become a fine example of how modern architecture can work. The pub is multi award winning and its staff are happy to shout that our beers do our talking. You will find 9 ales with some pumps dedicated to Yorkshire Dales, Highland and Anarchy beers. Their website describes the internal design as tipping a hat to classic liners. The revolving doors and wooden screens make me think of old fashioned theatre bars. The pub has a small separate lounge area and a popular raised seating area that overlooks the rest of the pub. Most will stand in the large entrance space between the impressive doors and the three sided bar. The pub is busy at all times of the day. The beers are always good quality and interesting.
Comment: Friendly staff, space enough at the rear to start the crossword. Good beer.
Beer: Roosters Londinium
I have never been in this pub and been able to get a seat. It is always busy. The pub is a positively beautiful pub. At one end two striking stained glass windows offer a link to the nearby Castle and town walls. At the other end the wooden panels reflect the library feel of an old country home. The attraction includes being allowed to sit and listen to the landlord’s choice of L.P’s while doing the crossword. Alternatively settle in the screened off snug and do as the locals do and bury your head in the newspapers.
The beers change regularly and feature both local and regional breweries. Be prepared for a standing room only squeeze before the game. I think the pub is best early evening after the game.
Comment: By now the team were catching up with us. My Facebook postings gave whacking great hints as to where we were, so it was no surprise when Geoff walked in the front room to join us. He was the “kitty” holder so soon the others followed. Keith, Paul, Mart, Tim, Ronnie and finally Bob completed the trip north. They were staying at the Airport and had found similar alternatives on their way to the riverside. It was good to chat with fellow weekending football fans of the Villain variety. Newcastle were at home to them.
Time to move on then to….
Beer: Something dark from Wylam
The well recognised pub lies directly under the Tyne Bridge at the bottom of The Side. It only opened as this pub in September 2013 but has made a significant impression on pub lovers both modern and traditional. The frontage fibs in its stonework about being the Newcastle Arms. It doesn’t lie when it has its own microbrewery shining from the back of the bar. It can produce 360 pint batches of what are Wylam inspired brews under the Bridge Tavern name. Nine of the beers after constantly rotating. The bar interior reminds me of my earliest viewing of American brew bars. This image is reinforced when one looks from the picture windows to the grand pillars of the bridge, all very downtown New York in my mind. The walls are brick red and broken up by large bookcases and striking photographic artwork. The ceiling makes no attempt to hide the essential air ducting. The best seats lie on the exterior walls often being lower than the central high tables. The outside space is quite attractive, being secluded and offering a bit of a summer sun trap. This is an excellent addition that fills the gap between well established and traditional and modern and trendy. It does have the keg stuff for those who are after a hop kick.
Comment: Very busy but enough space for us to chat at one end. Great atmosphere, universally the best pub of the night. We left them to continue their crawling with a commitment to meet at 12 tomorrow at the Cumberland Arms in Byker.
BEER OF THE DAY: Brewsmith Oatmeal Stout in the Bacchus
PUB OF THE DAY: The Bridge Tavern
Saturday February 28th
Our morning Geography was a walk through Byker. My first school field trip as a teacher involved talking to the locals and introducing my “A” level students to the then flagship redevelopment concepts of the wall. Rose is in the middle of the modern interpretations of what it is to build communities. We were taken back to our thoughts on Urban Society and planning. It was a great walk to the pub. I had, however, texted the others of a change of starting pub. We were now to meet at the Free Trade.
That was a mistake. The pub was fine, the location of it brought out the worst in group pub crawls and starting points.
The Free Trade
Beer: Durham Shaggyboat Blonde + something else
When all around was being gentrified, the Free Trade opened up its windows, painted the walls, sold real ale and put on live music. It became a place to come early to enjoy the views, or later to immerse yourself in neo-Geordie pub culture, i.e. locals necking Newcastle Brown? Your mind’s eye says walk on. Go in, and you won’t trust your prejudiced views again. The campaign activists will need to protect this pub. Go and watch the sun set after a game. The Free Trade is a great pub heaped in the traditions of good music, good real ale and fantastic locals who know how to enjoy a good time. I just had to take a couple of visits to fully appreciate the strengths of the place. It was very relaxed, having a wide range of customers. My plan is to revisit in the summer where a great afternoon could be spent admiring all that is of beauty in the Tyne Valley, perhaps looking out across the river as well!
UPDATE Only the Graffiti in the Gents has changed, and that is still in the style of last year’s offering. The pub awards keep coming. It is local POTY and has further recognition for its 6 ciders. Keg beer has arrived but real ale still leads the sales. The best day time room is the beer garden for the views over the river alone.
Comment: The chaps from last night plus Clive and Roger arrived at twelve with a collective whinge. They had manage to take the long way from the station and didn’t appreciate the specialness of Byker’s architecture. The pub was excellent. I did point out the bus stop that goes directly past the pub but apparently they needed someone to guide them to a bus stop in the city centre and no one had the gumption to buy a travel rider ticket for the day.
Luckily you can see from the window of the pub to…
The Tyne Bar
Beer: Several Wylam beers
This is a different, almost American-feeling bar, i.e. dimly lit and with free juke-box, and music posters. The pub is, well, atmospheric; I visited the pub twice one year, once during the Tall Ships race when it was full to bursting and the garden music was in full swing. The second visit was a cold January night when the warmth of the pub and its characters was really appreciated. It can get crowded but is usually a place to relax after the stroll along the waterfront. The Tyne Bar also has a great reputation for live music, having the space for bands in the larger bar. The best bet would be to enjoy the beer in the beer garden under the bridge and plan an assault of the hill to the other two pubs in this guide.
UPDATE: It is now the official Wylam Brewery tap.
Comment: As good as ever, room enough to chat and pat some very large dogs.
I had to book a taxi for 11 to the match at 2. Some headed off to the Schooner. Rose and I headed for the game.
Gateshead 0 Bristol Rovers 1.
It is very odd to watch a game here. The Athletics stands are large and far from the action. It is as if two different events are watching a game in parallel universes. The opposition fans are so distant there is no interaction other than count their number. Ellis scored, we partied and they followed us, yellow brick road style up the hill to the Metro. We almost shook some off our tail by staying on the train at Central. At Monument, after a long wait playing catch up, we threw a dummy and left by an alternative exit for some solo crawling. A group of ten plus in Newcastle, just after a match had ended, didn’t appeal to me; so we went our own way. A pair of fascist and counter-fascist marches had stirred up some fun among the police ranks. The Newcastle fans had a glum look, but they had won their game.
Pleased to meet you
Beer: Brambling Brown Ale
This pub has a definition of modern adult families in mind when it looks to find the customers it serves. Dad and Mum will like real ale. The grown up children will be experimenting with keg beer. Mum and daughter might share a gin based cocktail. Granddad might like to treat the whole family to a slap up meal in town. I sat in the big picture windows and gazed for a while at the evident success in finding a wide range of customers and drinkers. The cocktails were indeed being shaken mid-afternoon. The pub offers76 different gins. Of my interest are the ever rotating list of 6 hand pulled beers. It is only 9 months old but it will soon be totally established in the discerning drinkers’ circuit. The interior is in the industrial exposed pipework and brick style. It is a spacious bar extended by a pleasant courtyard. All areas are timber floored. I really enjoyed my brief visit and will definitely make it a must visit destination. My recommendation came from a publican in Middlesbrough. This place will soon have favourites among a much wider catchment than that.
Comment: Noisy, a seat by the toilet steps, space enough to read the paper, very busy and just about good. Time to plan a route out of the city centre. It was heaving and the stag / hen parties were seriously outnumbered by other groups.
The New Bridge
Beer: Sharp’s Atlantic IPA. This is an excellent and, now sadly, rarely found beer. Perfect.
Comment: This pub is just beyond Manors Station. It was quiet early evening having recovered from a very busy afternoon. The Rugby was on the T.V. The bar staff were recounting tales of dealing with various protesters and counter protestors. At last we had a chance to talk to each other without direct competition. It was a very welcome regeneration post. Fully recharged we ventured into the drizzle and on to…
Beer: Mordue Workie Ticket. Now a classic beer and never fails.
Comment: A seat near the toilets and a chance to compare and contrast. The Cluny was in the twilight of pre-event drinking. They were gathering in their finery for something theatrical behind the door near where we sat. The contrast with pubs before and after was remarkable. In here there appears a responsibility to make a statement whether in clothing or hair style. We chuckled to ourselves and eventually gave in and moved on. We had nothing to contribute, being in serious pub crawl fatigues. There was also that hill to climb ….
The Cumberland Arms
You never know quite what to expect in the Cumberland. They offer the choice of having your beer served the traditional way, straight from the wood, or through hand-pumps. The website says that they have a great reputation for good traditional music in the upstairs room. This is my favourite Newcastle pub and that is saying something, because there are masses of great pubs in the town. What you are guaranteed is great company, gentle humour and quality real ale. It has some interesting ways to guarantee good comfort and create a reflective atmosphere. A lending library, a bring-your-own instrument policy, plus advertising the beers on a good web-site; all make you feel that the locals cherish their pub. A great evening was had chatting with local characters. I felt that the conversation was as passionate about local issues as was my love of the choice of ales and now real ciders. It is a top pub at the top of a worthwhile climb from the river.
UPDATES There are more ales on offer this year. The summer real ale festival will be organic (July); another is held in January. The pub now does accommodation.
Comment: Re-reading the above fills me with some sort of “I told you so” pride. We sat at a table in the back room because a threesome of local ladies made space for us. They were full of their role in standing up for all that is good in Newcastle in marching against the Muppets of the far right. We probed them about Byker, its people and community and soon the local pumping of collective chests was out and easy to enjoy. They left for their local Lebanese meal just as, predicted in my pre arrival selling of the pub to Rose, something happened. Six students commandeered the somewhat dodgily tuned piano and set about plonking away and singing along. Not the stuff for everyone to join in but of a quality that shouted that they knew their stuff. Then, just as suddenly as they arrived, they left. The Cumberland had done its thing. It was full and fit. There is no juke box, no need to contrive entertainment. The conversation returned to stuff political and popular. We finished the crossword, drunk a few more pints and glowed with the satisfaction of knowing we have had great day out.
BEER OF THE DAY: Sharp’s Atlantic IPA in the New Bridge
PUB OF THE DAY: The Cumberland.
Sunday 1st March
The route home took in Scotch Corner, Richmond, Leyburn, Coverdale, Whernside, Kettlewell, Grassington, Skipton, Clitheroe and the on to M6 and home.
Next up Halifax away 14th March.