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Tyne and Wear

Named after its two rivers, and with a rich history in mining and shipbuilding, Tyne and Wear is a proud industrial county. Though the smallest county in the northeast, Tyne and Wear is heavily populated but hugely popular with visitors. Really delivering on its history, culture, and entertainment, it provides days out, attractions, and things to do for everyone.

Days out in Tyne and Wear

The heart and soul of the northeast, Tyne and Wear provides more than enough choice for days out, activities, things to do, and places to visit. What it might lack in sweeping countryside landscapes, it more than makes up for it with its vibrant towns of Gateshead, South Shields, Whitley Bay, and Washington, and its thriving, contemporary cities of Sunderland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

As a city that loves its football, no fan could visit Newcastle without soaking up the Geordie atmosphere by either watching a game or taking a stadium tour of St. James’ Park, home to Newcastle FC.

A walking visit to the historic quayside will give you fantastic views of the city and its modern and historic buildings, as well as the iconic Tyne Bridge. A tour through the Victoria Tunnels gives you a fascinating look at the 19th-century Wagonway that was used to transport coal and later as a WWII air-raid shelter. And don’t miss the excellent Discovery Museum for the history and heritage of Tyneside, Newcastle Castle, and Newcastle Cathedral with its famous Lantern Tower.

Across the River Tyne in Gateshead, you can’t miss the magnificent Sage Gateshead concert hall, an iconic waterfront venue just a few yards from the Gateshead Millenium Bridge. Another riverside landmark, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, is well worth visiting to see amazing art, as well as this industrial building itself. And just south of the town, no visit would be complete without seeing Anthony Gormley’s iconic, 65ft steel artwork, The Angel Of The North.

In the port city of Sunderland, the football continues with games and tours at the Stadium of Light, home to local rivals, Sunderland FC. The National Glass Centre is a fantastic, modern building showcasing contemporary art and exhibitions, and even glassmaking demos, while in the city centre, the Museum and Winter Gardens offers a great family day out with three floors of permanent exhibitions. And a trip to the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum is well worth it, with incredible displays and exhibitions dedicated to the area’s military and aviation history.

The county isn’t without its seaside resorts to enjoy. There’s the mile-long Long Sands Beach, Sandhaven Beach, with Ocean Beach Pleasure Park, and Marsden Beach in South Shields, as well as Seaburn and Roker Beach just along the coast. Whitley Bay also provides 2 miles of golden beach as well as the promenade, and St. Mary’s Lighthouse and Visitor Centre.

Topography, geology, and climate

Though largely urbanised and densely populated, Tyne and Wear features plenty of the North East England Green Belt, particularly around its inland borders with County Durham and Northumberland. There are also areas running through South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Overall, there’s little difference in the county’s soils, which are almost exclusively base-rich loam and clay with a low to moderate fertility level. However, there are pockets of both lime-rich loam and mildly acidic sandy soils as well.

Sharing similar climates to its County Durham and Northumberland neighbours, Tyne and Wear is on the cooler end of the scale during summer, averaging at around 17ºC (62ºF), but doesn’t suffer from harsh weather or temperatures during the winter either, with winter lows averaging at around 3ºC (37ºF). The county’s rainfall is also average with around 600mm (24”) falling across the year.

Tyne and Wear’s Parks and Gardens

With Tyne and Wear being one of England’s smallest counties, there aren’t many large country estates and formal gardens on offer to visitors. But alongside plenty of wildlife nature reserves, we’ve picked six Tyne and Wear park and garden highlights that will give pleasure to casual visitors and seasoned gardeners alike.

North Tyne and Wear

Just west of Newcastle’s city centre, the Scotswood Community Garden is a fantastic urban space giving an oasis of calm. Covering around 3-acres, the gardens feature several areas and are a haven for wildlife. Three ponds give a home to frogs, toads, and newts, while the Forest garden and orchard produce a range of fruits, nuts, and berries. There are also two meadows, separately filled with seasonal spring and summer wildflowers.

In North Shields, Northumberland Park is another large, public city space that offers tranquillity, peace, and an abundance of wildlife. Winding pathways lead you around a wonderful green space filled with trees and woodland plants like wild garlic and hedge mustard. As you walk around, you can see a medieval herb garden and butterfly meadow. There’s also a Verdun tree, a Chestnut grown from seed in 1918.

Jesmond Dene, known as the jewel in the crown of Newcastle’s parks and green spaces, is an amazing 45-acre space filled with ancient woodlands, flowers, wildlife, and historic and natural features. Alongside classic English trees, several non-native trees lie on either side of the Ouseburn River that runs through the Dene, giving it a completely natural woodland feel. Wildlife is abundant here too, with Otters and Kingfishers all common. The network of paths leads you to Jesmond Dene Falls in the north of the park.

South Tyne and Wear

Gibside, southwest of Gateshead, is a National Trust-owned, 720-acre estate with a Georgian house, extensive surrounding parkland, plenty of walks to enjoy, and beautifully landscaped gardens. Alongside the magnificent, tree-lined Avenue, you’ll find the spacious Walled garden. Once an overgrown field, it’s been brought back to life by an army of volunteers to include many beds and borders packed with plants, fruit, and veg.

In Washington, the manor house of Washington Old Hall has direct links back to US President, George Washington. Owned by the National Trust, its tranquil gardens are another calm hideaway. The key highlights here are the Knot garden with intertwining box hedges, and stunning, formal parterre gardens. This area is largely as it would’ve looked back in the 17th-century and is filled with geometric beds with aliums, scented phlox, and bay trees. There’s also a wildflower nut orchard, alive with plants, insects, and wildlife.

For a real hidden gem, RHS Partner Garden, Birkheads Secret Gardens, offer a 3-acre delight for any gardener to enjoy. Together with its countryside views, you can explore plenty of different gardens including the Japanese garden, Gravel garden, and Winter garden, as well as vibrant herbaceous borders, cottage plantings, and wildflower meadow. Expect to see agapanthus, alliums, clematis, delphiniums, hostas, roses, and many more besides.