What springs to mind when you think of the Geordieland town of Gateshead? If you’d have asked me that question a few weeks ago I probably would have mentioned the shopping mecca that is intu Metrocentre, the imposing buildings that dominate the quayside, Sage Gateshead and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, or the mighty Angel of the North that towers over the traffic on the A1, but I’ve had a bit of a wake up call…
I recently discovered that over 50% of Gateshead is made up of countryside and I immediately felt foolish for overlooking the rural offering right on my doorstep!
James and I decided to dedicate a whole weekend to exploring ‘Gateshead’s Great Outdoors’ and despite travelling less than 8 miles from our home in Newcastle we both felt like we were on an exciting adventure. I couldn’t quite believe the scenery, nature and quietness we encountered.
The first stop on our short journey was Gibside, the National Trust estate that covers over 600 acres between Rowlands Gill and Burnopfield. I’ve been to Gibside for a day out before and loved meandering through the gorgeous gardens. This time we arrived on a Friday night so got to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the Gibside Pub, one of only two National Trust-managed pubs in the country.
There was live music being performed by local musicians, the fire pits had been lit and the smell of freshly made pizza filled the air, we immediately felt more relaxed (although the Wylam beer and large glass of Sauvignon may have also been contributing factors)!
The Gibside Pub is open every Friday and Saturday night 6-9pm and you don’t need to pay an entrance free or be a member, just turn up and enjoy.
Thankfully we didn’t have to argue over who was going to be the designated driver as our home for the weekend was also in the tranquil surroundings of Gateshead’s beautiful countryside. We stayed in a beautiful little Shepherd’s Hut at Cut Thorn Farm, also known as West Wood Yurts as there are six traditional Mongolian tents available to rent there too.
The glamping accommodation sits within the boundaries of Gibside, just a 15 minute walk through the woods from where the pub is located. We strolled back hand in hand and were gobsmacked to see a deer fawn stop right in front of our path and look directly at us before running behind the trees. Sadly it was too quick for me to get a photo but it was a magical moment and one I certainly wouldn’t have experienced walking back from the bars I usually frequent on a Friday night!
Out little hut was so cute and wonderfully romantic, set within its own walled garden at the edge of the farm, a short walk away from the yurts and touring caravan pitches. It was equipped with everything we needed for a short break, including a little kitchen area with sink, kettle, hob and mini fridge.
A stable door led to the bedroom which was much more spacious than I had expected, with a proper double bed, chest of drawers, electric fire and even a radio. Plus, plug sockets which meant I could charge my phone (I know this post is about the great outdoors but a blogger doesn’t get very far without her trusty smartphone)!
Thankfully the weather was very mild so we lit the firepit, cracked open a bottle of prosecco and sat at the picnic table quietly watching the horses graze in the fields in front of us until the stars came out. It was so peaceful and when my head finally hit the pillow, I can honestly say I slept better than I had done in months!
To book check out www.gibsideyurts.co.uk/shepherds-hut/
We deliberately didn’t set our alarms for Saturday morning as we were on a mission to rejuvenate our bodies and minds. When I eventually did open my eyes at about 9am, I had a moment of not knowing where I was. It was unusually quiet and as I stumbled through the kitchen to the French doors at the front of the Shepherd’s Hut a huge smile spread across my face – and not just because James already had the kettle on! The rolling fields were basking in sunshine and I couldn’t wait to get out there and explore.
There is so much to see and do in Gateshead’s great outdoors and a whole host of trails to follow through local parks and woodlands. We’d heard that the Derwent Valley was the best place for bird watchers and we were contemplating a walk along the Red Kite Trail which sets off from Winlaton Mill. The Tanfield Railway Paths were also tempting as they are scattered with work by local artists alongside pieces by internationally renowned sculptors.
In the end we decided on a leisurely stroll through Ryton Willows which can be found between Old Ryton Village and the River Tyne. The beech trees in the woodland are thought to be tallest in Gateshead and are home to nuthatch, great spotted woodpeckers and tawny owls, sadly we didn’t spot any of those but we did see plenty of colourful dragon flies hovering above the ponds which have been identified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. We also bumped in to loads of dog walkers which sparked off yet another conversation about us adopting a rescue dog… one day!
After our Saturday stroll through the picturesque Ryton Willows we jumped in the car and headed over to High Spen, a bustling old mining village where we discovered an absolute gem of a local cafe in VIP Teas.
This cute little place was everything you want a tea rooms to be… friendly, welcoming, quaint and proudly stocked with a huge selection of mouth-watering, home-made cakes. I was in heaven!
After devouring more than our fair share of delicious scones and sandwiches and re-fuelling with several cups of coffee served in dainty china cups, we were ready to continue on our exploration of Gateshead’s Great Outdoors.
For our next adventure we went in search of Hollinside Manor, a 13th century fortified manor house overlooking the Nine Arches Viaduct nearby… after much roaming about I’m ashamed to say that my navigation skills failed us and we couldn’t actually find it! My old orienteering instructor from school would be most disappointed but at least we had fun trying!
We returned to Gibside where we had planned to check out the ‘Route to Relaxation Trail’ which is a nice gentle stroll through Ice House Dene and along the banks of the River Derwent but we bumped in to James’ sister and our gorgeous niece at the Strawberry Castle play area so decided to join in the fun instead! We invited them back to the Shepherd’s Hut and James rustled up a BBQ feast for us. I love eating outdoors in the fresh air, don’t you?
The next morning we had to say goodbye to the gorgeous Shepherd’s Hut, but we made the most of our time there with another lie in and breakfast in the garden before we packed up. I really didn’t want to head straight home as the weather was still lovely and I wanted to spend as much time outside as possible.
We’d heard lots of wonderful things abut Bradley Gardens so decided to check it out. Bradley Gardens is just on the edge of the Tyne Valley, not far from Crawcrook, it’s a tranquil 18th century walled garden that has been given a new lease of life as a restaurant, shops and garden centre and really is a hidden gem!
James and I enjoyed the most amazing Sunday lunch at Bradley Gardens and have both agreed that it is our new favourite place for a weekend treat. We even debated not telling anyone about it because if it became too popular it might just loose its charm but I never was good at keeping secrets… so instead I’m going to do a blog post all about it! Watch out for my full Bradley Gardens review coming soon!
I had the most wonderful weekend exploring ‘Gateshead’s Great Outdoors’ and have only scratched the surface of how much there is to see and do, so get out there and enjoy it for yourself!
Share your own adventures using #GatesheadsGreatOutdoors or plan some at www.gatesheadsgreatoutdoors.com
Big thanks to the team at NGI for helping my plan my weekend and arranging a complimentary stay at West Wood Yurts, as always, views are my own.