Exploring Northumberland By Rail
The North East is unlike any other region. From the award-winning coastline to glorious countryside and bustling city life, you can access it all within a short journey. We’re particularly lucky to have such a fantastic railway network connecting the region’s vibrant cities with the wonderful countryside and beaches.
I was inspired by BBC’s long-running series Great British Railway Journeys hosted by Michael Portillo to write this blog post all about my favourite spots in the region that you can visit by rail. Hopefully, this will give you some inspiration for the upcoming Easter holidays and summer months. Let’s get started…
Like many great journeys in the North East, let’s start in Newcastle. If you’ve ever spent any time away from the area, then you’ll know that feeling of returning home over the River Tyne watching the bridges pass by as you enter the city’s Central Station. You can explore the whole of Newcastle from this central point, including the Quayside - a favourite of mine to paint due to its beautiful horizon and contrast of modern and industrial architecture.
I highly recommend visiting the Quayside on a weekend for a stroll along the market. The street comes alive with market stalls offering a wide range of handmade gifts and useful bargains. If you get peckish, the market boasts dozens of street food stalls and vans so you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Even if it’s not a market day, there’s still plenty to see and do down the Quayside. Cross the Millennium Bridge and pop into the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art to browse the gallery’s latest exhibitions and don’t forget to visit the viewing platform for an amazing view of the river and beyond.
Parking in and around the Quayside isn’t always easy and there are a few bus lanes to be aware of, so travelling by train makes this a very accessible and affordable day out.
Time to hike back up the Quayside steps to the station for the next stop on our railway journey…
Newcastle is well-connected to the rest of the UK, including the East Coast mainline that runs north to Edinburgh. Some routes stop in Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick so this is the perfect way to explore the award-winning Northumberland coastline without getting behind the wheel. Remember, not every train stops in these locations - some go straight through to Edinburgh, so I recommend planning your trip carefully using the National Rail website.
First stop out of Newcastle is Morpeth. This market town is perfect for a spot of retail therapy as it boasts a great mix of big brands and small boutiques. If shopping isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty to do in Morpeth including a visit to the Chantry Bagpipe Museum and a walk along the riverside.
A little further north on the route, you’ll find Alnmouth. From the train station, you can walk into the fishing village of the same name in just 20 minutes. Alnmouth is known for its colourful houses (which inspired the below painting), vibrant fishing community and peaceful beach.
Alnmouth is a particularly special place for me as my grandfather lived here and worked on the railway for all his life. Even though it’s only a short journey from the hustle and bustle of Newcastle city centre, Almouth is a tranquil escape and one I love to visit regularly with my family.
You can also hop on a bus from Alnmouth to the nearby town of Alnwick. If you live in the region or visit regularly, then you’ll know all about what Alnwick has to offer. From the castle that took the global stage in the Harry Potter movies through to the beloved secondhand bookshop and cafe, Barter Books, Alnwick is packed with things to do that the whole family will love.
Berwick & Lindisfarne
Next we’re making our way up to Berwick-upon-Tweed on the scottish border. From here you can visit Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island. This is one of my favourite places to paint as it’s a truly unique spot. Don’t forget to check the tide times if you intend to visit Lindisfarne as you don’t want to risk getting stuck on the island.
Limited edition Lindisfarne print
And finally, it wouldn’t be an article about the Northumberland railway journey if we didn’t mention Berwick. Nestled on the River Tweed, Berwick is a market town that dates back to the 16th century. The town’s past is ever present as you explore the cobbled streets, narrow alleys and historic architecture. History lovers will be interested in Berwick’s ancient walls built during the Elizabethan era, and if the beach is more your thing then Spittal Beach is only half an hour’s walk over the Grade I listed Royal Tweed Bridge.