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North East wanderings by bicycle

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

The North East of England has some fantastic routes and really incredible landscapes that are readily accessible by bike. Whether that is the challenge of the National Cycle Network (NCN) 1 Coast and Castles route that enters at Berwick (having begun in Edinburgh) and ends in Tynemouth or taking one of the 90 miles of former railway line in County Durham. And of course there is the iconic C2C from Irish to the North Seas.

Recently I have been out and about taking full advantage of the autumnal weather, sunny days (mostly) and enjoying the glorious colours that only this time of year can bring.

With my partner, Audrey, we boarded a train from Durham (our home city) and whisked up to Berwick-on-Tweed, the border town that changed hands 13 times between England and Scotland. By booking ahead with you can get some great bargains but don't forget to reserve space for your bike. We followed the southern route in to the inevitable south westerly wind, though it was only gentle and basked in the sunshine.

The first few miles are off road and somewhat challenging due to the muddy conditions and knowledge that there are cattle in the fields. Progress was slow but we took our time and heartened by waving to the cattle that were kept in another field on this occasion. We took a well earned break in a sunny wind free field corner and noted how the farmer had left a wide margin for native flowers and the associated bees and butterflies, so necessary if we want to preserve the fauna and our fragile ecosystem. Check out Northumberland Wildlife Trust www.nwt.orguk

The alluring Dunstanburgh Castle built on a whinstone crag

After passing the causeway to Lindisfarne, we could join the minor back roads following the NCN1 through Fenwick, Belford, Embleton, Alnmouth and Warkworth. We marvelled at the view of the ruined Dunstanburgh Castle and visited the only remaining fortified bridge in Warkworth and made a note to return to this former Percy home and visit the Hermitage on the tranquil River Coquet.

Our destination for the evening was Amble and we had booked into the independent Youth Hostel Radcliffes Lodge, opened just 18 months ago. We were not disappointed with this Scandi- style open plan Hostel which had a fabulous bike garage, well apportioned kitchen-diner and luxurious sofas to chillax in. After a nice pint in the evening (it was a quiet Monday) we set off through the coastal path, passing the reclaimed site of Druridge Bay Country Park and onward southwards. A second breakfast at the welcoming Drift cafe in Cresswell was very filling and we learnt about the recent dig that took place in the nearby pele tower.

Image courtesy of ChronicleLive Entrance to Cresswell

South of Lynmouth and Ellington (known as Big 'E' when it was one of the largest coal mines in the world) we began to hit the peri-urban/ post industrial landscape of outer Newcastle. Rather than traversing Blyth, as we had done in the past, we chose a new route through Cramlington and was very happily surprised at the green spaces, parks and excellent bike routes that it affords. We even had time to view Cramlington's answer to the Angel of the North: the Spoon in the field. Whilst not as tall, it's about 4 metres high, its incongruous location and understatement was a joy to behold.

Cramlington's spoon in the field

Soon the city loomed and we spent most of the time on dedicated cycle routes though one still needs to be very aware of city traffic particularly in the new development around Pilgrim Street. Having crossed the Tyne Bridge and Gateshead centre, we joined the A167 to pass by Anthony Gormley’s iconic 20m high Angel and we were on the home stretch and looking forward to a nice cuppa and cake.

If you want more information on bike routes in the North East then do get in touch.

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