Nothing beats being a bit boorish up in the Toon
Posted on the 25th Mar 2013 in the category travel

I devoured a drumstick and looked across the wine soaked table at my fellow guests dressed in medieval garb and thought: “Life must have been great in the Middle Ages.”

The candlelit monastery dated back to the 11th Century and bustling Newcastle city centre, although the other side of an old stone wall, felt a million miles away.

With the help from Newcastle University boffins everything on the medieval menu at Blackfriars’ ornate banquet hall was authentic including the flaming swan and the celebratory toasts.

It was nice to let myself go, shedding boring 21th century manners and being really boorish at the dinner table, well I think that was the idea anyway.

The easy stereotype of a night on the tiles in the North East is of topless beery men spilling lager everywhere whilst women brave the cold wearing nothing but a belt, however, Newcastle and Gateshead are so much more than a giant stag and hen destination.

The Posada is the oldest pub in Newcastle. A pre-Raphaelite stain glass window adorns the building and when you step inside, you step back in time.

The crackly antique record player drones out vinyl sets the scene and the long saloon stretches back into the dark.

The great and the good of Newcastle are on the walls in the form of Edwardian sketches and the atmosphere is about as perfect as a pub can manage, and there is real ale for sale, it would be sacrilege to drink a Carling in such an establishment.

The Posada was not included in the going out guide I was given about Newcastle, the only reason I can think is they don’t want tourists ruining the unique ambience, but the place is a little gem where hours deserved to be whiled away.

Hen and Stag parties flock to Newcastle and there are a myriad of bars and clubs to sustain the mega-booze demand. But they are easy to avoid, we made a wrong turn into The Big Market and saw Batman beating up Daffy Duck as grown men in fancy dress brawled in a scene reminiscent of Sodom and Gomorrah.

We made an immediate about turn and never saw anything like that again. There are plenty of other more nuanced places to enjoy without heading to the Big Market.

The city is great for a romantic getaway with plenty of great restaurants which serve local fare and Newcastle is only a short drive from the stunning scenery of the Northumberland coast.

There are flashes of the early 1970s working class city that Michael Caine took on before coming unstuck in Get Carter, there are, of course, Get Carter tours where fans of the finest ever English gangster film can get their fix, whether you can walk around naked with a shotgun like the film is doubtful though.

But there is a certain beauty to be found in Newcastle’s post industrial landscape. Seven bridges in such a short space of river create stunning collages of shadows and light as the sun comes up and goes down. And when the bridges either emerge or enveloped by rolling fog it is a haunting scene.

Dominating the Gateshead side of the river are world class art galleries and cultural centres.

The Norman Foster designed SAGE centre is a state-of-the-art shiny cultural centre which houses three symphony halls, a music school and a community performance hall.  

The nearby BALTIC contemporary art gallery is in a giant former sugar warehouse and showcases an ever changing roster of cutting edge exhibitions.

Both are great to wander around and prove great art does not have to be in London but can be found way up North.


There is plenty of public art in the streets of Tyneside, whether it is metal men lying down men or miniature installations of Newcastle itself. It is only fitting visitors get to see the Angel of the North en route by road and train because it really gives a taste of what is to come.

The more established Great North Museum, which recently had a £26million refurbishment and features a scale model of Hadrian’s Wall, natural history exhibits, mummies and a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, is also well worth a visit.


For fans of film and theatre the Grade I listed Theatre Royal and the Tyneside Cinema are perfect places to dip into if the heavens’ open.

History is around every corner and stretches back thousands of years with Roman relics, medieval buildings and plenty for civil war buffs to be fascinated by.

The moniker Geordies comes from the days of yore with the city backing King George, it was meant to be disrespectful but the city has taken the term to their heart now. 

A walking tour is a must in Newcastle; we had a great guide who knew the city like the back of his hand and was nice enough to agree turn it into a pub crawl when the rain came down in stair rods.

Larger than life and the ability to spin a yarn Tom Keating told us the story of Newcastle and Gateshead in brain kissing detail, I just wish I could remember it all after all the local cider I drank listening to him.

He, of course, was a season ticket holder at Newcastle United and the town centre is dominated by St James’ Park. Like a cathedral of football it stands high on a hill and if you can get a ticket then it is one of the best grounds in the world to watch the beautiful game.

The town centre is infused with black and white whenever the team play, home or away, and conversations are never far from football in the North East.

There are hotels for every budget and taste in Newcastle, from the plush Malmaison in the city centre to plenty of Premier Inns and Travelodges.

We stayed at Sleeperz which has a great location behind the train station and is a series of serviced apartments which are perfect if you have a busy itinerary and want easy access everywhere.

And although we enjoyed living it up as a medieval lord in the monastery it was lovely to get back to mod cons and a warm shower. 


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