I am writing this review because my sister and I have just come back from a 3 night trip with Just Go to Northumberland and it was a really nice trip. However, I have to say that the travelling was not so good! Having been picked up at 5.30 am at Dartford was bad enough (we had originally wanted to be picked up somewhere nearer home but were told that as there were only 2 of us that wasn’t possible) but then the coach went on to pick up people in numerous places including Bromley, Croydon and Sutton and at some of these stops only two people got on!) The coach was comfortable enough and the driver was a very nice obliging man but by the end of the trip we were wishing he would make a firm decision. When we stopped anywhere it was usually “shall we stay here 30 minutes, or maybe you prefer 40?” Make a decision man!
The journey was so long! We arrived in Gateshead at about 5pm! Nearly 12 hours! The hotel was The Jury’s Inn on the river in Gateshead. Perfectly acceptable hotel except that they were still operating as if the pandemic was still on. No cleaning of rooms so you had to ask if you wanted towels changed or bins emptied. They were also very short staffed so I suspect the “pandemic” rules were only because they didn’t have the staff to do a full service. Our trip included bed and breakfast and evening meal and most of the meals were very good even if the service was a bit slow.
Anyway, now I have got the moans out of the way I can get on with the actual trip details. We had a lovely view of the bridges from our room which was a bonus.
Our first included trip was to Chesters Roman Fort and Hadrians Wall. We had a blue badge guide join us (that impressed us once we realised that didn’t mean he could park his car anywhere!) He was as assertive as our driver was indecisive! There was no being late back to the coach with him, he made it clear we had only a certain amount of time and this was quite refreshing and meant we weren;t wasting time waiting for stragglers. On the drive to the sites he regaled us with stories of Border Rievers (people who used to come over the border to rob people) and we drove through a very lovely little village, Corbridge. We also passed by Heavenfield (site of a famous battle) (and no, we were told in no uncertain terms that we could not get out to take pictures!). Then we were passing p[arts of the Wall and the ditches that bordered the wall. I hadn’t realised how beautiful the countryside in that area was. It is stunning. We then stopped at Chesters Roman Fort in the valley of the river of North Tyne. Our guide took us around the four or five different ruins that depicted bath houses, stables etc. (Not easy for people who have difficult walking as it is uneven ground on a slight hill. There is a cafe and shop there and the rain stayed away so that was a blessing. Back on the coach we saw, through the clouds, the Cheviot Hills in the distance. Seeing the lovely countryside made me think I might like to walk Hadrians Wall as there is now an official pathway (however I need to finish the South West Coastal Path first!!) We stopped for a photo opportunity at Steel Rigg which is situated amongst some of the best scenery on the walk and then we headed off to Hexham for a l;unch stop. We were a little disappointed in this as it was just an ordinary town (although it did have a very impressive Abbey) but after a quick Gregg’s sausage roll (vegetarian of course) we were off again and our guide gave us a coach tour of Newcastle on the way back to our hotel.
That evening we had a walk down the river after dinner and had a drink in a bar on the other side. Very impressive area and the bridges are very impressive.
The next day we were guide-less so we weren’t very confident that our driver would be such a good guide and, indeed, it did take him a while to decide where to park when we got to Holy Island and he did forget to tell us there was a shuttle bus to Lindisfarne Castle. We had driven over the Causeway to get there and you have to visit at certain times otherwise it is not accessible. The entry to the Castle was not included and whils I went in with my NT membership my sister waited in the grounds as it is a very steep climb with uneven steps. (Again not suitable for people with mobility problems). It is believed to be the beginnings of Christianity in the UK and was later bought by Edward Hudson who asked the architect Sir Lutyens to turn it into a family home. It became very popular with the Bloomsbury Set and many famous people visited. It was really nice, not too formal or grand. When I rejoined my sister we walked over to the Gertrude Jekyll’s Walled Garden which was stunning. It was mainly wild flowers, poppies, cornflowers and sweet peas and was a lovely little haven. There is also a tea shoppe nearby where we had an enormous toasted tea cake and watched the very tame sparrows dive down to beg for food! We were then taken to Alnwick. Still home to the Duke of Northumberland it is the most “castle-like” castle I have ever seen. It almost looks like a child’s cardboard castle. Lots to see and do (especially for children) but a little too commercialised. Very nice state rooms and lovely grounds (although the garden wasn’t included in our ticket and this left most of our group a bit disappointed as it was another £15 to go in there). It was very busy there so my sister and I wandered into the town and found a real little gem. Barter Books is one of the largest secondhand book shops in britain. It is housed in the railway station and has a cafe and also model trains running around above the book shelves. You truly could spend hours in there. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.
The next day there was an optional trip to Durham and as we have visited there in the past (I have probably even reviewed it on this web site) we decided to have a day in Gateshead/Newcastle. We got the 54 bus from our hotel to Market Street and checked out the shopping centre (much like all other shopping centres) then we wandered around the streets and past Earl Grey’s Monument (yes, him of the tea fame) and we had lunch in a wonderful little tapa’s bar called Cafe Andaluz. It had great food and a lovely moorish like decor. We walked back to the hotel which wasn’t as far as we had thought and we found a pop up Urban Garden food/bar place right on the river where we treated ourselves to an afternoon tipple. There is a lot to see in Newcastle. The Baltic Centre was right near our hotel and is well worth a visit as is the Laing Art Gallery.
The next day we left at 9.30 am and did the return long long journey. Luckily as we were the first picked up on the way up, we now were the first dropped off and our driver was nice enough to drop us off a little nearer home! I can’t fault the trip really as we knew it would be a long journey but we discovered that some people had booked the trip but made their own way to Gateshead. That may be (literally) the way to go!