Newcastle-upon-Tyne is an old and prosperous city in the far north of England, sitting on the river Tyne and stretching to the coastline of the North Sea, where the famous Castle Priory and Tyneside Markets can be found. Curious About provides two difference discovery walks that allow you to view for yourself the beauty and history of this iconic industrial city. Rugged up against the chill of early spring, I armed myself with a camera and guidebook and ventured out to learn more about a city I have grown to love.
The 'Curious About...' walks are the brainchild of Sue Jennings, who partners with Robert Brook to offer the colourful, accessible and informative Curious About Newcastle self-guided tour. Curious About, which promises an 'exciting glimpse into what makes each city what it is,' produces walking guides for a truly extraordinary array of UK towns and cities, aiming to involve the whole family in its adventure, providing, facts, stories, quizzes and clues about each location.
As a migrant to the UK I perhaps have less understanding of the historical significance of English towns and landmarks than a local would do. I cannot easily date different buildings, and wouldn't know a castle keep from a town wall. With these deficiencies in mind I was excited to explore and hopefully understand the place I have come to call home!
It was a typically overcast Saturday when I, armed with map and newly downloaded guidebook, began my walk at Monument. I had (in part due to the weather) chosen to do only the first walk, which would take me along the Town Wall to St Nicholas' Cathedral. Rob and Sue list an expanded knowledge as one of the benefits of their walks, and I was exited to improve my understanding - and hopefully get some fantastic photos along the way.
From Grey's Monument I walked down Grainger Street and entered Grainger Market. I'd been here many times before, lured by the promise of cheap fruit and vegetables, but didn't know a thing about its long history. I admired the arched roof, wondering what it looked like in 1835 when, at the time of its build, it was considered 'the most spacious and magnificent market in Europe.'
I admit I didn't pay much attention to the quiz questions, preferring to admire whichever sight caught my attention. This is one of the great advantages of self-guided tours though - without a guide to listen to and a gaggle of tourists to keep up with I was free to follow the pages of the colourful Curious About booklet at will, ignoring or attending to whatever I chose. However, it is obvious that a great deal of thought has gone into the production of these tours, and I'm sure any adults with kids - or a school group on tour - would get an enormous amount out of the extra details available.
The Town Walls, as I approached, had children climbing on them, a scene of great contrast to the battles they were erected for! Although they have been laid to waste for many years the strength of the original build is obvious. I tucked away the guide book and spent some time walking up and down the walls, admiring how readily accessible such an incredible piece of history is. Due to my wanderings, I got briefly lost on my way to my final stop!
The Curious About Newcastle walk is a brilliantly designed self-paced journey of historical discovery, which I enjoyed very much. I recommend purchase of the guidebook not only to tourists but residents of the city, as there is so much to discover. The walks are perfect for a long weekend, unusual date idea or family outing - so get curious!