Cycling from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Newcastle

What is it like to cycle from England’s most northern point at Berwick-upon-Tweed to Newcastle in two days? In this blog we look at this beautiful route of 189 or 202 kilometers (about 117 or 124 miles) and give you a good idea of what you may encounter along the way.

Berwick-upon-Tweed is strategically located on the mouth of the River Tweed, near the border of England and Scotland. Via its historic river bridge you will make your way from the station to the south side of the river. You will be joining ‘Route 1’, part of the international North Sea Cycle Route. It runs close to the coast here and within 15 minutes or so you will find yourself on a gravel path on top of the cliffs, fully embraced by the sounds of the breaking waves below you.

Lindisfarne Island has a magical reputation. This is partly because of its tidal access. The road across the sand flats is flooded during high tide, so check the tide times before proceeding. Lindisfarne’s reputation is also shaped because of its history as the cradle of Christian faith in England. Its monastery was the very first on the British Isles. Its ruins can be found on the remote far side of the island, just as Lindisfarne Castle.

Back on the mainland, the route temporarily runs inland to rejoin the coast at Bamburgh. The imposing Bamburgh Castle towers over the modest adjourning village with the same name and has panoramic views over the North Sea. The coastal town of Seahouses is well-known for its scenic North Sunderland Harbour. It is definitely a good place to take in on some tasty fish and chips!

From here, the route heads inland once again. Quiet country lanes set the scenery towards Embleton. Here you will find a rugged beach with the ruins of remote Dunstanburg Castle at its end. A little further you will cycle via the Howick tea gardens. This is the former residence of Earl Grey. Naturally, the tea named after him is served here!

Generally, the North Sea Cycle Route in Northumberland is excellently signposted as ‘Route 1 – Sea and Castles’. However, to see the largest castle of the county, you will have to join us on our own route to slightly inland Alnwick. Its castle is the most impressive of all. No wonder film and TV productions such as Ivanhoe, Black Adder and Harry Potter all used Alnwick Castle as a filming location. Alnwick town is also worth to visit. It features the Bailiffgate Museum and is perfectly located halfway between Berwick and Newcastle. A youth hostel and several hotels make this the perfect lodging town.

The hills south of Alnwick offer some moderate climbing and several beautiful views. At Warkworth, you will be returning on the signposted coastal route. Its castle is the last beautiful rural castle on the Northumberland route. From the port of Amble you will be cycling directly on the coast. Drurigde Bay is known for its long beach that streches towards the horizon. The Ladyburn Lake Visitor Centre, right behind the dunes, is a good place for a coffee or lunch.

Lynemouth marks the end of all pleasantness. The scenic coastal road suddenly makes way for numerous industrial complexes and the housing estates of Ashington and Bedlington. This is former mining country and the Woodhorn Museum tells the tale of the mining history of this industrialised region. Newbiggin by the Sea features the only scenic bay not being affected by the heavy industries. Blyth features the last sway of industrial estates before a beautiful green coast line southbound reveals itself once again.

Traffic-free cycling is in good order at South Beach, Seaton Sluice, Old Hartley and Whitley Bay. Mind you, these are shared paths and on sunny days your progress can be slow among the many beach goers and dog walkers. Passing cyclists are often not their natural concern. Towards Tynemouth the scene turns increasingly urban. Ultimately, you will find yourself cycling on the pavement next to a busy promenade road, but its route on the cliffs continuously provides panoramic views.

Tynemouth Castle marks the end of the coast route. The route turns inland at the mouth of the River Tyne, heading for Newcastle. The ‘Hadrian’s Cycle Way’ is built on a former railway line and takes you mainly through the green valley of the River Tyne to Newcastle’s city centre.

For truly urban explorers, we also offer an alternative route via the south bank of the River Tyne. On this route, you will take on the scenic Tyne Cycle Tunnel, which opened in 1951. It gets followed by the Bowes Railway route, taking you to the ‘Angel of the North’. This icon of northern England is a huge metal statue of a guardian angel towering 20 meters high over the surrounding landscape and the nearby motorway. To get there by bike some short sections on rough gravel and some steep banks cannot be avoided.

In Newcastle City Centre, the bridges over the River Tyne will catch the eye. The Tyne Bridge dating from 1928 will probably look familiar. Exactly the same design was used to build Australia’s Sydney Harbour Bridge a few years later. Also striking is the Millennium Bridge, a cycling and walking bridge with a unique tilting mechanism.

A short circular route takes you from the riverside via the highlights of Newcastle’s city centre. Newcastle developed into a city during the Industrial Revolution and the Grainger Town district is well known for its architecture of the 1830s. Grainger Market and the Grey Monument on the main square are its most significant features. A descent with a great view towards the Tyne Bridge brings you back to the ‘Hadrian’s Cycle Way’ on the riverside. Another time you can read more about our continued route south via the North Sea Route to Whitby and beyond.

Practical notes:

You can start the route from Berwick-upon-Tweed station. If you travel from the continent, we can recommend using the DFDS Seaways night crossing between Amsterdam-IJmuiden and Newcastle-North Shields. This crossing takes 16 hours and runs three times per week normally. Our route includes a direct cycle route from the ferry terminal in North Shields to Newcastle’s central station. From here you can take bikes on trains to Berwick with either Cross Country Trains or Northern Rail. The distance between the ferry and the station is about 9 miles and the train journey takes about 1 hour. Making reservations for bicycles is recommended.

On your way south you would pass the ferry terminal in North Shields once again at the end of your second cycling day, allowing you to take the ferry back to the continent. Of course you can also cycle on to Newcastle, perhaps this time with our route via the Angel of the North?

The described route section ends on the riverside near Newcastle’s city centre. From here you can cycle further south towards Durham and Whitby. Of course you can also take the train from Newcastle’s central station, taking you to other parts of the country. In England, bicycles can be taken on the train for free, but not during peak times and depending on the capacity of the train. On some routes you need to make a reservation for bicycles.

We do not recommend the use of any bicycle trailers, cargo bikes, bike trailers, etc. This is due to various barriers on cycle paths with tight corners and narrow gaps. You may also encounter difficulties on narrow towpaths, steep slopes and when taking your equipment on the train. Note e-bikes can only be charged at booked accommodation on the way; public charging points are rare.

The route in this blog is largely signposted as ‘Route 1’, but multiple highlights such as Alnwick Castle, the ‘Angel of the North’ and Grainger Town are not part of the signposted routes. To cycle the route comfortably, we recommend using our ‘England North-South Cycle Route’ guidebook. This guidebook contains route directions, maps, cycling-focused tourist information and facility listings with campsites, youth hostels, B&Bs, hotels and bicycle repair shops along the way. Order your copy now and you will receive the guide in your mailbox within a week! GPS tracks of the route will be sent to you by email.

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