Early to bed, early to rise, especially after a seven hour hike the day before! So we were up, showered and packed camp by 6:30am. We know, how depressing. But it meant we had a good head start on the traffic for the two hour drive to one of the UK’s most well known sites – Hadrian’s Wall. There’s some interesting sites along the wall, including an old Roman fort at Housestead’s (which we didn’t’ visit, as we are tight arses on a backpackers budget), but we were here to visit a much more important site – Sycamore Gap.
The gap is reached via a 20-30 min rolling hill walk following in the footsteps of the Romans along the wall from Steel Rigg car park. The site was made famous for non historical reasons though, as the location where Kevin Costner (Robin Hood) and Morgan Freeman (Azeem) first come across Guy of Gisbourne (Michael Wincott) in the 1991 film ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ (Matt – Whatever!!). A childhood favourite movie of Sarah’s. The prospect of walking in the footsteps of Kevin Costner was more exciting than walking in the footstep of the Romans.
From here it was a short drive to Newcastle-upon-Tyne where we stayed in an old 19th century church building turned hostel at the Newcastle Rooms. Rooms were clean but there was no cooking facilities other than a microwave (we still managed to whip up an awesome chicken curry!) and you had to get a bus into town, despite claims it was only a 15 min walk.
Aiming to avoid the Newcastle oompa loopma armies with their fake tan, false lashes and bleach blonde hair, Matt had looked up a few alternative bars so we headed into town for (quote) ‘a few quiet beers’. Those of you who know us well know that this catchphrase usually ends up with us doing the exact opposite, and this was no exception. After a quick pint on the rooftop of Forth Hotel (nice vibe, crap view) we headed out east (frustrated at the 10 min wait for a metro train….Londoner’s!) to the more industrial area of town. First stop was the Cumberland Arms. Walking around the corner into the pub we were slapped in the face with some grooving dance tunes on a balcony overlooking a park.
‘This is us for the night!’
Matt said, until we went for a brew. What had to be the smallest bar in Newcastle had a 20 min wait for a drink due to a beer festival in full swing, so we headed down the road to The Cluny. What a find this was! Out in the west side of town which is undergoing a bohemian revival along an old industrial canal, The Cluny is a cinema come live music venue. Matt hunted this place out due to being a beer snob and The Cluny didn’t disappoint.
So from here is where ‘a few beers’ turned tits up. Lesson for the night: don’t let Sarah talk to the pretty girl on her own. What started as a complement on her jewellery ended up as a 3am (we think) session. The girl, lets say her name was L, was the girlfriend of the lead singer of one of the bands playing that night. We were invited in (at no cost) to watch join her watching them and were blown away with the ensemble called Hey Sholay. Think indie/psychedelic style tunes with Liam the lead singer having isms of Jarvis Cocker of Pulp.
After the gig was over we hung out with L and the band in the massive tiered outside area out front. This soon snowballed into spending the night on the tiles with Miss L, her man and a band mate in some cheap basement bar in town playing cheesey music. Fair to say we boogied into the wee hours!!
With hangovers in hand we’d love to say we were up early packed and out the door, but we weren’t. We managed to make the free breakfast at the hostel before going back to bed and waking up at 11am to a knock on the door telling us to
So with Sarah feeling like she’d been hit with the death train we parked up and Matt went a walking around Newcastle. Walking around you can still get a feel for how old and important Newcastle was from Roman times throughout the Middle Ages then into the Industrial Revolution.
Taking in the famous bridges, Chinatown and the old walls, Newcastle still retains an edge that will forever keep historians and tourist alike flocking back again and again (we won’t hold Newcastle Brown and their football team against them).
Located on top of an old mine the Angel of the North concept has several origins and as Wikipedia states
‘According to Gormley, the significance of an angel was three-fold: first, to signify that beneath the site of its construction, coal miners worked for two centuries; second, to grasp the transition from an industrial to information age, and third, to serve as a focus for our evolving hopes and fears.’
With a wing span bigger than a Boeing 757 and almost as much as a jumbo, it has been both controversial and impressive depend which side of the fence you are on. All we can say is that approaching it form a distance it is a bold yet a slightly creepy piece of art that must be seen to be believed. After this it was back into the car for a torrential down pour the whole way to Burger King.