Readers of 'A Swift One' may recall that a few months ago, Robin and I tripped up to Newcastle to sample the pubs in the city. This was a return trip, but instead of concentrating on the city itself, we became adventurous and took in some of the fine hostelries to be found on the north side of the Tyne. As before we had a guide in Alan, and just as well because without him we would have never found some of the pubs, let alone found our way back home !
The first port of call was Whitley Bay, a half hour ride on the Metro out of the centre, and our first pub was the 'Rockcliffe Arms' - a gem, hidden away off the main street but committed to real ale. Here we kicked off the day with a new beer from Yorkshire Dales, 'Ivelet Bridge'. Nothing else on the bar appealed so it was off and out to Whitley Bay Wetherspoons, 'The Fire Station'. Strangely enough this was a conversion of the old town fire station, not that you would have guessed. It was light and airy, and there was no pole in sight. The pub was having a Big Lamp brewery festival, and after selecting 'One Hop Wonder' we settled down to watch the world go by. The beer was a disappointment, but lived up to its name, we thought they had only used one bud to brew it, maybe we were just unlucky.
The next stop soon altered that. A five minute bus ride up to the coast brought us to 'The Briar Dene', a large roadside pub on the seafront. There seemed nothing special about it until we approached the bar and then we saw why Alan was so keen on the place. Beer from 'Tyne Bank', a new local brewery, rubbed shoulders with 'Burnside', a Scottish brewery I had yet to sample. We managed to sample all three new beers in here, all in great nick and soaked up the atmosphere of the place. With its location and good food menu, I can see this being a busy place on a warm summer's afternoon, and deservedly so.
Anyway time and beer waits for no man, and it was back on the bus, past the site of the old Spanish City, now a school, and back to the Metro for the trip to Byker. The weather now decided to take a turn for the worse and it was raining heavily when we left the station. I have no idea why the planners of Byker managed to place the best pub in the area miles away from the station, but they have. Anyway, a little damper than when setting off, we made it to the 'Free Trade', another pub not to be missed. It is an old back street boozer, I suppose basic would be the best description, but to pass it by would be a real mistake. About seven beers on handpull, from breweries far and wide were on the bar and we started with another new brewery 'Ouseburn Valley' and sat and looked over the Tyne towards Newcastle. A great view, and one which is worth the visit alone, but complemented by the beer. Another half of Otley 'Thai Bo', made us forget about our soaking as we chatted to another couple of locals who had joined up with us.
From there it is a short walk to the Ouseburn Valley, the area not the brewery, where another couple of pubs awaited us. It is an urban nature area and has seen much regeneration by the look of it, but is relatively unspoiled. Our first stop was a mill conversion called 'Clunys', much bare brickwork here, music and odd art work added to the feel of the place, and again local beer on the bar. Allendale 'Jaspers' went down very nicely before we had to climb up the valley to the 'Cumberland Arms'. Another gem not to be missed, just off the road bridge at Byker, it is an old pub, which has won plenty of awards in its time. The interior may be basic but the welcome and the beer range was not. The house beer Wylam 'Rapper' was on form, and followed by a beer from the rare Stables brewery at Beamish. Just the thing to set us up for the walk back to the city over the bridge.
It takes around 15 minutes to walk back - passing the bizarre Northumbria University on the way - but should you fancy a breather then the 'High Bridge' is en route. They had nothing there to interest us so we continued down to the Bacchus and took in another couple of pubs we had sampled on our previous visit.
Another great trip to the North East, aided by having a knowledgable guide, who managed to persuade, or threaten the landlords to get some interesting beer for our visit. He was ably assisted by Dave and Phil. We have realised a day is not long enough to see what the 'Toon' has to offer, it could take a lifetime so we are already in the throes of planning our next day out there!!!