Disclaimer: The North East and the rest of the UK are under national lockdown restrictions. Non-essential retail, hospitality and entertainment venues are currently closed as well as most accommodation businesses and visitor attractions.
If you’re struggling for fun things to do in Newcastle or days out in the North East during lockdown, we’ve compiled a list of our top suggestions.
From the best parks to a selection of restaurants with outside areas, nearby National Trust sites and the best things to do outside in Newcastle and its surrounding areas, hopefully you won’t be short of ideas to shake up your typical “daily walk”. Not to mention, many of the locations on this list would make ideal spots for a romantic picnic date...
NB: Please make sure to check the government guidance, as well as the websites and social media channels of all venues before booking or attempting to visit.
Best parks in Newcastle
Heaton Park & Jesmond Dene
Heaton Park is perfect for summer BBQs, wrapped-up walks with a hot chocolate from the on-site coffee van in winter, as well as a takeaway al-fresco pizza from the Sambuca pavilion. If you’re after some BBQ supplies, be sure to make a pitstop at Block & Bottle over the road beforehand, which stocks an incredible selection of locally-sourced free range meat, craft beer and organic wine. Walk through the park and into Jesmond Dene for a picturesque, leafy stroll that’s topped off by a pets’ corner and hidden waterfall.
Exhibition Park is home to the beautiful Wylam Brewery, which hosts foodie and music events, weddings and - of course - brewery tours. The park has a mix of pretty tree-lined paths, large informal lawned areas, beautiful flower beds and a stunning lake that’s a perfect backdrop for an al-fresco picnic. Or, for a day that’s a little more active, the park has plenty of large open spaces for ball games, a skatepark, five free-to-use tennis courts, outdoor gym equipment and traffic-free cycle circuits that’ll keep both young and older visitors entertained.
Lose yourself in mature woodland, steep valleys and grassland areas at Armstrong Park, where you’ll also get to discover many hidden, historic features.Filled with oak, elm, beech, ash and sycamore trees, the park is recorded in the Ancient Woodland inventory - making it a perfect spot for some forest bathing.
Connected to Jesmond Dene and Heaton Park by a good network of paths, this is a particularly popular dog-walking route, as well as for some casual weekend exercise with its tennis and basketball courts, bowling green and grassy, open spaces. Make sure to keep an eye out for the 2011-restored post-medieval watermill and King John’s Well – thought to once be a medicinal spring for King John’s Palace - during your wander through the park.
The lake at Leazes Park was originally intended for ice-skating and boating, but it also serves as a prime picnic spot. With meandering tree-lined paths, plenty of benches and a large play area amongst the woodland, Leazes Park is a perfect place to take a coffee, sit and get lost in a book or enjoy some al-fresco lunch and watch the world go by.
Rising Sun Country Park
With 400 acres and a choice of 4 trails to explore, Rising Sun Country Park is a great place for casual strolls, longer walks and family days out. The park is open every day and free to use. The lake area is a Local Nature Reserve and the park itself is home to diverse wildlife including horses, deer and swans. There’s also a bird hide for keen bird watchers to use which overlooks the Swallow Pond.
For walkers, cyclists and horse riders there’s an extensive network of lovely, tree-lined footpaths and bridleways. The park has even been awarded the Green Flag award, making its quality nationally-recognised.
Things to do outside in the North East
Down in the Lower Ouseburn Valley, just a mile from Newcastle city centre, Ouseburn Farm provides the perfect home for sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. Take part in animal petting and feeding sessions, drawing classes and child- friendly activities to entertain and educate during school holidays (or homeschooling!) Entrance to the farm is free, but donations are welcomed.
You can find a café onsite, serving delightful treats baked at the farm. Menu options use ingredients grown on the farm where possible. And you can even enjoy a cup of refreshing mint tea that has been created using farm-grown mint. Keep an eye out for regular street food festivals that the farm plays host to, too.
Angel of the North
Synonymous with Newcastle, the Angel of the North is well worth a visit - and a selfie underneath its 54 metre steel wingspan (that’s bigger than a Boeing 757 or 767 jet and almost the same as a Jumbo jet!) If you’re struggling for something to do outdoors in Newcastle, there’s surely worse things to do than check out the largest angel sculpture in the world. It's a particularly impressive sight at sunset or dusk.
Just a half-hour drive from Newcastle city centre, you’ll find Northumberland Zoo. There’s a huge array of mammals, farm animals, birds and reptiles here for both small and big kids to enjoy!
From arctic foxes to wallabys, a Canadian lynx, capybara, meerkats and - the latest addition - snow leopards, you can while away hours at Northumberland Zoo. You can grab a hot drink or snack from their cafe and prebook animal encounters, which range from short one-on-ones with a specific species to longer, half-day experiences. Get close-up with beautiful, big cats or spend half an hour feeding the meerkats in their enclosure. We challenge anyone to leave without a smile on their face!
The brainchild of The Duchess of Northumberland, Alnwick Garden is a multi-award winning destination that you simply must visit when planning your trip to Northumberland. 12 acres of meandering and magnificent gardens, 50 swinging benches, the world’s largest Tai Haku Cherry Orchard, an adventure mini golf course, a Grand Cascade consisting of 120 water jets, a poison garden filled with around 100 toxic, narcotic plants, and the world's largest Treehouse Restaurant makes this a destination not to be missed.
Check out our blog post on the top Northumberland destinations and picnic spots for 2021
for more stunning North East outdoor spots to enjoy.
Experience living, breathing history at the award-winning Beamish Museum, The Living Museum of the North and discover what life was like in North East England during Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, war time and fifties Britain. Beamish is a living, working museum, set in a stunning 300-acres of County Durham countryside.
Knowledgeable volunteers and staff are kitted out in exceptional, historical costumes to teach visitors all about how the Industrial revolution transformed agricultural life in the region, what life was like in a North East town and the trials and tribulations of a Victorian village school.
Travel by tram or old-fashioned bus from the Edwardian Town and Pit Village, complete with original drift mine to the Home Farm and Pockerley Old Hall. Sample the foodie delights of yesteryear with a stop-off at the Jubilee Sweet Shop in the 1900s Town, indulge in some fresh fish and chips at Davy's Fried Fish Shop in the Pit Village, enjoy an afternoon tea in the Victorian Town, or cosy up in the Sun Inn pub.
The buildings you see and can wander through at Beamish Museum aren’t replicas but have been reconstructed brick-by-brick to give visitors a real sense of history. Plans for development include the creation of the Georgian Coaching Inn, which will not only be a museum-quality exhibit but also somewhere that visitors will be able to stay overnight!
Tickets to Beamish Museum are valid for 12 months from your first visit, so you can pay just once and come back for a whole year free of charge.
Durham Botanic Garden
Visitors (or even North East locals) may not know that Durham University is the proud owner of a 10 hectare Botanic Garden. Set amongst beautiful mature woodlands on the southern outskirts of Durham city, the Botanic Garden is open to the public, who can wander through the alpine garden, winter garden, bamboo grove, glasshouses, woodland garden and wild flower meadow.
Discover something new around each corner over the changing seasons and treat yourself to a little something from the coffee shop or on-site gift shop.
High Force Waterfall
Located at Forest-in-Teesdale, in the heart of the Durham Dales, Co. Durham - just over an hour out of Newcastle - lives one of the most spectacular waterfalls in England. The River Tees has been plunging into this gorge for thousands of years, while the rocks below date back over 300 million years!
Take a gentle stroll through pretty woodlands to the base of the falls, where you can get spectacular views of the waterfall as it plummets 21 metres into the plunge pool below.
Situated in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you won’t regret a day out to the High Force Waterfall. Make sure to take your camera, as a variety of animal and plant life can be spotted throughout the seasons.
For outdoor enthusiasts, the nearby Hamsterley forest is perfect for off-road cycling, covering over 2,000 hectares of forest land with 33 miles of waymarked tracks. Rent a kayak, go fishing on the North Bank of the River Tees or go shooting amongst the best grouse moors in the country.
Go Ape at Matfen Hall
Built in the grounds of a country house hotel, Go Ape at Matfen Hall, Newcastle is nestled within one of the UK's most unspoilt areas of natural beauty. Just 15 miles west of Newcastle city, thrill-seekers are free to swing through the trees and fly down the zip wires while taking in some of the best scenery in Northumberland.
Matfen is also one of the few Go Ape locations built on deciduous trees, 30ft-high in the treetops. Take on this ultimate Treetop Challenge with high platforms, super speedy zips and stomach-churning Tarzan Swings.
With its pretty cobbled streets, charming boutique shops and beautiful landscapes, the historical village of Corbridge makes for a lovely day out.
Visit the beautiful Hexham Abbey, less than 5 miles away, or explore the quaint Corbridge high street, famed for its cluster of boutique craft shops, characterful gastropubs and traditional tearooms. Dip into Forum Books, an award-winning independent bookshop based in a listed chapel selling a wonderful selection of hand-picked literature, or simply stroll along the Corbridge bridge and take in the riverside views before heading along the picturesque, tree-lined paths.
There’s also plenty to see at the Corbridge Roman town - which was the most northerly town in the Roman Empire - including the Corbridge Hoard, a wooden chest containing objects buried by a Roman soldier some 1,800 years earlier.
And of course, for the ultimate, edible handmade treats, head to our very own award-winning Grant’s Bakery for everything from indulgent raspberry and white chocolate flapjacks
to lovingly-made peach melbas
and traditional Northumbrian pasties
. You can even order our very special afternoon tea for delivery
to take with you to your favourite park or perhaps host your own afternoon tea
Markets in Newcastle
The Grainger Market is one of Newcastle’s oldest and best kept secrets. As such, the historic venue boasts its fair share of accolades. First opening its doors to the public in 1835, the long-standing landmark continues to sell fresh essential groceries and wonderful local produce.
The Grade I listed covered market is bang in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne, a stone's throw away from the picture-perfect Grey Street and was the winner of 'Britain's Favourite Market' in the Great British Market Awards 2020.
Home to hundreds of local traders and small businesses from cobblers, florists and jewellers to haberdasheries, artisan bakeries, high-quality butchers and greengrocers, Grainger Market is a foodie’s heaven.
Take your pick of fresh fish, meat, fruit and veg, while browsing the mini bazaars, as well as indulging in salt-aged beef burgers, hearty portions of Greek gyros, slices of fresh, stonebaked pizza, authentic Chinese dumplings, or trendy patisseries and handmade cakes at one of the many independent cafes.
The Grainger Market also hosts events throughout the year including their popular, annual Christmas Night Market, live music and craft workshops as well as tours and talks during Heritage Open Days.
Take a 25-minute ride on the metro from Monument to Tynemouth to be taken directly into Tynemouth Market, which takes place every Saturday and Sunday beneath the Victorian glass canopies of Tynemouth Metro Station.
Browse over 150 stalls of homemade goods, secondhand books, vinyl, vintage clothing, antiques and local artwork, while tucking into a proper geordie banger sausage sarni, sipping a locally-brewed artisan coffee or warming up with a bowl of alpine tartiflette and gooey raclette. Walk it all off afterwards with a stroll along King Eddie’s Bay or Longsands beach, less than a mile away.
Quayside Sunday Market
On a Sunday, the Newcastle Quayside comes to life with traders dotted along the banks of the River Tyne. Street food vendors and craft shops come together on the riverside to create a bustingly, family-friendly atmosphere. Combine your Quayside market mooch with a wander over the iconic Millennium Bridge to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art for a pretty unbeatable Sunday.
Jesmond Food Market
Head to the Jesmond Armstrong Bridge Market for fresh produce and street food. Jesmond Food Market takes place once a month and dates vary, so be sure to check with their social media channels before heading over.
Restaurants with outside areas in Newcastle
Träkol showcases seasonal and ethical cooking with a fresh focus on preservation, dry ageing and cooking over fire. The menu is reflective of the seasons, so it’s ever-changing and always surprising.
Träkol is a permanent resident at the independent container settlement, By the River Brew Co, on the Gateshead side of the river, where you can also take your pick from street food traders during spring through to late autumn and enjoy riverside cocktails (or beer from the on-site microbrewery) with views across to the Newcastle Quayside.
Stack is a popular shipping container venue in Newcastle city centre, which is home to an array of local street food heroes. Choose from mind-blowing sushi, delicious naan wraps, indulgent crispy duck loaded fries, award-winning greek cuisine or authentic made-to-order Italian pizza - to name just a few options. Most venues also offer a click and collect or delivery service, so you can indulge at home.
Wander round pop-up shops, including the Newcastle Hard Rock Cafe, grab a cup of locally-brewed coffee or perhaps some super-powered bubble tea. There’s also 4 bars on-site, which keep the venue buzzing until closing time (10pm Monday-Sunday).
Beach Box Jesmond
Dubbed ‘Newcastle’s biggest beer garden’, Beach Box is a relatively new addition to the city’s outdoor venue lineup. This urban oasis can be found in the leafy, suburbs of student-dominated Jesmond, so - although walk-ins are available - we suggest you always book in advance.
Just a 5 min walk from Jesmond Metro, there’s food available from The Holy Hobo, as well as rotating street food from local favourites such as Acropolis and Hatch 76, drinks stalls, a pub corner with games like darts to shuffle board and - did we mention - there’s even a beach? Though, we wouldn't recommend turning up in your swimming cozzie...
Revolución de Cuba
Enjoy a slice of Havana up on Revolución de Cuba’s canopied roof terrace - where Latin flavours and Cuban-inspired décor come together to give you a real taste of Mexican and Caribbean fusion. Tuck into tasty tapas dishes or dig into piled-high plates of flavourful comfort food, while pretending you’re on holiday somewhere sunnier and sandier.
Book a table outside at Banyan to take in the buzzing atmosphere around Newcastle’s iconic Grey’s Monument. Our city isn’t best known for its warm weather, so you’ll want to wrap up, or warm up with Banyan’s selection of hearty all-day brunches and 2-4-1 cocktails from 4pm every day.
Hidden away on Market Lane (just a 6-minute walk from Monument metro) is Horticulture, a bar and restaurant that focuses on fresh, organic and locally-sourced produce.
Horticulture is perhaps best known for its whopping 40 varieties of espresso martinis - made with coffee sourced from local roastery Ringtons - and delicious brunch menu. Our tip: try the Biscoff espresso martini out on the venue’s terrace and, for food, tuck into the chorizo hash with fried hen egg; halloumi optional but highly recommended.
A hit with the locals, Thali Tray dishes up Indian street food in the venue’s atmospheric, covered courtyard, where you can warm up next to fire pits and with steaming plates of authentic curries, bread, rice and pickle. Nestled under an arch on Stepney Bank in the trendy Ouseburn district, the food offering’s sister venue is microbrewery Arch 2, which is popular for its craft beer and cracking selection of board games.
Head across Newcastle’s swing bridge to River Beat, which sits on the banks of the Gateshead side of the river. The contemporary interiors are a stark contrast to its traditional outer. And you’d struggle to top the views from its outdoor picnic bench seating, positioned next to a fairy-lit riverside. It’s a perfect spot for quiet, summer evening cocktails.
The cuisine is Asian tapas, which includes delights like crispy 5-spice belly pork in hoisin sauce and tempura prawns with smoked nước chấm sauce. The menu also includes far-eastern curries, pad thai noodles and vegan tapas.
Riley’s Fish Shack
For outdoor dining a little further afield, Riley’s Fish Shack is probably one of the North East’s best kept secrets. Just a short journey from Newcastle to Tynemouth, Riley’s Fish Shack is a semi-portable fish bar and grill based on King Edward’s Bay (King Eddie’s, to the locals). Prepare to queue, as this little place is mighty popular. But trust us when we say the wait will be worth it.
Riley’s often enable pre-booking for deckchairs on the beach, which are serviced by the Shack staff and gives you the option to request a fire pit in chillier weather. There’s truly not many experiences more wholesome than getting stuck in to your fresh, meaty monkfish wrap or hot bowl of goan fish curry while gazing out to the sea, nuzzling your feet in the sand and warming your hands on the fire as the sun goes down.
Fish is sourced daily, along with catch specials, making the menu seasonal, sustainable and forever surprising. The Guardian food critic, Jay Rayner, called Riley’s the ‘eating experience of the year’ - and we really can’t disagree.
Another out-of-city eatery with outside seating that we couldn’t possibly not mention is Omni Cafe in Whitley Bay. Take the metro from Monument in Newcastle city centre direct to Monkseaton. You’ll find Omni just a few minutes walk away. Reserve seats in the covered (and heated!) outdoor area and dive into the South East Asian inspired menu. Omni is small but mighty, serving up probably the best Asian fusion food in the region. Our recommendation: the beef shin and peanut curry and the prawn dumplings with crispy chilli, spring onion and sesame - we’re hungry just thinking about it!
We also recommend booking onto one of Omni’s Supper Clubs (once they’re back up and running) to enjoy their fabulous food inside their cosy and beautifully-decorated restaurant
National Trust venues near Newcastle
Allen Banks and Staward Gorge
With its deep gorge, created by the River Allen, and the largest area of ancient semi-natural woodland in Northumberland, this 250-hectare (617-acre) site provides the perfect setting for an adventure.
Discover an array of flora, fauna and fungi. And - if you’re a fan of foraging, this is the place! It’s well known for its carpet of ramsons (wild garlic), which covers the woodland floor in spring and early summer, along with a bed of bluebells.
Since the storm damage in 2016, some parts are still inaccessible, but Allen Banks is far from short of woodland walks. Bird Spotters will love taking their binoculars to catch sight of over 70 species that visit this wonderful destination, while the wide range of wildlife such as red squirrels, can make any visitor feel at one with nature.
Walk to the nearby traditional country pub, the Cart's Bog Inn for a hearty plate of fine gastropub grub or head to the Housesteads Visitor Centre for some snacks.
With over 1,000 acres to explore and 14 waymarked routes, you certainly won’t struggle for a perfect walk or prime picnic spot at Cragside. From a gentle stroll through the Pinetum to a hike through the heart of the estate, visitors can explore Cragside’s extraordinary Victorian house (the first in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity and feature the first proper installation of the electric light bulb), undulating gardens, stunning views and expansive woodlands.
Inside, Cragside house is crammed full of ingenious gadgets – most of them still working, while outdoors, the Pinetum is a colossal collection of conifers planted to recreate a North American forest landscape in the northern valley of Northumberland.
From calming forest bathing to clambering amidst one of the largest rock gardens in Europe, Cragside is a real feast for the senses. Kids will particularly enjoy exploring Nelly's Labyrinth, a mysterious maze named after a reputed local witch, which provides the perfect place to play hide-and-seek as well as make music on the turtle drum and sit in the storyteller’s chair.
Gibside is one of a few surviving 18th-century designed landscapes and was fashioned with two things in mind: spectacular views and ‘wow’ moments.
With 243 hectares (600 acres) of gardens, woodland and countryside, you won’t be short of picnic spots, walking trails or nooks and crannies to explore. Highlights include a Neo-classical chapel, restored stable block, Derwent Valley views and the gorgeous original 18th-century orangery, which comes alive during the summer months.
Dogs are allowed on their leads and there are outdoor seating areas available at the on-site cafe, where you can grab a takeaway drink and some light snacks.
Seaton Delaval Hall
An incredible £7.5 million project is underway to bring new life to Seaton Delaval Hall and its surrounding estate. In fact, it’s the National Trust’s most ambitious conservation project to date!
If you’re looking for a walking destination in the North East, look no further. Seaton Delaval Hall has 6 walks available around the wider estate, which include The Wagonway Walk, which provides magnificent views, a coastal walk and a 6-mile excursion that takes in reminders of both agricultural and coal industries, as well as wooded parkland.
If rolling hills, woodlands and walled gardens appeal to you (and why wouldn’t it?), head to Wallington, where you can choose from a gentle 1 mile stroll, the popular circular river walk or a rugged 6 mile hike.
The Wallington estate covers 20 square miles and provides varied walking route options, depending on whether you're heading to the House and grounds or looking for a trip out onto the wider estate. All of the walks will take you through fields of livestock, depending on the time of year.
We particularly enjoy the tranquil walk along the banks of the River Wansbeck, crossing over bridges and stepping stones, through the beautiful walled garden, while spotting wildlife and signs of changing seasons.