Newcastle Quayside Bridges | A Walking Challenge

Thanks to our writer Alyssa for this fab post and photos. It shares how you can cross the River Tyne via 7 different bridges in one day. A lovely alternative walk / adventure to try with a few places to stop en-route too. This post was published in July 2023. Over to Alyssa......

The sun comes out and suddenly my Facebook and Instagram become covered in people wandering along the famous Newcastle Upon Tyne Quayside creating a buzz among the nearby beer gardens.

Does anyone ever look at the typical beer garden photos and think - I wonder what the view is like from up there? The beer garden under the sage in this photo is usually swarming, I keep meaning to check it out - something for the summer bucket list!

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve crossed over the Redheugh Bridge on my commute to work -  you can see all 6 of the other Quaysides bridges from there and regardless of how many times you see that view, it never gets old. 

Newcastle Quayside Bridges | A Walking Challenge

Right after we’d completed the 12 lighthouses in 1-day challenge, my other half (Damon) suggested we should walk over all 7 of the Quayside bridges in 1 day, to which of course I responded with YES - Let’s do it! It turns out you can only walk over 5/7 of these bridges, but we opted to get trains over the 2 un-walkable bridges. 

This challenge was a lot of fun, so if you’re up for a challenge (and you’re not frightened of heights) I'd heartily encourage you to give it a go and gain a different perspective of this much-loved part of the Quayside which connects Newcastle Upon Tyne to Gateshead.

Recommended Kit List - 

  • Backpacks - you’ll enjoy your day much more having the ability to flap your arms about unburdened. 
  • ALL the snacks - a hangry walker is a grumpy walker. We all really enjoyed snacking on strawberry laces. If it’s a hot day like it was when we took the challenge on, I’d recommend avoiding salty snacks otherwise you’ll be drinking more and there’s not always an opportunity to use the toilet. We picked up some nectarines and strawberries from one of the fruit markets outside the Grainger market and they made for a great pick-me-up on one of the many benches we sat on along the way.
  • Comfortable walking shoes - you’ll be walking about 5 - 6 miles, flip-flops aren’t going to cut it this time. 
  • Small 1st aid kit - most likely ailments on this walk: hay fever, nettle stings & blisters.
  • Plenty to drink - I’d recommend at least one water bottle per person. We did pop into a pub and a Tescos Express along the way so there’s no need to overpack.
  • Lunch - I’d recommend starting after something to eat, puts everyone in a much better mood.
  • Appropriate clothing (weather-depending) - If you start mid-afternoon on a nice sunny day as we did, you’ll likely just need an extra layer for the end of the walk (I’d recommend a thin fleece) That sit-down on the Millenium Bridge will be the best seat you’ve had all day! We sat and had nectarines and watched the color changes of the bridge as the sun went down.
  • Sunlotion - Don’t ruin a good walk by being uncomfortable and burnt. 
  • Power Packs - imagine making it over 6 bridges and your phone dying before you reach the 7th. I always take way too many photos and despite leaving with a fully charged phone, I still needed a boost as the walk was nearing its end. 
  • Picnic blanket - we didn’t take ours but I remember thinking one would have been nice a few times. 
  • A padlock for the High rise bridge - I didn’t realise this was even a thing on this bridge until we were face to face with hundreds of padlocks. Lush idea! Maybe another idea for the summer bucket list…

  • This challenge incorporates quite a few stairs, but adjustments can be made/ route can be altered slightly if needed to make for step-free access. I believe this challenge can be wheelchair and pram friendly, you will just need additional time. I’ll add on to the route where relevant. 

Now where to start - 

Continue reading below if you want to cover all 7 bridges or skip to bridge 3 (Redheugh Bridge) if you only want to cover the 5 walkable bridges. 

The King Edward VII & the Queen Elizabeth II bridges below are rail travel only.  

Starting point: Central Station 

There’s something about this station that makes me want to go for an adventure, I love seeing the excitable people greeting their loved ones at the gates here. 

For the first leg of our Journey, we took an LNER* train from Central Station to Durham*. 

The girls were VERY excited to be going on a ‘big train’! This journey ensures you travel over the King Edward VII Bridge.

*It’s worth noting this part of your journey will be cheaper if you book it online in advance. It would also be a good idea to check your route with google maps to double check your train definitely goes over the King Edward VII Bridge. 

You could even grab lunch in Durham if you’ve got the time, we love the fish & chips at Bells. I’ve been a frequent visitor here since I was a kid with my Granny, it's lush to keep the tradition going with my girls. 

If you’re just making a quick loop around, I'd recommend taking the underpass when changing platforms back to Newcastle, there are both stairs and lifts at this station. Both ways take around 10-15 mins so if you plan your connection efficiently you could round trip it in less than an hour. 

Construction of this bridge started in 1902 and was completed in 1906; It is now a grade 2 listed structure, costing around £500,000 to complete.

The King Edward VII Bridge was built to aid the congestion of the High-Level bridge when train traffic increased and the number of reversing trains continuing their journey North became intolerable.It was opened by both King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 10th July 1906.

 I recently found out the bridge does not look like the original blueprints had intended, foundational issues on the Gateshead side meant the Red Sandstone supports were unable to be mirrored right the way across, and instead, stone arches were used.

The next journey we made was on a Northern Rail train between Central Station and Heworth. 

 This train service uses passenger assistance should you have any accessibility needs, more information can be found here: Access Info 

This may seem like a silly journey but there is a method in the madness. Taking this journey will allow you to travel over the top of the High-level bridge.

We did walk over the High-Level bridge as well (it is 2-tiered) so you could choose to skip traveling overhead if you’re not that bothered about traveling over both tiers.

 Getting to Heworth via Northern rail doesn’t take very long at all, I think we were only on this train for around 5 minutes; When you get off the Northern train at Heworth you are greeted by a lovely bench, which is perfect for 4 people to sit and eat your lunch on. To exit the station you can either use the nearby ramp or stairs.

When you get to the top you will see the entrance to Heworth Metro Station head over in that direction and turn right after bus stop F into the metro station. Pass through the gates and then head down towards platform 2 to Newcastle. If you're really lucky, the driver might even wave!

The journey from Heworth to Central Station via Metro will take you over the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge (Blue Metro Bridge).

It was a bit of a shame our metro windows were so dirty. We found taking the images from a side angle rather than front-facing will give you better photos.

Queen Elizabeth II Bridge (Blue Metro Bridge) was built in 2 sections which met in the middle in 1978 costing a whopping £4.9 in construction costs.

It was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 06/11/1981 and it was then a further 9 days before regular Metro service began on this bridge.

The bridge wasn’t always blue, it was originally white; in 2006 Nexus Metro commissioned artist Nayan Kulkarni to install artwork on the bridge.

The bridge is now 2 tones of blue and at night time we can see it lit up and changing colours. This bridge connects tunnels between Jesmond and Gateshead Stadium, the bridge over the tyne being the only open-air part of the metro tracks between these 2 stations. 

Moving onto our next bridge Redheugh Bridge (Pronounced Red-Huff), Start here if you are skipping the train bridges.

To get to this bridge from Central Station, come out of the station and turn left. Walk up towards the Centre of Life,  past St Mary’s Cathedral.

Pass through times square keeping right, here you will need to cross the road, I would advise you not to cross opposite the express shop but instead walk a little further down and cross at the crossing opposite St James Gate.

By crossing slightly further down you ensure you only need to cross the road once rather than at the daunting-looking traffic lights at the top of this road.

After you cross at the St James gate, follow the road round to the right and up towards the traffic lights where you will curve left. 

You can't miss the big ‘Redheugh Bridge’ sign and then it's one straight path over the bridge. Looking down as we crossed this bridge we saw bunnies in the car park below.

It’s also worth noting there are no benches to rest on on this bridge (Much to Aurora’s disappointment, the kid loves a good bench). I would advise sticking to the left if you can where you’ll be the furthest away from the traffic and closest to the lovely view.

Remember pedestrians share this walkway with cyclists so take care to listen for bells.  We got really lucky and were able to see an LNER train passing over the King Edward VII Bridge, the train was almost the same length as the bridge itself, it was definitely a view with a wow factor. 

Construction Started on this bridge in 1980 and it was completed in 1983, costing a whopping 15 million pounds. Diana, Princess of Wales opened this bridge on the 18th of May 1983, there is a sign in the middle of the bridge with some info for you to read but it has sadly been graffitied on.

The bridge is a continuation of the 189 roads, allowing traffic over 4 lanes alongside a Pedestrians and Cyclists path. The Redheugh bridge we see today is actually the 3rd Redheugh, the first was opened in 1871 but sadly saw faults in 1885 which would cost more than a new bridge to repair. 

The second Redheugh was opened in August 1901 but by the 1960’s design flaws meant heavy speed restrictions and weight limits needed to be imposed thus causing the bridge to be a hindrance to traffic. It became more economical to build a new bridge as a result - the bridge we see today!

This bridge seemed to go on and on totaling 897 meters in length and the girls were driving us slightly bonkers with Dory’s ‘Just keep swimming’ tune towards the end.

I would highly recommend removing any hats on this bridge, if you don’t the wind will (it is very susceptible to high winds), especially when the double-decker buses pass by with speeds up to 50mph. 

When you finally reach the end of this bridge, you will see a set of stairs on the left. 

  There is also an accessible ramp that loops around slightly further afield. This area is in dire need of a good litter pick so be mindful of your footing here. 

Continue following the curve of these stairs and continue straight under the bridge.

You will then pass a house on the right. Head slightly further up the road and you’ll see a road with a lovely descent on the right.

After walking for about 5 minutes, you will come to an excellent place to sit/ picnic.

This spot is also the turning point to head down towards the Quayside. You will see 2 paths, take the one on the right and follow the path down.

The view coming out of this clearing is amazing!  

This part of the walk was one of my favorite parts, purely for the fresh perspective, seeing those bridges from underneath really does leave you in awe, especially if you’re into architecture. Be mindful this path can be a little bumpy due to tree roots.

You’ll see loads of wildlife like butterflies and bee’s along this path too, perfect if you're taking part in the  Big Butterfly count’ which takes place between July 14th & 6th August’.

We spotted peacock butterflies, Holly blue, and Six-spot burnets. 

Once you've passed under the RedHeugh you will see a bench - cross the road at this point and follow that path round to the right.

From this path, you will cross under the King Edward VII Bridge and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. 

Don’t forget to turn around, the views the other way are great too! 

Keep walking past the Pipewellgate car park and arch on the right,  at the end of this path there was another bench and a tree absolutely swarming with Lady Bird Pupa! Definitely worth checking out!

Turn right after the bench and then take a left to join the path outside of the Gateshead Sea Cadets Corps. 

You will see the High-level bridge up ahead. If you’re lucky you might get to see a train pass over the top of the High-Level Bridge.

You will then pass the ‘Rise and Fall archway sculpture’ on the right.

The 6m high ‘rise and fall archway sculpture’ was installed in 2007, it illuminates via 10,000 small LED lights and the arch itself appears to wobble, fall down and rebuild itself - such visual effects which can be seen from not just this side of the river but the Newcastle side also.

Its purpose was to create a new focus and meeting point alongside a unique viewing platform of the riverside. 

Pass by the Aspire building on the left, pass under the High-Level Bridge, and at the end of this path, you will see the Tyne Bridge. Turn left and you have arrived at your next bridge.....

Swing Bridge - bridge number 4! 

This bridge has so much history behind it, it has been an absolute gem in linking local history into our home ed curriculum this year.

The current version we see standing today is the 4th in its place (from what I've researched, but I'll happily stand corrected) The first bridge was built by Emperor Hadrian, aka Pons Aelil, using construction materials of wood and stone in c120 A.D. This first bridge was destroyed in a fire in 1248, which also destroyed a fair amount of the town.

The bridge that replaced it in 1320 was also named the ‘Mediaeval Bridge’ and was constructed of stone. This bridge was washed away in the Great Flood of 1771 *insert dramatic music here*. 

Did you know The Discovery Museum Archives holds Newcastle chronicle sheets and various other related articles surrounding the 1771 flood. You can also view the Original River Tyne Flood papers from a meeting held by the Gentlemen of Northumberland who agreed to give money to those who suffered significant losses (houses, shops, and lives) after the river bank collapsed.

They also have the bridge plans for the swing bridge. You need to book an appointment in order to view their archives which can be done through their website here.  

The discovery museum also has a collection fantastic bridge related resources, models of bridge structures, both older and newer - some of them you can even interact with.

I really enjoyed seeing the model map wall they have where you can see an older version of the Quayside/ surrounding demographic. We visited both ‘Newcastle Story’ and ‘Story of the Tyne’ sections to find these. It’s so weird to see houses and shops on a bridge.

10 years later after the removal of the 2nd bridge was completed,  a third bridge made of stone (with an impressive 9 arches) was constructed in its place.

Nothing went wrong with this bridge as far as I can tell, except it got in the way of shipping vessels. Economic advancements (of the industrial revolution) were being hindered by this bridge so the Commission had it removed to allow for the demand for coal to be carried upriver - thus replacing it with the current swing bridge in 1876. 

It is estimated the bridge has swung open around 300,000 times, allowing around 500,000 boats to pass through.

Sadly this bridge has not swung open since November 2019 due to mechanical failures and is said to remain closed after a failed attempt to re-open the bridge in 2021.

The bridge is now a Grade II-listed building and is said to need extensive repair work with the need for specially fabricated parts to repair the original fixtures from the 1870s - the cost of said repairs is expected to be pretty hefty - it is unclear whether the bridge will re-open again. 

There are lots to look at while you're crossing over this bridge, you get a great view of Newcastle Castle and it has an info/history board.

You’ll also notice some stairs in the middle of the bridge which lead up to the bridge control room (aka pump room). Pedestrians, cycles, and motor vehicles are able to make use of this bridge. 

I took a super cute photo of the girls and Damon. Phoebe was just tall enough to be seen over the top of the side and Aurora had to be lifted up.

I may go back to re-take this photo at some point, it would be cute to see how much they grow over the years - plus the Tyne Bridge/ Millennium Bridge in the background makes for a pretty lush photo!

Next up - High-Level Bridge

I've drawn 2 maps to assist my explanation here as there is a way to make this route accessible if you are unable to.

To get to the next bridge, leave the swing bridge and follow the path around to the left, use the double-crossing  to cross the road and then turn right.

Follow the path until you reach the castle stairs.  Don’t worry they aren’t as daunting as they look, there's a great rest stop in the middle should you need it.

If you can, climb these stairs until you reach the castle keep. You’ll pass the castle wall well just as you reach the top. You get a great view of the castle keep from here.

Follow the second map to avoid these steps. Both routes lead to the entrance of the High-Level bridge (Next to the Bridge Hotel) but you will just need to allow more time. 

This bridge is quite long but the views both architecturally on the inside and of the surrounding area make it well worth it!

You’ll also see hundreds and hundreds of padlocks on the bridge.  

This bridge was the first railway crossing across the Tyne (bar the Scotswood which is west of the city). Construction on this bridge started in 1845, a temporary railway was opened in 1848 and then a year later Queen Victoria opened the High-Level Bridge itself on 28th September 1849 - the public roadway however was not completed for a further 6 months.

57 years later the King Edward VII was opened, working co-operatively with this bridge creating a shorter turning loop. Refurbishment to strengthen the structure and restore some of the original features occurred between 2001-2008.

This project won the grand prize from Europa Nostra in 2009 which works on safeguarding cultural and natural heritage.

This bridge was one of the quietest bridges, only 3 or 4 cars passed over the bridge. We only encountered about a dozen pedestrians and a few bikes. 

When you exit the ‘Zen Bridge’ as we’ve started calling it, keep on walking up towards the little green bridge up ahead before you reach this small bridge, turn left and walk under the bridge on the left.

We stopped in for a quick drink and toilet break at the Pub ‘The Central’ - the staff were very welcoming and the toilets were clean. Aurora may need to work on her coaster etiquette though ha!.

The Next bridge is just a few short steps from ‘The Central’ - The Tyne Bridge.

The bridge is currently decorated for the Great North Run in September where roughly 52,000 runners pass over this bridge every year. 

The bridge towers are also regularly opened up for Heritage open days (I’m hoping we’ll be able to get tickets this year as I didn’t even realise this was even a thing until recently.)

The bridge's towers were originally intended to have 5 stories -  to be used as storage areas with lifts to provide quick access to the Quayside.

These lifts are no longer in use and the floors of the tower warehouses were never actually completed meaning the warehouses were never used.

At the time it was built (1928), it was the world’s longest single-span bridge (a bridge that stretches across the entire river without a central pier in the water for support).

It was opened by King George V on October 10th 1928. The designers and engineers of this bridge went on to build the famous sister bridge ‘The Sydney Harbour Bridge’ 3 years later.

This bridge can get very busy with traffic, especially during rush hours - it is however one of the shorter bridges to walk over.

You get some lovely views, especially on sunset on this bridge.

If you look left and down as you’re coming to the end of the bridge you can see some of the oldest buildings in Newcastle - the current offices of Historic England are in the house that belonged to Robert Rhodes (a wealthy lawyer in the 15th Century). Definitely one for next year’s Home Ed curriculum. 

The end of this bridge can be quite intimidating as there is a lot going on.

 Keep left and head down through the underpass.

It’s a bit dirty and has a weird smell but is safer than crossing the busy road overhead, it also has CCTV coverage for peace of mind. 

When you reach the end of the underpass turn right and head under the arch where you can see the All Saints Church Steeple.

Turn right and follow the path till you reach the end of the blue fence. Cross the road to the entrance of the Urban Study Hotel and then turn left and follow the path around.

When you see the Dino egg Sculpture (according to Aurora) bear right and you’ll pass Tesco Express on your way down to the Quayside.

We popped into the Broad Chare a little further down to use the loo’s they have - I think if it was earlier in the day we would have stayed for food, it seemed like a really nice place. 

Follow the path down and cross the road opposite the Sage turn left and head down to the final bridge of the day - The Millennium Bridge.

We sat on the benches in the middle of this bridge overlooking the bridges we’d ventured on and it was honestly the best seat of the day!

Me and Damon were there on the day this bridge opened in 2001 - I was on the Gateshead side and he was on the Newcastle side, it’s so weird to think we could have passed each other when walking over the bridge for the first time.

Upon the development of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in 1995 a competition was launched to design a new footbridge linking Gateshead to Newcastle. There were over 150 entries.

This bridge was the first bridge to be built in the area for over 100 years and was part of the regeneration of the area.

The bridge uses hydraulic rams on either side to tilt to allow boats to pass under, it takes around 4 minutes to fully tilt. It cost £22 million to create, winning 25 awards and was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II on 7th May 2002 as part of her Golden Jubilee tour. 

I would dedicate the full day to completing this challenge, hopefully, the weather cheers up soon as it would be a great summer holidays day out/challenge - I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 


No comments

Post a Comment

© North East Family Fun | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Designed by pipdig