From Middlesbrough to Newcastle and beyond [Staycation 2017]

Middlesbrough doesn’t always feature top on the list of tourist attractions in the North East.  But it has a real gem at its industrial heart that shouldn’t be overlooked – the magnificent Tees Transporter Bridge.

Built in 1911, the Transporter Bridge is a real icon on the Middlesbrough skyline.  Built to cope with the increasing number of workers commuting across the Tees, the Bridge enabled river traffic to continue operating unimpeded.  And more than a century on, it still crosses the river regularly.  I recognised it immediately from the film, Billy Elliot – and spent much of our visit humming Swan Lake as it felt an appropriate soundtrack!  Here’s the clip if you want reminding.

There is an excellent visitor experience on the site, packed full of archive images and film from the construction and early year’s of operation.  But the real highlight was being taken to the very top of the bridge for a bird’s eye view of the machinery.

The views were incredible – all the way back to Roseberry Topping!

Our guide was excellent – having worked on the bridge for decades – so he was able to tell us all about the recent industrial history of the town.  It was sobering to hear about the decline of the local industry, but also there was hope about companies still thriving in the region.

Of course, all of this went over our children’s heads – they were far too busy making the most of the span of the bridge to race each other!

We spent ages up there, admiring the views and watching the cables supporting the gondola spring into action with every journey beneath us.

Back at river level, there were more treats in store – with a ride on the gondola itself with Alex in the driving seat!

Here we are gently crossing the River Tees.

The Transporter Bridge is such a graceful engineering triumph, and if you are passing by – pay it a visit!

All too soon, it was time to bid Jo farewell and continue our journey north.  We, of course, stopped at the magnificant Angel of the North for the obligatory cheesy photograph posing in front of it!

I was excited about showing my family Newcastle as I spend several days a month in the city with my company.  We popped into the Pickle Jar office to say hello before enjoying a local lunch and a visit to the lovely Ouseburn City Farm.  The children loved feeding the pigs and exploring the productive gardens.

We then popped into Seven Stories – the National Centre for Children’s Books – which is right outside my office. And we ended up staying for hours.  The children adored it.  We explored a beautiful exhibition about bears in children’s literature, admiring the incredible illustrations from so many of our favourite books on display.

But best of all was the comic exhibition.  First we laughed through a brilliant performance where the children got to help complete the story unfolding in front of them.  And then they got to explore an entire floor packed full of interactive challenges and games as they imagined their own comic story.  Sophie loved dressing up like a comic hero!

From Ouseburn, we headed out to the coast to check out Tynemouth Priory.  It was another glorious evening and we whiled away an hour exploring the ruins and watching the ferries steam away to Amsterdam.

After a delicious meal at The View on Longsands Beach, and one final runaround on the sand – we headed back into The Toon to our hotel for the night.

We were off again early the next morning on the final leg to our journey to the Borders.  But we had one more stop to make before reaching the holiday house – Cragside.  We’d visited the National Trust site before and loved it so we were thrilled to go back.  As usual, the Trust had laid on activities for kids, so Sophie immediately got stuck into making messy mud pies!

Cragside is vast – with miles of trails and so much to see.  We only had time for a tiny portion of it during our visit.  We explored the rock gardens surrounding the house and the iron bridge at their base.

We then hopped in the car to drive around the estate boundary, enjoying the glorious views of the heather clad hills and woodland.  We stopped in at one of the adventure playgrounds for a picnic and play before piling back in the car for the last leg to Berwick Upon Tweed.  On the way, we collected a huge birthday cake for my parents, and headed on to our home for the next week of our holiday.  But more on that in another blog post.

In the meantime, I need to go celebrate a certain young man’s 7th birthday!…

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