So we thought we knew all about Newcastle's history...

October 15, 2020 4 min read

As you know from our blogs we love getting out and about this wonderful region of ours. It’s often the case that you don’t realise what is on your doorstep and the history surrounding it. Well that was certainly the case with our latest adventure. 

On a Monday morning in early June we found ourselves in the very capable hands of Alex Iles who founded Iles Tours in the Spring of 2013. Born out of a genuine passion for Newcastle and the North East from when Alex studied in the city he has turned that passion into a wonderful customer experience. In his own worlds Alex describes the experience of Iles Tours as:

'I want to show people the layers of history here in The North East – the history I see on a daily basis as I travel about the region, read its history and talk to its people.’

For ourselves who share Alex’s enthusiasm for the region this was a real treat to step back into the history of our city and its people. Alex has developed the tours into specific categories and durations depending on your interest and time available. Ranging from his one or two hour tours of the history of Newcastle to half day tours of Durham City to whole days exploring the castles of  Newcastle, Warkworth or Bamburgh. There really is something for everyone. 

We were delighted to be invited by Alex on his two hour history of Newcastle tour. Whenever we visit a city the first thing we do in preparation is to book a walking tour early on in the break so we know all about the place and can truly appreciate its history and culture. It might seem strange booking a history tour of your own city but we were very glad we did...

We met Alex under the watchful eye of Earl Grey’s Monument and we’re joined on the tour by a couple of visitors from Denmark. We aren’t going to give too many spoilers away as that would spoil the fun. Over the two hours we were going to cover quite a stretch of the city and Quayside so it’s advisable to wear stout comfortable footwear and dress for all weathers. 

We learnt what an amazing individual Early Grey was before then heading down the magnificent curve of Grey Street. You could tell through Alex’s hugely enthusiastic delivery how much he is an admirer of the impact of Richard Grainger was to the fabric of Newcastle and how that legacy lives on today. It genuinely makes you feel so proud in your home city.

As we descend down Dean Street we find ourselves under the magnificent railway arch and it certainly lives up to the old adage about Newcastle that you should always look up. We certainly learnt a thing a two about the arch that neither of us knew.

Past the Guild Hall and onto the Quayside and it’s time to appreciate the skill that went into the construction into one of the North East’s greatest landmarks, the Tyne Bridge. The Quayside is currently home to its annual visitors of the largest inland colony of breeding Kittiwakes and the netting that preventing them nesting on the bridge has since been removed and it’s amazing looking at the spaces the birds have nested into. 

The Quayside and the streets that run from it are home to some magnificent historical buildings connected to the maritime heritage of Newcastle and it was so interesting to hear some of the life these buildings have seen and what they were originally used for. 

Heading up from the side of the Law Courts Alex had us fascinated about life in the North East during the time of William the Conquerer. This was a genuine highlight as from our time at school we both learnt about the Battle of Hastings but very little about what came in the years after. Throw in a few references to Game of Thrones and you really have a flavour of 11th Century life.

Back up into the city to the castle that gives the city its name and then onto the stunning sight of St Nicholas Cathedral and Alex pointed out something neither of us had ever been aware of its significance.   

We had covered so much ground and our two hour tour was almost over. Alex’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the history of our region really does inspire you to want to learn about key figures who have shaped the North East and it really makes you look at buildings, monuments and  streets in a very new light armed with the knowledge you have absorbed from an Iles Tour. 

Thank you Alex, this was just the sort of experience we love. 

Just for info: Alex gifted us both the chance to go on the walking tour to see if it was something we might recommend and luckily it really is. Alex is an incredibly knowledgeable guide who knows a lot more about Newcastle than we do and we'd certainly recommend his tours (even if like us you already think you know a lot about the history of the city you live in!!). You can find out more information about his tours here (affiliate link).

What's on...

Wed 19th June 17:00 - 19:00 - Meet the Artist's - Whitley Bay. Come along and see our latest exhibition and chat about Explore and the many opportunities that you could be involved in.

Thurs 20th June 16:00 - 21:00 Corbridge Midsummer Evening. A chance to browse the independent shops of Corbridge and enjoy street food, entertainment and market stalls.

Thurs 27th June & Thurs 4th July 18:00 - 20:00 Memories of the Dome - Whitley Bay. A workshop with Jessica Kinnersley Textiles. Using an old postcard image of The Spanish City, printed onto cotton, we will be looking at creating texture and exploring colour to create suggestions of grass, sand and sea.

Fri 28th June 10:00 - 12:00 Monthly Macmillan Coffee Morning - Whitley Bay. Throughout 2019 we are hosting monthly coffee mornings to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. Each coffee morning will take place on the last Friday of the month, in our Whitley Bay store

Lucy Hull
Lucy Hull

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