NewcastleGateshead is a surprising place, perhaps no more so than when you leave the bustling towns and cities and find yourself suddenly in an unexpected haven of peace and serenity.
Not only will you find hidden natural gems and large amounts of green space throughout the urban areas, but with over half of Gateshead comprised of mature woodland, riverbanks, ponds and wildflower meadows, you’re never far from the idyllic countryside lying just minutes from the city.
Just one mile from the centre of Newcastle is Jesmond Dene, a sprawling wooded valley with the Ouseburn river gurgling happily at its heart. There's a pets corner, cafe, picnic area and a series of quaint bridges and walkways to complete the adventure. The Armstrong Bridge craft market takes place above this beauty spot every Sunday featuring unusual, hand-made and local goodies to remind you of your visit.
For a gentle stroll and lazy picnic, Derwent Walk Country Park and Watergate Forest Park offer acres of woodland walks and waterside wildflower meadows on sites where mining and industry once thrived. With the Northern Kites Project successfully establishing a population of the birds in northern England and an 18km way-marked Red Kite Trail, you might even catch a glimpse of the majestic creatures soaring overhead.
If you're feeling romantic take a trip to Gibside 18th Century Pleasure Grounds and Chapel - a park once owned by the late Queen Mother's family, the Bowes-Lyons. Now owned by the National Trust, it includes a Palladian chapel and ruined 18th century house surrounded by acres of parkland. Best of all, it's just 15 minutes from the city centre.
Equally close to central NewcastleGateshead are Saltwell and Leazes Parks. Whilst Saltwell Park offers a fairytale mansion, animal park and maze, Leazes Park has a delightful bandstand and terrace and both have ducks and swans on their sizeable lakes and plenty of tree-studded green space in which to host a variety of exciting outdoor festivals and events.
Further afield in Northumberland, The Alnwick Garden is not only breathtakingly beautiful, but breathtakingly large. Created by the Duchess of Northumberland, The Alnwick Garden houses over 65,000 individual plants across 40 acres, making it one of the biggest European plant collections in the UK with 10 miles of paths to guide you. Kids should look for The Treehouse which is one of the largest wooden treehouses in the world.