History and heritage

Take a trip through 2,000 years of history as you explore North East England.

Roman wasn’t built in a day

Travel back to Roman times with a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hadrian’s Wall. The Wall is the best preserved and most northern frontier of the Roman Empire. Stretching 73 miles across the north of England from coast to coast, crossing dramatic countryside along the way. There are official trails to explore the Wall by foot or on bike. But it is easily accessible by car and there is even a Hadrian’s Wall bus which runs daily from Newcastle city centre (3 April – 27 September) so you can easily explore the most iconic sections of Hadrian’s Wall.

Christian footsteps

North East England has a strong religious past and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Durham Cathedral and Castle stands as a spiritual hub and the final resting place of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. The story of Bede can be uncovered at Bede’s World, it was his calculations that enabled the church to identify the date of Easter as well as giving us the calendar system we still use today. Follow St Cuthbert’s Way from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to his eventual resting place in Durham Cathedral. Auckland Castle, one of the UK's most important historical buildings, has been a seat of power since the 11th Century and for almost 900 years, it has been the palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham.

Norman roots

Newcastle Castle, built in 1178, is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in the country. The Grade I listed building stands on the site of the original ‘New Castle’ and is the gateway to explore Old Newcastle and the city’s medieval heritage - you can still see evidence of the city’s Medieval Walls and towers today. Nearby Durham Cathedral, is often cited as the greatest Norman building in Europe.  

Georgian times 

The Georgian era of British history was a truly grand affair. Taking inspiration from ancient Greece, the stunning architecture you see today and country houses scattered across the North East (some of which are now stunning country house hotels), all link back to the successful industrialists who lived and worked in Newcastle at the birth of the Industrial Revolution (and from who many of our streets take their names). Grainger Town, the historic heart of Newcastle is a must see. Grey Street is continually voted Britain’s Favourite Street.

The Industrial Revolution

The North of England was the country’s powerhouse during the Industrial Revolution over 200 years ago. Coal mining provided the catalyst here in the North East, with the world’s first railways developed here to get coal from the coalfields to the river as quickly as possible. Railway enthusiasts are well catered for here. Check out the world’s oldest working railway, Tanfield Railway, in Gateshead and the National Railway Museum operates museums in Durham and York and has a must see collection of classic trains.

By the 1900s the North East was known as a shipbuilding super power and the world’s first steam-powered ship, the Turbinia, once the fastest ship in the world dominates the entrance to the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. To really experience North East history step back in time and step into Beamish Museum. It’s a living, breathing museum allowing visitors to touch, smell, taste and experience what life was really like over the past 200 years.

Cultural regeneration

If you looked back over the past 20 years Newcastle and Gateshead were a very different place. The cultural regeneration has seen new buildings pop up, and post-industrial spaces being converted into unique cultural venues. This cultural regeneration is most evident on the NewcastleGateshead Quayside. A trip to the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, once a flourmill on the banks of the Tyne, offers an ever-changing programme of world-class contemporary art exhibitions and recently hosted the high-profile Turner Prize exhibition.

George Washington ancestry

Nestled in the heart of the historic village of Washington, sits the picturesque 17th century Washington Old Hall. The building incorporates parts of the original medieval home of the direct ancestors of the first president of the United States of America, George Washington, and it is from here that the family took their surname.