The Great North Road
Newcastle is a major city in England’s North East on the Great North Road, the last along the eastern seaboard before you reach Scotland. The drive through the conurbation of Gateshead and Newcastle also marks the start of the Northumberland stretch of the Great North Road. This is part of Britain’s longest trunk road, the 409 mile-long A1 that runs from London to Edinburgh . The A1 runs roughly parallel with the North Sea coast along this section, giving travellers easy access to a number of spectacular beaches and coastline. Once you exit the densely populated Tyneside area you head into an a part of England packed with award winning attractions and natural beauty.
As the A1 heads North out of Tyneside the hills of the vast Northumberland National Park lie to the West of the route and the Northumbria coastline to the East. Newcastle airport is situated just off the A1 as it wraps itself around the northern suburbs of Newcastle. The village of Brunswick acts as a landmark letting you know that Newcastle’s famous cosmopolitan bustle is now finally behind you. Just a few miles out you pass Cramlington , to your right. It’s a small town and just on its eastern edge you’ll find a place called Klondyke! The A1 here is passing through the Blagdon Estate. This is the 13-square mile ancient seat of the White/Ridley family, who acquired the estate in 1698. A large proportion of grounds, and massive stately home itself, are rarely open to the public. The Milkhope Centre is the estate’s offering in the way of public access outside of select tours and charity events. The Milkhope Centre is a very popular visitor attraction with shops and a coffee shop.
Approximately 16 miles north of Newcastle on the A1 is the town of Morpeth , here the Great North Road crosses the River Wansbeck. Morpeth is the site of an old Norman castle but only the gatehouse remains in good order. The stone bridge that was constructed over the river in the thirteenth century still remains. Morpeth County Hall, near Loansdean, has a nuclear bunker constructed under the building. Those seeking musical attractions might enjoy a visit to the Bagpipe Museum at Morpeth Chantry . The collection of bagpipes belong to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne and are housed in the wonderful medieval Chantry buildings. The collection is built upon those originally belonging to William Alfred Clocks (1982 - 1971), a clockmaker from Ryton , near Newcastle.
Before you get to Alnwick , the next town along the A1 out Morpeth heading north, you pass Eshott Airfield. The airport was used during World War II to train Spitfire pilots. Alnwick, about an hour’s drive out of Newcastle, is an ancient town and picturesque market town that is the historic county town of Northumberland. Also the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick dates back to at least AD 600. The town retains its ancient character despite growing substantially in recent years and has long been a staging point on the London to Edinburgh road. The Battle of Alnwick took place just north of the town in 1093.
Across on your left as you continue your drive north is Bewick Moor. The picturesque moorland setting is the site of some ancient rock art found carved into large boulders, they are found near the sight of a Bronze Age cemetery at Blawearie Cairn. The road is squeezed closer to the North Sea coast by the hills and moors of the Northumberland National Park to the west as it nears Scotland. The magnificent Holy Island comes into view on your right before you get to Berwick-Upon-Tweed. Also known as Lindisfarne or Lindesfarne, the tidal island is the location of an ancient priory and castle that hosts thousands of visitors from all over the world. The monastery, a victim of plunder and pillage throughout its long history, is now a ruin. Sir Edward Lutyens restored the castle in an Arts and Crafts style for the editor of Country Life, Edward Hudson.
The final staging point for the Great North Road before it heads into Scotland is Berwick-upon-Tweed . Both the A1 and the main east coast railway cross the River Tweed in the town, which has a lot of interesting sights for lovers of architecture. Among the buildings of interest are the castle , the bridges over the river and 18th century Berwick Barracks . The end of the Northumberland stretch of the A1 is marked at the Scottish border itself by Lamberton, the first Scottish parish on along the Great North Road.
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