TOP 10 COUNTIES – No. 1 – TYNE & WEAR

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It’s been an emotional run-through the Top 10 Counties. And here’s your winner (well, mine, your views don’t count, obvs).

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One of the smallest “counties”, but barely a square inch wasted (though the Boldons is a bit dull, unless there’s anyone there reading this, in which case the Black Horse is OK ).

Let’s start with the bridges, then.

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Quite simply, one of the finest views in the world, and free as the train pulls into Newcastle Central, up there with the scene from the Empire State or Griffith Park or the John Lewis cappuccino bar in Milton Keynes.

The view from the top tier of St James Park isn’t bad either, though sadly you can’t see the actual match, which will involve the Magpies sticking 11 men behind the ball and nicking a point against City on the break.

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Back at ground level, the Toon is just one of the best places to walk anywhere, except in the snow that descended in 2010 and 2018.

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A decade ago we spent 5 days before Christmas in the Travelodge behind the Pitcher & Piano for a total of £50, gorging on endless free museums and cheap coffee and Chinese food as the ice settled in for a long winter.

Tyne and Wear is more than Newcastle, of course. Sunderland still has the grandeur and the obsession with the FA Cup.

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UPSETTING THE DOG IN THE MUSEUM VAULTS

But it’s the trendy boutiques that draw folk to the Roker coast.

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If there’s one thing that edges Tyne & Wear above Greater Manchester it’s that coast.

On a sunny day, nothing beats Seaton Sluice* and the view from the King’s Arms.

The last few years have seen a few unexpected rural highlights, like the poppy fields of High Spen with its wonderful micropub.

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You get a higher quality of small pub in Tyne & Wear. The Town Mouse was the best of the bunch; cheery, lived-in, unpretentious, inclusive.

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The Beer and Pubs forum would hate it.

With the trad pubs like the Posada and Bodega and Bridge having been in the Guide for years, recently my scruffy note of new pubs has looked like an extract from the Micropub Annual 2019.

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One of the joys of the region is the metro, all day travel for £5.20 and a GBG pub at every stop.

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Some of the most gorgeous pubs in the GBG kingdom for you, with high quality beer virtually guaranteed.

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Ah yes, the Tynemouth Lodge. A great place to talk Bass with snowmen.

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You’ll no doubt meet local legend Electric Pics (whose pic that is) in the Lodge, too. By the time you’ve finished your pint another bar will have opened in Whitley Bay (oh, it has).

We brought our young lads to Whitley to enjoy the gorgeous coast, then to South Shields for the dunes and then to Ouseburn for the book museum, animal petting and murky beer in the Free Trade.

Oddly, it was my niece Emily who’s ended up living in Newcastle, no doubt drawn by the haute cuisine.

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and family friendly entertainment in Gateshead.

Talking of Gateshead, this is the Angel of the North, celebrating Tyne & Wear’s triumph.

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*Pub Curmudgeon correctly points out that the Sluice is just over the GBG border, though oddly Bing Maps thinks it in Tyne & Wear.

NB : So there’s the Top 10. Having asked you to guess them, I’ll put the correct answers in a hat and get Mrs RM to draw out the winner tomorrow.

52 thoughts on “TOP 10 COUNTIES – No. 1 – TYNE & WEAR

  1. Now that wasn’t the one I was expecting. Suffice to say that West Yorkshire may feel badly done to on not having appeared anywhere in the Top 10. Do I sense a slight unease in the spirit world?

    Seaton Sluice is in Northumberland, btw. T&W is a very tightly drawn county.

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    1. Oh no, if Seaton Sluice is in Northumberland I shall have to redo the whole Top 10 ;-0

      West Yorkshire probably wins for pubs and curry but the landscape is a bit lacking (though the view to Halifax from the M62 is great). And anywhere that contains Leeds can’t feature on any “Best of” list, even now Richard is no longer with us.

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      1. Oddly, while Seaton Sluice is DEFINITELY in the Northumberland chapter of the GBG, if you put “Tyne & Wear” into Bing Maps the border includes it (it stops short of Blyth). Not sure what definition that’s using.

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  2. Controversial but fiercely justified. Like PC I hear West Yorkshire are fuming. Buckinghamshire have taken it phlegmatically and accept they need to get into the top 50 first.

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  3. Tyne & Wear is actually the only current GBG “county” in England and Wales in which I have never had a drink in a pub. I have been to Tynemouth Castle, though.

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      1. Thanks for the offer, although obviously in the current situation all travel plans are on hold indefinitely…

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  4. Excellent choice! Newcastle is a wonderful, proper city. The pubs are great, the architecture stunning and the Grainger Market just might be the best covered market anywhere. And the locals can tell where you’re from just from looking at you, as I found out when someone muttered “Go home Southerner” as I wandered around one afternoon. I think they might have said it in a more colourful way.

    That view from the train as you pull in to Newcastle Central really is one of the great views. I think you can then even pick up some craft murk from a shop on the platform too!

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    1. You’re spot on Steve, the Grainger and Grey St. Southerners (like my sister) this year are always surprised at how the reality compares to the images of the Bigg Market, Tuxedo Royale and Our Friends In The North.

      And craft murk is easier to find here than in south London !

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  5. I wasn’t expecting that.
    With four of your ten ‘up North’ ( Tyne & Wear, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, Durham ) we wouldn’t be surprised if you forsook Cambridgeshire for a northern residence.
    You certainly included the best of the Midlands ( West Midlands, Staffordshire ) and for the South I would agree with Kent though I don’t properly know Essex, a county I’ve only spent six nights in and not visited since 1997.
    For the outlying “regions” it’s interested that you’ve shunned Scotland while including the Isle of Man and North West Wales.
    .

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    1. There’s not much between any of that Top 10, or a Top 20 that would include Edinburgh & Lothians, Glasgow, West Yorkshire and East Sussex.

      And my list takes into account scenery, urban art, walking potential etc as well as pubs. But often Scottish beer just isn’t that good as no-one drinks it.

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  6. Splendid read which I’m doing sat outside the (closed since March) Free Trade Inn with a fine view of the bridges, eating a focaccia sarnie from Northern Rye in the heart of the Ouseburn. People get confused about Seaton Sluice as its postal address town is Whitley Bay which of course is firmly in Tyne and Wear. My mum lives half a mile from the King’s BTW.

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    1. I always think of the Sluice as part of your coast and the mining towns as part of Northumberland. It’s probably not worth going to war for.

      The Kings hasn’t been GBG but the one over the road (Melton ?) is also good.

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      1. Yes, definitely more akin with the North Tyneside coast than Blyth. I spent many happy years as a nipper playing on the beach, dunes and Rocky Island next to the Kings.

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  7. A bit surprised Lancashire didn’t make the Top 10 counties list. Perhaps if we took back some of Greater Manchester, Cumbria, and Merseyside?

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    1. If we were doing pre-1974 counties, I’d expect the first two to be Lancashire and the West Riding, and possibly the third to be Staffordshire.

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  8. Now that you remind us Martin, I enjoyed an “of course!” moment for this choice – I’m with you a hundred percent here.

    I would have had a lot of indecision about the other nine, but this is no problem at all for me.

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      1. Etu,
        I don’t doubt it, and Martin looks to have highlighted counties some distance from you to encourage you getting about a bit more.

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      2. Martin,

        You’ve actually got me checking which GBG counties I’ve visited, or rather stayed in, most.
        In England it’s Derbyshire, Cumberland, Greater London and Shropshire.
        But can you, or anyone else, guess which four English counties I’ve no recollection of ever having stayed in ?

        I’ve counted 68 ‘counties’ in my 2019 GBG.
        Has that actually increased to 73 in the latest one ?

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  9. The West Riding contains both L**ds and Drabford so is rightly out of the top league.

    The one thing Geordie Mackem land does lack in my view is a decent curry source, though the Geordies do provide a decent bread and cheese lunch.

    Wonderful friendly people in both halves. Two wonderful accents, though I prefer Mackem.

    Terrific bridges – Monkwearmouth must not be forgotten.

    Two shite football grounds though, even if Hull City do remarkably well at both and I understand that the Gateshead International Stadium is even worse.

    And it isn’t the East Riding.

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  10. Interesting choice – looks fantastic! No canals though and it would be a bit of a trek to get a boat into the Tyne or Wear from the North Sea. So, I’ll have to admire it from afar…till I win the lottery!

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  11. “Quite simply, one of the finest views in the world”

    Indeed. Not bad at all.

    “On a sunny day, nothing beats Seaton Sluice* and the view from the King’s Arms.”

    Where’s all the sunbathers and umbrellas?

    “recently my scruffy note of new pubs has looked like an extract from the Micropub Annual 2019.”

    Pretty sure your fancy phone includes some sort of note pad. 😉

    “and a GBG pub at every stop.”

    Sweet!

    “and family friendly entertainment in Gateshead.”

    Even I can’t make something smutty out of that. (LOL)

    “though oddly Bing Maps thinks it in Tyne & Wear.”

    Google Maps puts it in Northumberland. 😉

    Cheers

    PS – And with that, I remain a day behind still. Hopefully will catch up on the weekend, presumably whilst sitting by the front door for a few hours on Halloween, waiting for the wee ones who will most likely not show up this year.

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  12. I don’t really do the North (York is the furthest I’ve gone)
    Interesting T&W is your favourite, so near to Scotland which I only read negative things about its pubs.
    The gaffer of my local for a long time was a Geordie (born in scotland) who didn’t really have a clue about beer. Knew his horses though.
    We also had a chef from Newcastle in one of our locals who loved his bottle of dog.

    Sorry for the ramble , guess I’m trying to say, Newcastle has great pubs, who knew?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoyed that ramble, Neil.

      Just as the blog isn’t solely about the pubs, that Top 10 (very unscientifically) was my favourite chapters of the Beer Guide taking into account scenery, architecture, art, weirdness and food !

      It’s fair to say the Newcastle, Tyne coast and Sunderland travel has been consistently fun, even if recent years have seen more micropubs than before.

      I’d have picked Edinburgh & Lothians, it’s a great city, but the “county” is pretty much just Edinburgh !

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