Great Exhibition of the North: Best Days Out in the North-East

With the summer-long arts festival kicking off next week, singers, artists and curators share their favourite places in Newcastle and the wider region

Becky Unthank, singer, the Unthanks

If you’re walking along the Tyne on the Newcastle side, venture a little further and you’ll find the Ouseburn Valley. Kiln, a workshop/kitchen, is one of my favourite places to hang out and eat delicious vegetarian food; you can see craftspeople making and firing pots through the glass wall. The Ouseburn is home to loads of great music venues, pubs, galleries and artist studios, and right in the centre you can find Ouseburn Farm. I recommend the Cumberland Arms for a pint of local beer.
An hour north of Newcastle is Alnwick, a beautiful town with a castle and Barter Books. This treasure trove of secondhand books is housed in a Victorian railway station where you can cosy up by an open fire in one of the old waiting rooms with a cup of tea.

Shaun Allan, virtual reality expert from HedgeHog Lab

I’m really looking forward to the River Brew Co development in Gateshead, a new shipping container community under the Tyne Bridge. It will include a brewery and tap room, an open-fire kitchen and a bike store/coffee shop/cocktail bar. For a complete contrast, I recommend the Victorian-era Saltwell Park, south of the town centre – I visit every other day. With seven miles of spotless beach, Druridge Bay, near Amble in Northumberland, is where my family and I spent many a summer’s day in the 1970s. It hasn’t changed much since. Another favourite of mine is Washington Wetland Centre near Sunderland – with otters, flamingos and fluffy ducklings, it’s a great family day out.

Annie Rigby, artistic director, Unfolding Theatre

The thing I love about living in Newcastle is that you don’t need to travel far to reach big, open spaces. A great place to fill your lungs with air is the Weardale moors in the Pennines. It really feels like you’re a million miles away from the city. I like looking at the snow poles (there’s a Weardale ski club) and imagining what it looks like in the depths of winter. The heritage Weardale Railway runs from Witton-le-Wear to Stanhope, where there are brilliant walks. Or, if you fancy taking in the views from a heated outdoor swimming pool, head to Stanhope Pool. The Lord Crewe Arms pub in Blanchland is hard to beat for a pint and some food before you head back to town (or even stay the night).

Ednie Wilson, creativity development manager, St Mary’s Heritage Centre

I go on mum-and-son dates once a week – there are so many lovely places to explore in the villages around Gateshead and Newcastle. A real favourite is Wylam, about 20 minutes from Newcastle by train. Visit Daniel Farm, which has animals including llamas and Clydesdale horses, plus a great cafe and farm shop. The Boathouse pub has brilliant beers from the Hadrian Border Brewery and other north-eastern brewers. I like the Feathers Inn in Hedley on the Hill, which has well-kept beer and lovely food. I recommend the sticky toffee pudding with local ice-cream.

Ed Carter, musician

My top recommendation for a day trip has to be heading north to Seahouses, and taking a boat to see the resident puffins on the Farne Islands. Witnessing these incredible birds take to the skies is enough to convince anyone that they should in fact be flightless (further evidenced by the fact they live in burrows, which they timeshare with the local rabbits). As well as puffins, seals, guillemots and arctic terns, you can also see the lighthouse from which 22-year-old Grace Darling and her father undertook a legendary lifeboat rescue in 1838.