Newcastle upon Tyne
The North East is one of the least expensive regions to live in the UK, with the average property price in Newcastle less than £200,000 as of 2016.
Newcastle upon Tyne, better known simply as Newcastle, has a long history – a settlement has existed here since the Roman occupation of Britain, and may have once been visited by Emperor Hadrian, creator of the eponymous wall. It gradually became a northern stronghold during wars against Scotland, then later a beacon of the Industrial Revolution with major involvement in shipbuilding and exporting coal.
Hints of Newcastle’s varied history can be seen throughout the city today, from the Georgian facades of Grey Street (often been referred to as ‘the most beautiful street in Britain’) while the neo-classical frontage of the Literary and Philosophical Society is a step-back into Victorian times.
The weather may be a little grim (blame the wind off the North Sea) and there are a few less-than-savoury parts of town, but when it comes to cultural life, high-ranking schools and friendly Geordie neighbours, Newcastle is hard to beat – it was even voted ‘happiest city in the UK’ in 2016. This medium-sized city also offers a lot more bang for your buck than most, with house prices among the most affordable in the UK, and a staggering three times cheaper than London on average. Prices are slowly rising but much more gradually than in the South, and on average are up just 7% on their pre-2008 values.
The best areas to live in Newcastle for families include Jesmond, where you’ll find two Ofsted-rated ‘outstanding’ schools and Gosforth, although properties here are significantly higher than the Newcastle average. Sandyford and Heaton both have high student populations, and thus are less ideal for families seeking peace and quiet.
Young professionals tend to look further out of the city centre for more affordable properties, with some of the best areas in Newcastle for first-time buyers including Walker, Woolsington, Byker and Blakelaw. Looking for something quieter? Residential areas such as Forest Hall and Fenham tend to be popular with retired couples.
The compact Newcastle city centre can be crossed quickly and rapidly, thanks both to the short distances and the excellent metro system. The city is also well-served by buses travelling throughout the region, as well as coaches with routes further into England or towards Scotland. Newcastle Central Station is one of the busiest in the UK with direct trains to London taking around 3.5 hours, and for international travel Newcastle Airport offers flights to destinations throughout Europe.
The A1 is nearby for national travel via car, but driving in the city can be slow with plenty of traffic and a confusing one-way system.
Newcastle has a reputation for busy nightlife, particularly around Bigg Market and the Quayside, but its retail and restaurant prowess is less well known – despite being equally impressive. Major shopping hotspots in the city include the Eldon Square Shopping Centre and Northumberland Street, where high-street and household names such as Apple, John Lewis and Adidas abound. For something a little different, the High Bridge Quarter is a hive of independent boutiques selling vintage clothing, antiques, and even Newcastle’s oldest music shop RPM Music. If that’s not enough, in nearby Gateshead you’ll find the colossal MetroCentre, the largest shopping centre in the UK with over 340 shops across 2,000,000 square feet of retail and leisure space.
Meanwhile the dining scene in Newcastle is going from strength to strength, with all the usual restaurant chains alongside charming independent spots and award-winning eateries. Some of Newcastle’s most high-end restaurants include House of Tides and The Raby Hunt, both of which boast a Michelin star, while for some excellent traditional fare gastropubs The Feathers Inn and The Bridge Tavern offer an array of top-notch pub food. On the cheaper end of the spectrum, the pizza at Cals Own in Jesmond is not to be missed.
All the big supermarkets, including Waitrose and Sainsburys, have large outlets in Newcastle while the famous Grainger Market offers plenty of food shops, including independent butchers and delicatessens. For local, organic produce, try the monthly farmers market at Grey’s Monument where all products have been raised, grown or produced within just 50 miles of Newcastle.
Health & Sport
Newcastle offers a number of gyms and leisure centres, so there’s no excuse not to keep fit whatever your budget. Good public sports centres include Eldon Leisure Centre, and the Northumberland Club, while there are also branches of David Lloyd, Pure Gym and Nuffield Healthy & Fitness. For something a little different, there’s also a trampoline park in Benwell.
Shortlisted for the European Capital of Culture in 2008, the city boasts a vast array of cultural offerings, including a wide range of theatres and museums. The Theatre Royal, Tyne Theatre and the Northern Stage offer everything from live opera to critically-acclaimed plays, while popular museums for children (and adults) include the science and maritime Discovery Museum and the impressive planetarium at the Great North Museum. Newcastle is also renowned for its local festivals, with highlights such as Newcastle Fashion Week, an open-air film festival, and a sandy beach pop-up on the Quayside during the summer months.
‘Education-wise, Newcastle’s schools are impressive, with Tyneside home to some of the best schools in the UK according to a 2015 Ofsted report’.
Schools and Education
Among the 99 schools inspected, 27 were classed as “outstanding” and 66 as “good”. The best primary schools in Newcastle include St Cuthbert’s RC Primary School and St John Vianney RC Primary School, while Sacred Heart Catholic High School, St Cuthbert’s High School and Emmanuel College rank among the best secondary schools in the area. Among the independent schools, highest-rated are the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle High School for Girls, and Dame Allan’s Senior School.
In terms of further education, the University of Newcastle is part of the prestigious Russell Group, and regularly ranks among the top 30.
The decline of traditional industries hit Newcastle hard, and led to decades of depravation – pockets of which can still be seen today despite many regeneration projects. Crime in the city is on slightly above average compared similar sized areas and has increased by almost 12% since 2013 – but equally Newcastle still has a lower average crime rate than cities such as Leeds, Bristol and Manchester. Benwell and Elswick are the least popular residential areas in the city in which to live due to higher crime rates, while Upmarket Jesmond and Heaton had the lowest crime rate over the same period.
For a city with an industrial reputation, Newcastle has a surprising amount of parks and green spaces, with highlights including Leazes Park, Town Moor and Exhibition Park. For something a little more sandy, a short drive will take you to the seaside, an recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where you’ll find fine northern beaches such as Druridge Bay, Whitely Bay and Cheswick Sands filled with families on the weekend.