- Hadrian’s Wall — Newcastle is a good place to start exploring the Roman ruins of Hadrian’s Wall, taking in the superb Northumbrian and Cumbrian landscape on the way.
- Kielder Water — the Kielder Water reservoir and the forests which surround it provide numerous opportunities for outdoor pursuits.
- Cumbria and the Lake District — although it is somewhat to the east, Newcastle is still the main airport serving the Lake District region. Having a hire car is definitely an advantage for visiting this region, as you can drive direct to wherever you want to get to. In contrast, to reach Lake Windermere by train from Newcastle airport, you have to change three times — firstly at Newcastle Central, then at Carlisle, and then again at Oxenholme.
- Lindisfarne (Holy Island) — you can also head north up the Northumbrian coast, taking in Alnwick Castle and the famous Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island. Make sure you plan any trip to this beauty spot around the tides, otherwise you risk being cut off! The whole coastline heading towards Berwick and beyond is absolutely msuperb – you can pass through it on the train (see below), but you will need to have your own transport to do it justice.
- Vibrant city centre — Newcastle was an immensely wealthy city during the Victorian era, and this is when the superb Grainger town was developed. Centred around the Monument, this is formal Victorian urban planning at its best.
- Dockside — Newcastle’s River Tyne frontage has undergone an amazing revamp in recent years, and now features a number of upmarket bars, restaurants and hotels, in addition to the vast Sage arts complex on the other side of the river in Gateshead.
This is where you will also find the Baltic Mills Gallery. It is now even easier to get around this part of the city without a car, as there is a regular free electric shuttle bus would runs down there every 10 minutes from the city centre.
You can also cross the River Tyne using the dramatic new eye shaped Millennium Bridge, which lifts up in order to allow passing ships to travel underneath.
- Durham — Durham Cathedral isn’t just one of the finest in England, it also perches atop an incredibly dramatic cliff in a horseshoe bend above the River Wear. By far and away the best way of doing Durham Cathedral justice is to approach from the railway station.
- Newcastle races — to spend a day at the races at Newcastle, you can drive there, but you can just as easily travel out using the Metro. A free shuttle bus is provided.
- Tyne & Wear Metro — the Tyne & Wear region is easy to get around, thanks in part to the Tyne & Wear Metro, but also due to the huge network of buses which supplements it.
You can connect directly between Newcastle airport, Newcastle city centre and Newcastle central railway station using the Metro, which also continues onwards to Sunderland.
Note that the Metro does not actually serve the Gateshead Metrocentre — for this, you will need to take a local train or bus.
- Alnwick and Berwick — whilst it is perfectly possible to visit Alnwick and Berwick by car, bear in mind that these two locations are just as easy to visit by train as well. Alight at Almouth for Alnwick Castle, also known to many as Hogwarts, but used in numerous other film and TV productions, including the original Blackadder.
The border town of Berwick has swapped between England and Scotland on many occasions, and is steeped in history, not to mention its superb coastal views.
- Train to Edinburgh — whilst Edinburgh itself needs little introduction, the train between Newcastle and Edinburgh, and in particular the coastal stretches around Berwick, offers what must surely be the most scenic mainline rail journey anywhere in the UK.
Conclusion — Do you need a car in Newcastle? For driving into Northumbria, or further west towards Cumbria and the Lake District, a car is clearly a good idea, but there is also more than enough to appreciate in and around Newcastle itself, without needing to get one.
Verdict — no