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With the Granary Gallery at YHA Berwick holding a major JMW Turner exhibition, now is the perfect time to turn a cultural lens onto the North East.

Myth, legend, art and literature permeate the North East of England like few other places in the UK. This under-visited corner of the country is home to some of the nation’s most important historical and cultural treasures. The ruins of Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island still stir the soul almost 1,400 years on from the monastery’s founding, while the historical consequences of Hadrian’s Wall can still be felt today, close to two millennia on from its construction. The castles of Bamburgh, Alnwick and Dunstanburgh, meanwhile, still evoke the tumultuous history and culture of Northumberland, County Durham and Tyne and Wear.

But it’s not all Vikings and knights, drawbridges and ruins. The North East continues to build a cultural legacy, with modern-day attractions ranging from Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North to the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Newcastle/Gateshead. YHA Berwick joins them too, with this year’s major exhibition of works by JMW Turner. Here are some of our favourite cultural sites in the region.

YHA Berwick  

A major new exhibition by the Romantic painter JMW Turner is being held at the hostel in none-more-northerly Berwick-upon-Tweed. The works focus on his development as a landscape artist during his first tour of northern England in 1797. The paintings on display represent that route and include depictions of North East landmarks.
It runs between 25th May and 13th October 2019.

Angel of the North

Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North is one of those pieces of art that made it into the public consciousness almost immediately. This 20-metre-high, 54-metre-across steel sculpture was completed in 1998 and has been embraced by the people of the North East. It can be seen from the A1 (where you can park up and walk to its base), A167 and the East Coast Main Line.

BALTIC Centre of Contemporary Art

Looming over the Tyne since 2002, the red-brick BALTIC has quickly become one of the country’s most respected contemporary art galleries, thanks to its innovative exhibitions and community engagement. It’s housed in an old industrial building on the south bank of the river, in Gateshead.

YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall

Locations don’t come much more plum than the panoramic perch enjoyed by YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall, which is also home to the National Landscape Discovery Centre. The centre’s exhibitions of poetry, stories, music and interactive games reflect on the culture and heritage of Northumberland National Park and Hadrian’s Wall.  

Alnwick Castle

Wands at the ready. YHA Alnwick is the perfect base for exploring this medieval town and castle, which starred as Hogwarts in the early Harry Potter films and holds a magnificent collection of fine and decorative art, including works from Canaletto, Van Dyck and Titian. It’s open until October and – embracing its Potter heritage – even gives broomstick training.   


The most atmospheric spot in the North East is the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. This tidal island, accessible only at low tide via a causeway, first had a monastery built on it in 634. It played a formative part in the development of Celtic Christianity, the Viking invasion and the Norman conquest. And we warned you about the causeway!

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