Last week, Andrew and I took a long weekend to ourselves and decided to be local tourists. We’ve both lived in the North East for at least ten years but not visited some of the top sights up here. A couple of weeks ago we went to the Weeping Window at Woodhorn Poppy Exhibition (see my post about it here) and enjoyed it so thought we’d continue the historical sights. This time, we headed South to Beamish. For those not in the know, Beamish is a pretty cool living museum that covers a huge site in County Durham. Once you’re there you’re transported back to the 18 and 1900s to see what life was really like then in the North East. I was a bit apprehensive that it wouldn’t be as enjoyable as I’d found it when I visited as a kid. So what was our verdict – worth it?
We arrived on a bright but chilly day – the site is completely open so unless you’re in a building you’re exposed to the elements, and it can get very chilly down there. I’d definitely recommend wearing a coat! It costs £18.50 for an adult, which might seem like a lot but there is a lot to look around and that ticket lasts you the entire year so you can come back if you so wish. As you arrive you get given a map that gives an overview of the size of the site and where each exhibit is. Don’t be fooled though, it’s not as big as it looks! Sometimes we found it more enjoyable and more convenient to walk between places rather than catch the tram. But the tram is the first thing you see and it’s definitely worth taking a little ride to the first stop – the 1800s Waggonway.
This area is being developed and will soon have a completed Church that was painstakingly rescued from a decommissioned Church in the North East. The gentleman there also told us that they are planning on building a couple of cottages near the Manor House, but I’m not sure when they will be ready. When we went the Steam Elephant was on the tracks – a steam engine that was built fourteen years ago based on the exact specifications of an 1800s model. It took 40 manufacturers and £360,000 to build! Now you see why the £18.50 price tag is nothing in comparison to the cost of running the place! We got on, but the trip is just a brief, juddery jaunt down the tracks (past a hanging gallows, bizarrely enough). This was probably the space we spent the least time at – after the engine ride we walked across to the 1900s Town.
This is the best part of Beamish and the bit I remember most from visiting as a kid. The town is really cool – with a functioning bakery, sweet shop, pub, stables and more! You can check out the dentist, the bank and the grocery shop and there are genuinely old vehicles driving around to give you the genuine feel you’ve been transported back in time. I *highly* recommend grabbing a quarter of sweets at the sweetie shop and a quick half at the Sun Inn! Whatever you do, stop off here.
From there, it’s a very short walk to the railway, where there wasn’t much going on. We walked down the platform, checked out some old trains and watched a couple of men shovelling gravel up the track. This made us wonder – pretty much all of the staff you see working there are in costume and there must be estate management work required, but did they need to be shovelling gravel around or were they doing it for effect?! Andrew thought they were acting at it, I thought they were doing it ‘for real’. Who knows?! But it certainly adds to the atmosphere there.
1800s Pit Village
It’s a bit of a longer walk from the Railway to the Pit Village, but if it’s a nice day it’s worth it. If not, wait for the tram that circles the site. The village here has some houses, a church and some more train engines, but the real highlight is Davy’s Fish and Chip shop. Be warned, they only serve until 3:30pm but we arrived just as they were finishing up and they gave us absolutely huuuuuuuuge portions!! Both the fish and chips are delicious – cooked with no artificial additives we were told and no more expensive than your chip shop. If you go when it’s busy, I guarantee there will be a queue but it is OH SO worth it. We were stuffed after eating ours and couldn’t even finish the portion!
Our last stop of the day was the 1940s farm – a collection of farm buildings around a farm house, complete with livestock: stinky pigs, a wooly sheep, a gaggle of geese and a brood of chickens. It’s nice to have a walk around, poke around in the cupboards and barns and warm yourself in front of the fire. A lovely end to the afternoon.
Has anyone else been to Beamish? What did you think? Any other tips for a day out in the North East?