In Newcastle on a city break? Escape the hustle and bustle of the urban landscape and head to the picturesque suburb of Heaton. Just a (brisk) 15-minute walk out of the city centre takes you to its quaint tea houses and village shops. And the countryside feel continues when you get into Heaton Park. Forget pristine lawns and ornamental gardens because, while it may be less manicured than some other city parks, that only adds to its wild, quirky charm. There are lots of hidden spaces to get lost in and activities to take part in, with a calendar of events that include bushcrafts, firemaking, bat walks and the annual Heaton Park community festival. Eat your sarnies at one of the many picnic tables, or head to the park restaurant, a buzzing Italian gem called Sambuca. And once all that fresh air’s made you sleepy, there’s a Premier Inn near Heaton Park that’s ready and waiting for you to come home to.
The highlight of the park’s calendar has to be the annual Heaton Park Community Festival. Held every June it’s a lively mix of live music, food and craft stalls.Other activities to enjoy here are volunteer-led walks where, for a small fee, you can learn all about its history. Bushcraft, campfire and games aimed at 7 to 13 year-olds are held at weekends and in the school holidays, or be brave and join rangers on a night-time bat walk - just don’t forget your torch! For more information or to book activities, call 0191 281 2082.
If you’re here with your dog (or just love to watch them play), head to the park on Saturday and Sunday mornings to find a huge community of sociable dogs (and their equally sociable owners) at 10am.
After you’ve soaked up the village feel of Heaton and perused its shops and tea rooms, it’s time to head into Heaton Park. But what will you find when you get there? Here’s all the information you need to know.
You’ll find Heaton Park at Heaton Park View, Newcastle NE6 5JA and it’s open at all times. There is a visitor’s centre, but you’ll find it in nearby Jesmond Dene Park. It’s worth the walk though, as there are fascinating displays, videos and touchscreens about the heritage and wildlife in the park.
For a great photo opportunity, there are some very pretty ruins waiting to be found. Very little remains of the 1255 house built by local knight Adam of Jesmond, but the square tower with its two windows gives you a fascinating glimpse into the past - and a lovely snap for your Instagram feed.
There are picnic tables throughout, two playgrounds that should keep the kids quiet and a beautiful pavilion with its own Italian restaurant, Sambuca. You’ll find the park’s only public toilets here, too. On warmer days there’s also a coffee cart selling hot drinks and ice creams.
Due to the geography of the park, some paths are quite steep, but there are sections which are wide and flat enough for everyone to enjoy. There are disabled parking spaces at the car parks along Jesmond Vale Lane and Heaton Park View and a disabled toilet at the Sambuca restaurant.
No visit to Heaton Park would be complete without taking a look at the shoe tree in the adjoining Armstrong Park. As the name implies, it’s a tree full of shoes. But why are they all there? Legend has it that in 1627, Sheriff Babington of Heaton threw his shoes up into the sycamore to celebrate the birth of his grandson. Since then Heaton locals have kept the tradition alive by throwing their own shoes up into the tree, whenever there’s a special occasion.
If all that walking around in nature has given you an appetite, you’re in luck. With great food options both inside the gates and out, you won’t be stuck for a place for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Ask the locals and they’ll say the best part of Heaton Park can be found in the pavilion in the middle. With its outdoor tables and beautiful park views, Sambuca is perfect for an alfresco lunch or dinner in the sun. And while a meal here is worthy of a special occasion, it’s not one that will break the bank. Sambuca Pavilion is actually part of a chain of Sambuca restaurants known for their tasty food at surprisingly affordable prices. But while prices are low here, the portion sizes and quality of food most certainly aren’t. Choose from pizza, pasta or a delicious steak from the grill. Just make sure you leave room for the profiteroles afterwards.
If exploring Heaton has put you in the mood for brunch, head to the Butterfly Cabinet. With its beautifully quirky interior full of artfully mismatched tables and, you guessed it, butterflies in cabinets, this cute cafe is so popular that there are queues to get in on weekends. Don’t let the wait put you off - staff do a great job of making tables available and their banter will keep you entertained. Once seated, take your pick from full English breakfasts, omelettes, muffins and porridge. There’s so much to choose from! If you’re stuck, just remember that the fluffy banana pancakes and eggs benedict win rave reviews.
Sky Apple has single-handedly made Heaton a mecca for the city’s vegetarian and vegan community. A trendy cafe by day and laid-back bistro by night, it’s the jewel in the crown of Newcastle’s meat-free scene, serving beautifully-presented, tasty food in hearty portions. In fact, the halloumi burgers are so good, they get rave reviews even from self-confessed carnivores. Whether you’re at Sky Apple for breakfast, lunch or dinner you’ll be impressed, both by the creativity of the food on offer, and the friendly atmosphere. It’s not licensed but you can bring your own and pay a £1 corkage fee - or just be super healthy and have a green smoothie.
Want to make a day trip out of your visit to Heaton Park? There’s plenty to do that’s less than a mile away. Heaton Park is probably the most serene of the series of five interconnecting parks that stretch from one end of the Ouseburn river to the other. You could spend the whole day ambling the two miles through Freeman Park, Jesmond Dene, Armstrong Park, Heaton Park and Jesmond Vale. You could keep the countryside feel going with a trip to nearby Ouseburn Farm. Free to enter, it has fields and meadows full of sheep, goats, pigs and chickens - many of which you can help to feed. If the weather takes a turn, head indoors to the Biscuit Factory. Another Ouseburn favourite, it’s a contemporary art gallery with a stunning cafe and restaurant.
Walking to the park? You can get in on foot through several entrances - there’s one on Heaton Road and Heaton Park View, or you can get there by walking through through Armstrong Park, from Ouseburn Road. But what are your other travel options? Here’s our rundown on the best ways to get to this urban oasis, by car and public transport.
Put NE6 5JA into your sat nav and head east of the city. When you get to the park you’ll find parking near both the Heaton Park View and Jesmond Vale Lane entrances.
If you’re coming by bus from the city centre, take the 1, 62 or 63. The nearest stops on Heaton Road and Heaton Park Road are all within walking distance.
You can get to Heaton on the Tyne and Wear Metro. The nearest stop is the Byker Metro which is about one mile south of the park, although Chillingham Road is also nearby.
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