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South Shields to Souter

Andrew Clarey Out and about

This beautiful 6 miles walk from South Shields to Souter Lighthouse is one of the most popular coastal walks in the North East of England, simply because there is so much to see.

The walk isn’t remote, and you are near urban areas along most of the route but the diversity of the walk is fantastic. It includes 2 completely different lighthouses, a couple of great beaches, a nationally important seabird nesting Site of Special Scientific Interest, a pub in a cave and an iconic, massive rock formation.

Previously, people wouldn’t necessarily go into South Shields Town Centre, but it is currently undergoing some exciting regeneration with the stunning new contemporary cultural venue called, The Word, the National Centre for Written Word. The interior of the building is stunning, it houses an enormous library as well as a museum dedicated to Ridley Scott who was born in the town. Most people will probably know him as the director of the Alien movies (amongst many others) and you can view props and costumes from his movies here.

After leaving South Shields Metro, make the short walk to the National Centre of Written Word. After exploring this, take the loop that runs to the rear of the building along the River Tyne Estuary to where it meets the seafront. Here you will have stunning views of Tynemouth Castle and Priory at the opposite side of the estuary.

It is impossible to miss the striking, 150-year-old, bright red Herd Groyne lighthouse which has been an icon of the River Tyne since it was built and remains a popular attraction for many shipping enthusiasts and photographers. But it’s not just a pretty landmark, as the lighthouse is still in use for shipping navigation. This is the start of the walk proper, and it now entirely follows a coastal route.

South Shields promenade and attractive beach soon take on a more green and natural character as you get away from the town centre and approach ‘The Leas.’ The Leas includes over 300 acres of grassy open space. This scenic walk allows you to follow the coastline from South Shields to Souter Lighthouse, following cliff top paths or along The Leas' grassy fields.

It's a site of special scientific interest, and as such The Leas and the cliff tops have been managed by the National Trust since 1987. The cliffs are spectacular and are so high by the time you reach Marsden beach there is a lift which runs down the cliff face to the beach and Marsden Grotto. Marsden Rock, Marsden beach and the remarkable Marsden Grotto pub have been popular visitor attractions in South Shields for many decades

The rock is impossible to miss, but until recently it was even more striking, when in 1996, the archway that was within the rock itself collapsed from gradual sea erosion and a weakened structure.

The grotto is a unique experience, built into caves that were once used by smugglers. After years of being a pub it now houses a really great seafood restaurant with a heated terrace overlooking the beach.

A further short walk along the cliff tops (a wonderful place to see seabirds nesting, as it is a sanctuary of national importance) and with spectacular views down miles of coastline, brings you to Souter Lighthouse which was opened in 1871 and remains to this day an iconic beacon. Hooped in red and white, Souter Lighthouse was the first lighthouse in the world to be lit by electricity.

A National Trust run property, visitors can explore the engine room and machinery and also climb the tower steps. You'll be in for a breath-taking treat at the end! It also has a really nice café and lush gardens, but the highlight is the view from the top of the lighthouse.

If you are feeling fit, the walk continues all the way to Sunderland, where you can get a metro back to Newcastle, or alternatively return back to South Shields. The coastal buses run between South Shields and Sunderland around every 15 minutes.

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