Newcastle… er, Castle

Third Stop: Newcastle

Newcastle Keep.

En route north to Edinburgh, we decided to spend a night in the quaint town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne before crossing the Scottish border. We enjoyed running around the city all night, exploring the many levels of cobblestone alleyways and bridges. We especially liked the Castle Keep and the Black Gate, all that remains of the original fortress of Newcastle, both within the centre of the city.

Use of the site of Newcastle for defensive purposes date back almost 2000 years from the time of Roman occupation, when it housed a fort and settlement called Pons Aelius. Pons Aelius got its name from the first bridge (or first ‘important’ bridge) to be built across the river Tyne to the Roman settlement. Pons Aelius naturally means “Aelius’ Bridge”, Aelius being the family name of Emperor Hadrian, who was responsible for, you guessed it, “Hadrian’s Wall”. In 1088, the prior mentioned Norman king, William the Conqueror, sentRobert Curthose, his eldest son, north to defend the country from the Scots. After Robert finished tangling with the Scots, he speedily moved to an area on the Tyne, the land where Pons Aelius once stood, and proceeded to build ‘New Castle’, erecting a motte-and-bailey wooden fortress from where the modern city of Newcastle gets its name. Nothing of the Norman fortress remains today, but in 1172 King Henry II built a tall, rectangular stone keep (looks a little bit like Lord Farquad’s castle from Shrek). Later, around 1250, a great, outer gateway to the castle was built and donned the ‘Black Gate’.

The Black Gate (no, not the one into Mordor).

Very little remains of what was once a great castle, thanks to the Scottish who besieged the walls for three months straight in 1644. ‘The Keep’ is still in good condition, a roughly square building, measuring 81 feet tall. The entrance leads to the second floor and into the Great Hall, the largest room in the keep. It’s actually quite intimidating the way it towers over you, reminiscent of a grade school bully. The menacing sounding ‘Black Gate’ also has retained its looks, though covered with a bit of foliage. The gate acted as the first line of defence for the original castle; it consists of two towers with a passageway between them and was once accessed via a drawbridge across a moat.

Newcastle Keep floor plan, England

Newcastle-upon-Tyne seems to be the Mecca for paranormal investigators as the city is alive with stories from countless ghost sightings. From an old lady named “Silky” chasing boys away from apple trees to a repenting Viking seen praying in the graveyard, the ghosts of Newcastle are a cast of diverse characters that seem to multiply every year. For a full list of Newcastle hauntings, check out the Paranormal Database for Newcastle.

Tyne Bridge, where the original Roman bridge once straddled the river.

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