Turning back to Tynemouth itself, there are two key places to visit if you want to get an authentic taste of the town. We'll begin with North Shields Fish Quay.
North Shields Fish Quay
Now, it might seem more than a little odd to kick things off with an attraction that's actually in a neighbouring town - and I suppose it is! But, North Shields Fish Quay has an incredibly rich history and, if you walk along it, you'll come to the second of my top two attractions today, which is in Tynemouth itself.
So, just what makes Fish Quay so important? For a start, it gave North Shields its name. The 'north' part comes from the fact that it sits on the northern side of the River Tyne, while the 'Shields' part stems from the shielings, i.e. fishermen's huts, that sprung up here way back in 1225. You can learn all about its fascinating past by walking between the ferry landing and Clifford's Fort, where a series of boards tell you its story.
Coming here is about more than having a history lesson, though. This is a working quay, and it's one that has a great atmosphere - think lovely fish and chip shops, excellent restaurants and welcoming pubs. Plus, doing nothing more than watching the boats go back and forth is a wonderfully tranquil experience.
Of course, no doubt you'll be wondering how to get to Tynemouth Priory and Castle from here. Simply take a walk eastwards along the promenade that runs from the quay; along the way, you'll get views of the Collingwood Monument and the mouth of the river, before arriving at the attraction itself.
Tynemouth Priory and Castle
A religious site and fortress combined, Tynemouth Priory and Castle was, in its heyday, one of the largest fortifications in England. Today, its ruins are dramatic and beautiful, and offer stunning views over the River and the North Sea thanks to its position on a steep headland.
The site dates back to the 13th century, and there's an awful lot to see. For instance, there's some lovely stained glass in the chapel, while the gun battery has been newly restored. It's also well worth visiting the Life in the Stronghold exhibition, which tells you all about the site's past. This includes its time as an Anglo-Saxon settlement, its position as a monastery and its role in coastal defence.
As a quick tip, its opening times change according to the season, so before you start your walk make sure you check for when you are able to look around properly.
(Photos: [ThinkStock - iStockphoto])