Wednesday 22 October 2014

Climbing Penshaw Monument

Last weekend my friend Lauren travelled up from Essex to come and stay.  As this was not her first trip to the North East I'd already taken her to my favourite places so this time I had to think a little harder about where we could spend our Saturday.

It's not always easy coming up with new adventures when you're limited to using public transport but after a bit of research I came up with a plan and we jumped on the Metro heading to Sunderland Interchange to catch a bus out to Penshaw.

Penshaw is a little village outside of Sunderland famous for the Penshaw Monument, a half scale replica of the Greek Temple of Hephaestus that sits on top of Penshaw Hill.  Locals are so proud of the Monument it even features on Sunderland Football Club's badge.  It can be seen for miles and I've often caught a glimpse of it in the distance and wanted to get a closer look.

The Monument was built in 1844 as an honour to the first Earl of Durham and was gifted to the National Trust in 1939.

It is full of really interesting history, legend and tradition.  I love the sound of the yearly event that sees local children climbing to the top of the hill to partake in the "Penshaw Bowl" - a boiled egg rolling competition.  Whoever rolls their egg the furthest wins a prize and this is a game that has been going for many years.

The most famous legend is the one of the Lambton Worm which was said to live coiled around Penshaw Hill, only stirring to terrorise the villagers of Penshaw below.  Apparently if you look carefully you can see the marks where the giant worm once slept.

Hidden in one of the pillars of the Monument are some secret stairs leading to the top.   For many years locals and visitors could freely climb to the top of the Monument for spectacular views across Tyne & Wear and Durham.   Tragically in 1926 a 15 year old boy fell to his death from the top of the Monument and after an inquest the doors to the top were closed.

They remained shut for 85 years until the National Trust reopened the stairs in 2011.  You can now climb the Monument during the Summer months.  Unfortunately we'd missed that by a few weeks so had to make do with taking a look at the giant structure from the bottom.

I will admit  I was a little disappointed by how easy the climb up the hill to the Monument was.  I'd been expecting a tough up hill hike to earn myself some cake (one track mind!) but instead it was a short walk up a few steps to the very top.   

Luckily the Monument itself did not let me down.   It towered 66 foot above us and looked beautiful against the clear blue sky.  

We walked round it enjoying the views before climbing the few steps into the main floor of the temple.  I loved how you could see gorgeous scenery peaking out between the pillars.

After enjoying the lovely views, we made the quick walk down the hill and headed straight to the Penshaw Tearoom that sits at the bottom.

As it was lunchtime I decided against having cake and opted for something savoury instead.  There were some delicious looking quiches and pies displayed on the counter that I had been tempted by until I saw several flies buzzing round them and crawling on the food. Such a shame as this could easily be prevented by covering them up properly. 

As those were definitely off my list I turned my attention to the substantial list of sandwiches, paninis and wraps on offer.  With a huge range of cold and hot fillings to pick from they certainly have an impressive looking menu for lunchtime.   I decided on a Tuna Melt Toastie, a great lunch time treat for £4.40 and Lauren chose a Pesto, Tomato and Mozzarella Panini for £4.90.

The Tearoom was very popular with a bum on every seat indoors so we decided to have our food outside. Luckil,y the weather was beautiful with warm sunshine and clear skies. It felt amazing to be sitting outside without a coat in October.   I loved the garden in the Tea Room, we were sitting near a feeder full of birds which I enjoyed watching and we had a great view of Penshaw Monument.

Despite being told there might be a wait for our food due to the crowds inside we were impressed with how quickly our lunch arrived at our table.   Our sandwiches were served with homemade coleslaw, side salad and crisps which was a nice addition to the plate.   My toasted sandwich did the job and I happily wolfed it down.

I was less impressed with my diet coke which came served with a small glass that was very old and scratched, giving it a slightly dirty look so I stuck to drinking out of the can.

We enjoyed our food but I was a little baffled by the popularity of the Tearoom.  Maybe if I'd had some cake I would have felt differently.

To walk off our food we crossed the road to Herrington Country Park which offered a nice large space for a good stroll round and some more beautiful views of the Monument.

I really enjoyed my day visiting a North East icon and learning a bit more history about my new home.


  1. This is my favourite place - my husband proposed to me here, and we walk our dogs here all the time. Last year on the first anniversary of my mother's death we let off sky lanterns from here. Oh, and my office window faces it so I have the most stunning view. It's odd to see someone write about the monument like it's an "attraction" as to me it's just something on the horizon where I live!

    I love when I'm driving up the A1 and you see it on the horizon - it's how I know I'm home :-)

    1. Awwwwwwww did he?! That's so lovely - what a perfect place, it's so peaceful and beautiful! I love how it means so much to so many people :)

  2. I've never been near the Penshaw Monument which is odd considering how long I lived in the North East! It's such an unusual thing to build! I'm glad the climb to the top isn't too strenuous, it means I might actually make it to the top with my knees!

    1. I say it wasn't too strenuous .. I did still have achey legs the next day! I've skived off the gym for a few weeks and I can definitely tell!

  3. The view from up there is stunning! Did you go to the roof? x

  4. The view is absolutely stunning - I think you must have had fantastic views.

    Lizzie's Daily Blog

  5. Definitely on my list - do you think it would be manageable for three year olds? Might bring a packed lunch! Beautiful photo with the sun shining through the columns :)

  6. Really glad you enjoyed it! I love Herrington Park it's so pretty! And the views from Penshaw Monument are stunning :)

    K xx

  7. I have past here so many times and still haven't visited! I must! Such pretty photos! Hopefully when we have a car again next year we'll have no excuse...just like you guys and your railcard for Berwick! haha You'd have to come stay for a long weekend so you can make the most of all the great little eat spots!


  8. I love Penshaw, you can see it from a lot of places in Sunderland and I miss seeing it!

  9. I had to giggle when this showed up on Bloglovin.. my partner asked me about the monument not long a go and I couldn't answer. Now, knowing what my late father was like NE born and breed, I'm sure he'll told me plenty of times.. however, as my memory stands on this particular historical event, it's totally gone in one ear and out the other!!
    So.. I'm so glad finally know for my own sake and to pass it onto my
    I was really enjoying this post and lovely pictures up until the point where you wrote "I decided against having cake and opted for something savoury instead.." Sorry.. What?! Yes, lets just read that again.. ".. decided against cake..", yup, that's what you wrote, maybe a typing error??? lol :p
    Jokes aside, loved this post. :)


  10. I have never heard of Penshaw Monument but the views look lovely! x


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