DCI Ryan’s North East
Ever thought of retracing the footsteps of DCI Ryan and DS Phillips in the North East of England?
Explore the inspirational landscapes behind LJ’s books, along with some of her personal recommendations…
“Winter was an unforgiving time on Holy Island”
DCI Ryan retreats to Holy Island seeking sanctuary when he is forced to take sabbatical leave from his duties as a murder detective. A few days before Christmas, his peace is shattered and he is thrust back into the murky world of murder when a young woman is found dead amongst the ancient ruins of the nearby Priory…
Lindisfarne is a tidal island, so remember to check safe crossing times across the causeway before travelling here. You can drive, or alternatively walk the ancient Pigrim’s Way to the island across the sand from the mainland, a three-mile route marked by poles in the sand and forming part of the St. Cuthbert’s Way and St. Oswald’s Way walking routes.
- Lindisfarne Castle, Lindisfarne Priory & Heritage Centre
- Pilgrim’s Coffee House & Roastery, Post Office Café, Oasis Café)
- Crown & Anchor, The Ship Inn or The Manor House Hotel
- Gertrude Jekyll Garden (north of the Castle)
- St Aidan’s Winery (to try the famous Mead!)
- Old Lifeboat Station Museum (imagine Alex Walker pottering around here…)
- St Cuthbert’s Island (a tiny tidal island only accessible at low tide, where Saint Cuthbert lived as a hermit).
- The Links, Lindisfarne Nature Reserve and beaches to the north of the island
Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere surrounding this special island, and for the best viewing points, head to:
- The Harbour, with its upturned fisherman’s sheds and views across to Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands
- The Lookout, a former coastguard tower with views of The Priory
- Castle Point, which sits beyond the Castle alongside the Lime Kilns and has wonderful views of the Farne Islands
- Little Beblowe Crag, Emmanuel Head and Nessend Rocks
Holy IslandDetective Chief Inspector Ryan retreats to Holy Island seeking sanctuary when he is forced to take sabbatical leave from his duties as a murder detective. A few days before Christmas, his peace is shattered and he is thrust back into the murky world of murder when a young woman is found dead amongst the ancient ruins of the nearby Priory. When former local girl Dr... Read more
“A large sycamore tree grew in the dip of the valley. It stood proudly silhouetted against the last light of the day, which burned fiery amber red in the sky beyond.”
- Housesteads Roman Fort and Hadrian’s Wall Visitor Centre – Take yourself back to the Roman Empire looking out from the stunning escarpment at Housesteads and peer into the oldest toilets you’ll ever see! There is a strenuous ten-minute walk from the Visitor’s Centre up to the Museum and Fort, so you can imagine what it must have been like for the Roman soldiers, or for Ryan and Phillips! Don’t wear Roman sandals or suede boots like Ryan – best to wear sensible shoes… (Visit)
- Milecastle 37 – Hadrian’s Wall A Roman milecastle is a small, manned fort with turrets built at intervals along Hadrian’s Wall. Milecastle 37 is one such fort, located immediately to the west of the main complex at Housesteads.
- Sycamore Gap – An iconic sycamore tree grows in one of the many natural dips in the Wall, near Crag Lough, which follows the troughs in the valley that were formed during the last Ice Age. In 2016, the tree won England’s ‘Tree of the Year’ competition but is also known as a scene-stealer in the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner, and in Robson Green’s ‘More Tales from Northumberland’.
- The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre – The Sill is a world-class landscape discovery centre in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If, like Ryan and Anna, you’re keen to find out more about the landscape and nature of Northumberland, this is a good place to start!
Sycamore GapDetective Chief Inspector Ryan believes he has put his turbulent history behind him. Then, in the early hours of the summer solstice, the skeleton of a young woman is found inside the Roman Wall at Sycamore Gap. She has lain undiscovered for ten years and it is Ryan’s job to piece together her past. Enquiry lines cross and merge as Ryan is forced to face... Read more
“A little stone church stood eerie and alone atop the hillside, overlooking the rolling landscape of Northumberland.”
- Heavenfield – Here, you will find a tiny church on the site of what is believed to be the location where King Oswald raised a large wooden cross and called his troops to pray before the battle of Heavenfield (AD 633). The building has no mains electricity, and is lit by gas-powered lamps for an atmospheric glow.
- Heavenfield Battle Site – Take a wander over the fields around Heavenfield and imagine what the landscape might have looked like centuries ago, or how deserted it might be for a desperate man running towards the church in the dead of night…
- Wall Village – This is village where the character Keith Thorbridge lives, in my book. The name is perfectly apt, given its close proximity to Hadrian’s Wall! Front Street is the main street, with a few shops and is most likely where Keith would live.
- Military Road – The so-called ‘Military Road’ is a long road, but as you come out of Wall and turn left and you will soon come to Chesters Roman Fort. Not a site in the novel, but on your search for the Roman heritage of the region, it’s a brilliant place to visit!
- Planetrees Roman Wall An historic landmark, because this is where the wall is at its narrowest. You can’t park here but there is a car park at Chesters Roman Fort and Planetrees is a 30- minute walk from there. As you walk, you’ll probably spot several extras in the novel – well-fed sheep and cows in the nearby fields!
Bamburgh Castle materialised on the horizon, its pink-hued stone glowing in the hazy afternoon sun. Like the stuff of legend, of kings and folklore.
- Bamburgh Castle – St. Oswald’s Gate Long ago, the first kings of England looked out over the battlements at Bamburgh, over the grey-blue water towards Holy Island, which is visible eight miles further north. St Oswald’s Gate was the oldest entrance to the castle, giving access to a natural harbour on the seaward side, as well as to the castle itself. Imagine the climactic scenes of Heavenfield taking place on those high walls…
- Bamburgh Castle – The Clock Tower Tea Rooms In the novel, the castle’s clock tower was home to dastardly deeds but, in real life, it serves a much happier purpose!
- Bamburgh Village – Wander around the quaint village of Bamburgh and discover hidden gems, including the tea rooms where Ryan and Phillips might have stopped. If you’re planning to complete the ‘Longstone’ Book Trail, you can get a head start by visiting the Grace Darling Museum, which gives you a history of the young girl who saved so many lives on the perilous seas surrounding her home at the lighthouse on the Farne Islands, also visible from the battlements at Bamburgh Castle.
HeavenfieldWhen a man is found dead at the remote church of Heavenfield, DCI Ryan is the only other person for miles around. The police have no weapon, no motive and no other suspects. Already suspended from Northumbria CID, Ryan must fight to clear his name. But soon, more than his career is at stake when prominent members of the mysterious ‘Circle’ begin to die. Somebody... Read more
“On higher ground above the city, he knew, an iron angel stood watch over the people of Newcastle.”
- Angel of the North – The statue was designed by Antony Gormley and is located in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. Completed in 1998, it is made of steel and stands twenty metres tall with wings measuring fifty-four metres in diameter. Known affectionately to some locals as ‘Rusty Rita’, it welcomes travellers making their way northbound along the A1.
- Denton Hall and West Road Cemetery – As you make your way from the Angel of the North over the River Tyne and into the centre of Newcastle, pass along the West Road to experience a different side to the city, where the antagonist in the story made his desperate run back to East Denton Hall towards the end of the novel and where the first body was discovered, hidden inside an open grave at West Road Cemetery…
- St Mary’s Cathedral – This grand, nineteenth-century Gothic-revival Catholic cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle. It was designed by Augustus Welby Pugin in the mid-1840s and in the Monument Garden there is a statue of Cardinal Basil Hume. Wander along nearby Pink Street to grab a coffee, like Ryan and Phillips, or, if you plan to complete the ‘Seven Bridges’ Book Trail, cross the road to look inside Central Station, which was designed by acclaimed local architect John Dobson.
- Grey Street and Grainger Town – The area known as ‘Grainger Town’ is the historic heart of Newcastle upon Tyne, containing some of its finest buildings and streets. Grey Street is one of several streets built by Richard Grainger between 1824 and 1841 and has been described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as, ‘one of the finest streets in England’. Other places of note here are Grainger Market, Theatre Royal, Grainger Street, Clayton.
- Tyneside Cinema – DC Lowerson remembers fondly coming to the Tyneside Cinema, with its vintage posters and cosy interiors, when he was a boy. Stop in to see a movie or have a look around the place Barbara Hewitt frequented in the novel.
AngelAfter a turbulent time, DCI Ryan’s life is finally beginning to return to normal and he’s looking forward to spending an uneventful Easter bank holiday weekend with his fiancé. Then, on Good Friday morning he is called out to a crime scene at one of the largest cemeteries in Newcastle. The body of a redheaded woman has been found buried in a shallow grave and... Read more
“They met like two rutting stags, light and dark clashing together, melding and rolling down the ravine.”
The River Tees has been plunging into this gorge for thousands of years but its rocks date back over 300 million years!
- Blanchland – Blanchland is a picturesque village in Northumberland surrounded by woodland and fells, originally built from the stones of Blackland Abbey in 1165. Its name means ‘white land’, referring to the white robes worn by the monks who established the impressive monastery which takes pride of place in the village, alongside the ancient Lord Crewe Arms, where you can get a great meal beside a roaring fire, or stay overnight to take in some of the atmosphere. Check out the White Monk Refectory and Tea Room, if all the walking makes you peckish…
Other places to visit while you’re in the area:
High ForceDetective Chief Inspector Ryan’s worst nightmare has just become a reality. Notorious serial killer The Hacker has escaped prison and kidnapped one of his best detectives from her own home. His brutality is the stuff of legend – Ryan lost his sister and nearly his own life bringing the man to justice first time around. Can Ryan do it again to save his friend? There’s... Read more
“Sunset over Cragside was almost a religious experience. For a short while, the sky seemed to ignite and spread amber flame over the treetops.”
- Cragside House and Gardens – On a high rocky crag in North Northumberland, Lord and Lady Armstrong built their summer home, Cragside. Armstrong was a Victorian inventor and industrialist, and Cragside became the first building in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity! Lord Armstrong had spent much of his childhood at the nearby village of Rothbury and, after returning to the area in 1862, decided he wanted to build a house in the area. The house was completed in the mid 1860s and consisted of a two-storey shooting box. However, in 1869, he employed architect Richard Norman Shaw to transform the place into what we see today. It’s a fascinating place, but beware the old lifts, while you’re wandering around the house…
- Rothbury – It emerged as an important town because of its location at a crossroads over a ford on the River Coquet. Turnpike roads leading to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Alnwick, Hexham and Morpeth allowed for an influx of families and the enlargement of the settlement during the Middle Ages. In 1291, Rothbury was chartered as a market town and became a centre for dealing in cattle and wool for the surrounding villages during the Early Modern Era. Later, Rothbury developed extensively in the Victorian era, due in large part to the railway and the industrialist Sir William Armstrong.
- Elsdon Village – The village of Elsdon is the historic capital of Redesdale and is the perfect Northumbrian village, with an ancient parish church, a tower house, and the remains of a castle – it also happens to be the place where DCI Ryan and Dr Anna Taylor decide to build their own home… The name ‘Elsdon’ comes from ‘Elli’s / ‘Aelf’s valley’. Elsdon was reputed to be an important resting place of St. Cuthbert’s coffin, which led to the foundation of the church in the village. This became a centre of Norman power when ‘Robert with the Beard’ built the motte and bailey castle around 1080AD. The village Pele tower is one of the best examples left in Northumberland. It dates from 1400 with walls that are nine feet thick.
CragsideAfter his climactic battle with notorious serial killer The Hacker, DCI Ryan is spending the summer with his fiancé within the grounds of Cragside, a spectacular Bavarian-style mansion surrounded by acres of woodland. When they are invited to attend the staff summer party – a Victorian murder mystery evening – it’s all a joke until the lights go out and an elderly man is found... Read more
“There were secrets to uncover in this little corner of the world, he could feel it.”
- Kielder Water and Forest Park: – “They sat side by side on the dewy grass overlooking the new reservoir, surrounded by the familiar faces of friends and neighbours who had turned out to watch the Aurora Borealis set the night sky aflame. They were not disappointed, for the northern lights rose in a kaleidoscope of colour, more beautiful than anything they had ever seen.”
Home to the biggest man-made lake in Europe, filled with 200bn litres of water, and the largest working forest in England, being over 250 square miles large! There are countless activities here – both land and water based – for families to enjoy.
- Kielder Observatory – “The observatory was situated on a stretch of high ground known as ‘Black Fell’ and, though it was only a ten-minute drive from the small complex at Kielder waterside, it perched on a remote outcrop of land without any other visible signs of civilisation. The building was of ecologically-friendly wood; a long, low futuristic design built on a series of reinforced stilts.”
Kielder Observatory is a public outreach astronomical facility in Kielder Forest, which has some of the darkest skies in Europe. It was first opened in March 2008 and has a world-class reputation.
- The Bloody Bush Trail – The Bloody Bush Trail is featured in some climatic scenes in Dark Skies. The route takes its name from a stone pillar at the England-Scotland border, and links Kielder Forest in Northumberland with Waverley Way which runs south of Hawick East. On a clear day, the route provides stunning 360 views of the landscape.
Dark SkiesOne fateful, starry night, three friends embark on a secret camping trip but only two return home. Thirty years later, the body of a teenage boy rises from the depths of England’s biggest reservoir and threatens to expose a killer who has lain dormant… until now. Detective Chief Inspector Ryan returns from honeymoon to face danger from all sides. In the depths of Kielder Forest,... Read more
“The river undulated between Newcastle and Gateshead in waves of inky-blue, all the way to the North Sea. The bridges spanning the river were illuminated by a series of enormous floodlights, reflected in the rippling water below. In the centre of it all, the Tyne Bridge rose in towering arches of bottle-green steel, a matriarch to six smaller bridges fanning out on either side”
- The seven famous bridges across the Tyne, which link the city of Newcastle to Gateshead on the south bank of the river, run from west to east and include: the Redheugh Bridge, King Edward VII Bridge, Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, The High-Level Bridge, the Swing Bridge, the George V Bridge and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. The George V Bridge is more commonly known as the Tyne Bridge.
Other places to explore in Central Newcastle, and by the Quayside:
- Jesmond (Jen Lucas’ home)
- Jesmond Dene
Seven BridgesIt’s been five months since a killer walked free and DCI Ryan is preparing to leave Newcastle to hunt him down – this time, for good. But Ryan’s plans are scuppered when events take a dramatic turn and he is forced to stay and face his past one last time, or watch a friend suffer the consequences. Amid the chaos, another killer is preparing to... Read more
“Things were seldom as they appeared on the surface”
- Warkworth Castle and Hermitage – Warkworth Castle was estimated to have been built around 1200AD. It was the favoured residence of the Percy family, one of the most powerful landowners in the North of England. Not far from the castle, there is Warkworth Hermitage, carved directly out of cliff rock, and accessible only by ferry boat…
- The Lit and Phil in Newcastle
The inspiration for Ryan’s Italian getaway in The Hermitage was the Villa Cora Hotel in Florence! The hotel is located in a park that is centuries old, overlooking the Boboli Gardens in Florence. While you may not be able to do this part of the trip in an afternoon, if you ever do make it to Italy, here are some places mentioned in the books:
- Vasari Corridor – The Vasari Corridor is an enclosed corridor in central Florence that connects the Uffizi Gallery to the Pitti Palace. It was commissioned in 1565 by Cosimo de’ Medici to celebrate the wedding of his son Francesco I with Joanna of Austria, and its main purpose was to allow free and concealed movement between buildings for high-born families. For at least 200 years the Vasari Corridor was used only as a passageway back and forth between the two residences. The route, even if it was just one kilometre, was not just done on foot – a small carriage for two passengers took the Medici and guests back and forth. It is also likely that the Corridor had several benches along the way so that it was possible to rest.
- Piazza di Santa Trinita
- Uffizi gallery – (View)
The HermitageWhen an old man is found dead inside the ancient hermitage at Warkworth Castle, Northumbria CID are called in to investigate. With no apparent motive, it’s their job to unravel why he was murdered – and this time they’re forced to do it without their star detective… DCI Ryan is thousands of miles away. He’s tracked a killer across Europe and has sworn not to... Read more
“Goody. I like a bit of murder on the high seas.”
- The Cockle Inn, Seahouses – although fictional, it was inspired by real-life places The Olde Ship and St. Aidan Hotel & Bistro
- The Harbour and Lime Kilns, Seahouses
- Farne Islands and Longstone Lighthouse – take a boat trip with Golden Gate Tours, if you’d like to see inside the lighthouse where Grace Darling lived.
LongstoneViking treasure is discovered beneath the icy waters of the North Sea and local historian Doctor Anna Taylor is called in to help catalogue the most exciting hoard in living memory. But when a shipwreck diver washes up dead, she’s soon out of her depth. Luckily, she knows just the person to call… When DCI Ryan arrives at the picturesque fishing town of Seahouses, he’s... Read more
“Evil walked in human form. It hid in plain sight, walked amongst them, talked to them, deceiving them all.”
- Royal Victoria Infirmary – King Edward VII opened the new Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) on 11th July 1906, replacing the old Infirmary on Forth Banks. The RVI was built on ten acres of Town Moor, donated by the Corporation and Freemen of Newcastle. (View)
- Fenwick’s Department Store – a bit of a local institution, grab a coffee or a bite to eat in one of the many cafes or restaurants on the Ground Floor. (View)
- Theatre Royal, Grey Street – (View)
- Hancock/ Great North Museum – (View)
- Victoria Tunnel – Follow in Ryan’s footsteps and take an eerie tour of The Victoria Tunnel, which is a preserved tunnel running beneath the city of Newcastle from the Town Moor all the way to the River Tyne. It was built to transport coal from Spital Tongues Colliery to the river between the 1840s-1860s. During World War 2, the tunnel was converted into an air-raid shelter with bunk beds, benches, electric lighting, and toilets!
The InfirmaryIn the stifling summer heat of 2014, a killer has been stalking the streets of Newcastle causing city-wide panic. When the officer in charge of the case turns up dead, it falls upon Detective Chief Inspector Ryan to take up the baton and find the person responsible. To the close-knit team of police in Northumbria CID, Ryan is still an outsider; aloof and uncompromising. He’s... Read more
“…He remembered that children saw everything, whether you wanted them to, or not.”
- Town Moor – The total moorland area amounts to nearly 960 acres, being the largest green space so close to a city centre and double the size of Hyde Park in London. An early use of the land from the 13th century was for grazing cattle and the Freemen of Newcastle still hold this right.
- Hoppings Fun Fair – ‘The Hoppings’ funfair is one of Europe’s largest travelling funfairs, taking place on Newcastle’s Town Moor at the end of June each year, attracting over 300,000 people in 9 days. The Hoppings has taken place since 1882.
The MoorWhen a ten-year-old girl turns up on DCI Ryan’s doorstep to tell him she’s witnessed a murder, he has no idea he’s about to step into his most spellbinding case yet. The circus has rolled into Newcastle upon Tyne, bringing with it a troupe of daring acrobats, magicians, jugglers – and one of them is a killer. Ryan and his team must break through their... Read more
- Penshaw village – Penshaw is well known locally for Penshaw Monument, a prominent landmark built in 1844 atop Penshaw Hill, which is a half-scale replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.
- Penshaw Monument – Penshaw monument is a ‘folly’, meaning a building serving no other purpose than to be seen. It was inspired by the Theseion, the Temple of Hephaestus, in Athens and was built in 1844 in honour of the first Earl of Durham, John Lambton.
Penshaw monument is 136 metres above sea level and stands at the tallest point in Sunderland.
Penshaw monument is featured on the crest of Sunderland AFC.
The columns of Penshaw monument are solid except one that contains a spiral staircase to a walkway. This staircase has been closed since 1929 after a teenage boy unfortunately fell to his death.
- Heaton – (Lowerson’s house)
- Port of Tyne, Washington – “Ryan crossed the River Tyne and glanced briefly to his left to see the perfect harmony of seven bridges spanning the water, each with its own history.”
Based near Newcastle on the River Tyne in Northeast England, Port of Tyne is one of UK’s most innovative and efficient deep-sea ports handling cargoes across five continents.
PenshawWhen an old man is burned alive in a sleepy ex-mining village, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan is called in to investigate. He soon discovers that, beneath the facade of a close-knit community, the burn from decades-old betrayal still smoulders. When everyone had a motive, can he unravel the secrets of the past before the killer strikes again? Meanwhile, back at Northumbria CID, trouble is brewing... Read more
“As the sun dipped lower in the sky, a thin veil of mist began to descend over the moors, curling its way over the tufts of heather and gorse, lending a sepia hue to the landscape that might have come straight out of a postcard.”
- Otterburn Ranges – “Northumberland National Park, which was an area of outstanding natural beauty in the northernmost uplands where England met the border with Scotland. It was ‘Reiver’ territory.”The Otterburn Ranges sit in the heart of Northumberland National Park, taking up nearly a quarter of the park! This is owned by the Ministry of Defence and used as a military training area.The Otterburn Training Area is the second largest live firing range in the country and has been used for military training since 1911. The range is used for training up to 30,000 soldiers per year.The Otterburn training area consists of over 60,000 acres of land and has the largest impact area in the UK.Northumberland National Park is the most northerly, most remote from large urban areas, least visited and least populated of the 13 national parks in England and Wales.Included in Northumberland’s National Park is Hadrian’s Wall, Cheviot Hills, and the border valleys to the Scottish Border.
- Cheviot Hills – The Cheviots are a range of uplands straddling the Anglo-Scottish border between Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.The south of the Cheviot hills was the site of the Battle of Otterburn in 1388, and possibly to a separate bloody battle between English and Scottish forces, after which only 110 people survived.
- Duddo Stone Circle – Bronze Age Stone Circle: The stones were known as the Four Stones until 1903, when the fifth stone was re-erected to improve the skyline. There were originally seven stones, the empty sockets of two stones being found on the western side during excavation in the 1890s.The stones are formed of a soft sandstone. They have become deeply fissured by natural weathering since erection in the Early Bronze Age, approximately 4000 years ago.The site of the Duddo Stones offers panoramic views of the Cheviot Hills to the South and the Lammermuir Hills to the north.Three-quarters of a mile north of the village of Duddo, Northumberland stands the remains of a Neolithic/Bronze-Age monument.
- The Drake Stone – Sited on the edge of the MoD firing ranges, in an area dripping with prehistoric remains, the Drake Stone is a 30-foot-tall sandstone erratic perched conspicuously on a ridge above Coquetdale. It is prominent profile makes it easily visible as you travel through the valley and affords the stone itself an extensive view north to the Cheviot massif.The stone has a legend of supernatural healing powers and having been a meeting place of the druids in prehistoric times.
BorderlandsAfter uncovering a fresh wave of corruption within the ranks of Northumbria CID, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan was looking forward to an uneventful summer. But, when a young woman is shot dead on the remote army ranges of the Northumberland National Park, Ryan is called in to investigate. Meanwhile, violent crimes are being committed across sites of historic importance in the North East, the perpetrator... Read more
“Ryan had a fleeting impression of being driven through some kind of portal; a tunnel from one world into another, where reality was not quite as it seemed”
- Chillingham Castle – Chillingham Castle is known to be Britain’s most haunted castle and you can even go on Ghost tours there!Built in the 12th century as a stronghold, Chillingham Castle was fully fortified in 1344 and has stayed with the same family bloodline ever since, overcoming many a battle.Chillingham Castle has a dungeon and torture chamber on show, displaying a stretching rack, cages, a bed of nails, a spiked chair, and the bones of the dead. It isn’t for the faint hearted!Chillingham occupied a strategic position during Northumberland’s bloody border feuds. Chillingham Castle was often under attack and often basked in the patronage of Royal visitors, including King Henry III, James I, Charles I, and Edward VIII. Members of today’s Royal family continue the tradition with private visits to the castle this century.The first castle at Chillingham was built in the twelfth century on the site of a former monastery. Consisting of a tower and curtain wall, this structure was little more than a fortified manor house. Built by the Grey family, descendants of the Croys (kinsmen of William the Conqueror), they had taken over the manor to augment their wider holdings in the region at Hetton, Horton and Wark. Of particular interest at Chillingham was a large herd of wild cattle which was seen as a ready use food source. These animals, originally enclosed by the Romans who had used them for pagan sacrifices, were prized in the volatile border region as an ‘unstealable’ resource – their fierce nature precluding cattle rustling.
Ryan’s ChristmasAfter a busy year fighting crime, DCI Ryan and his team of murder detectives are enjoying a festive season of goodwill, mulled wine and, in the case of DS Phillips, a stottie cake or two – that is, until a freak snowstorm forces their car off the main road and into the remote heart of Northumberland. Their Christmas spirit is soon tested when they’re forced... Read more
- Durham Cathedral – Building began on Durham Cathedral in 1093 to house the shrine of St Cuthbert. This work was completed in 1133.In 1104, St Cuthbert was move into the cathedral, his shrine made of marble with jewels and precious stones. It was during the Middle Ages that this became a centre of pilgrimage, with people flocking to the shrine for the saint’s healing powers.Unfortunately, the elaborate shrine was destroyed in the Reformation, being replaced by a marble slab marked ‘Cuthbertus’.However, the stones around this are part of the original shrine.The shrine is known as a ‘feretory’, which is something that houses the relics of a saint. These relics can be their remains or items thought to have been theirs. St Cuthbert’s relics are his coffin, a gold and garnet cross, and an ivory comb.
The ShrineAfter a long and eventful winter, DCI Ryan and his team are looking forward to the joys of spring. But, when one of their colleagues is shot dead on her own doorstep and the brass think it’s an inside job, Ryan finds himself drafted in to investigate. He’s barely scratched the surface when reports flood in of a terror explosion at Durham Cathedral. Chaos descends... Read more
“the monks were forced to flee with Cuthbert's body, which they carried around with them for seven years. The reason generally given for this was a desire to evade capture, but it was also the nineth century’s equivalent of a rock star touring the North East, blazing a trail of miraculous power wherever the monks went and leaving countless churches named after Cuthbert in their wake”
- Cuthbert’s Way – Cuthbert’s Way is a 100km (62.5 miles) walk that crosses the border between Scotland and England. Starting at Melrose, where St Cuthbert began his religious life in 650 ADA, the route takes you to eventually end up at Holy Island, where St Cuthbert spent the rest of his life. The route takes between 6-7 days to complete.
- St Cuthbert’s cave, Belford – Also known locally as Cuddy’s Cave or Cove, refers to one of two natural sandstone caves in Northumberland that have been traditionally associated with Saint Cuthbert, who was laid to rest here in AD875 by the ancient monks of Lindisfarne. The reputable saint as thought to have possessed the power of spiritual healing.
Cuthbert’s WayAfter the dramatic theft of a priceless artefact from Durham Cathedral, the rest of the world believes that DCI Ryan and his team were able to recover and return St. Cuthbert’s cross to its rightful home. But Ryan knows the cross he recovered was a fake – far from being over, their problems are only just beginning… Just as Ryan and his team begin to... Read more
“As they approached the top of the stairwell leading down to the beach, they caught sight of Marsden Rock, standing tall and proud against the bold blue sky.”
- Marsden Grotto – Marsden rock can be found at Marsden Bay in South Shields, and is overlooked by Marsden Grotto, a restaurant with plenty of history.
In 1782, Jack Bates (Jack the Blaster) and his wife Jessie used dynamite to blast a cave into the side of the cliff at Marsden Bay, creating themselves a rent-free home on the beach. Jack became involved with smugglers due to its prime location for concealing their goods, and he allowed them to hide their cargo in the caves.
The Grotto is also said to be haunted, as a smuggler nicknamed John the Jibber was lowered down the lift shaft in a bucket and left to starve to death. His crime was ratting on his smuggler friends to HM customs!
- Marsden Rock – The rock is a 100 feet stack which lies approximately 100 yards off the main cliff face.
A flight of steps was constructed up the rock in 1803.
The rock became two rocks caused by tidal erosion. In 1911, a large section of the rock collapsed into the sea, leaving an arch, which eroded in 1996, creating two separate stacks. In 1997 the smaller stack was declared unsafe and was demolished in the interests of public safety.
- Spottee’s Cave – Spottee was a foreign sailor who was stranded in Sunderland and lived in the cave. His name came from the spotted shirt he wore, and he was regarded as a lunatic by locals, partly because he did not speak English. He subsisted by scavenging along the coast, begging, and doing manual work. According to the legend, he disappeared into the cave never to be seen again and was regarded by children as a ‘boggle’ (a bogey man or ghost).
- The Leas – The Leas is a beautiful two-mile coastal route along the towering cliffs that are 250 million years old. The paths give twists and turns to bays, caves, and coves.
The RockWhen a fishing boat is wrecked off the treacherous North Sea coast and the body of a young woman washes up on the beach beside the iconic ‘Marsden Rock’, DCI Ryan cannot ignore the call to duty. With one already dead and more human cargo missing from the wreckage, Ryan and his team race to find the remaining souls – before it’s too late, and... Read more
“Like a mirage, Bamburgh Castle materialised on the horizon, its pink-hued stone glowing in the hazy afternoon sun. Like the stuff of legend, of kings and folklore”
- River Tyne – A river in North East England. Its length is 73 miles. The River Tyne is formed by the North Tyne and the South Tyne, which converge at Warden Rock near Hexham in Northumberland at a place dubbed ‘The Meeting of the Waters’.
- Tuxedo Princess – The Princess was initially moored on the Newcastle side of the Tyne, but soon crossed to Hillgate Quay. A boat nightclub.She departed for good in 2007, looking rather the worse for wear after all that partying, to be towed to Greece for another makeover as a floating casino.
- Bamburgh Castle – A castle, and a Grade I listed building on the northeast coast of England, near the village of Bamburgh, Northumberland.The site was originally the location of a Celtic Brittonic fort known as Din Guarie and may have been the capital of the kingdom of Bernicia from its foundation in c. 420 to 547. After passing between the Britons and the Anglo-Saxons three times, the fort came under Anglo-Saxon control in 590. The fort was destroyed by Vikings in 993, and the Normans later built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one. After a revolt in 1095 supported by the castle’s owner, it became the property of the English monarch.In the 17th century, financial difficulties led to the castle deteriorating, but it was restored by various owners during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was finally bought by the Victorian era industrialist William Armstrong, who completed its restoration. The castle still belongs to the Armstrong family and is open to the public.