Sunderland is a city in Tyne and Wear in northeast England, with a population of 174,286 in 2011. Geographically it was in County Durham until in 1974 the new metropolis of Tyne and Wear was created, also containing Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead. It's industrial, but has lost traditional trades such as shipbuilding, and is still in the process of re-inventing itself.
Sunderland grew up around the estuary of the River Wear when three medieval villages combined. Monkwearmouth on the north bank had a monastery from 674 AD; its abbot encouraged glass-making, founding an industry for the next 1300 years. The monastery was home to the Venerable Bede, who wrote that he was "ácenned on sundorlande" - born in a sundered or separate land of that monastery on the south bank. This became Sunderland and outgrew Monkwearmouth and the third settlement of Bishopwearmouth further upriver. Early industry was based on fishing, salt-panning, coal-mining, shipbuilding and breaking, glass-making, and sea trade. By the 19th century the conurbation was sprawling and squalid, and in 1831 it was the first place in Britain to be struck by the cholera pandemic, which inexorably spread across the nation. The three traditional parish administrations were overwhelmed and this was the prompt for creating the combined borough of Sunderland in 1835.
Shipbuilding was already declining in the Victorian era, and other industries crumbled in the 20th century. Sunderland has diversified, and regenerated the brownfield sites, but this remains a work in progress. It hasn't been able to re-launch itself as a destination city like Newcastle, unemployment is high, and in 2016 the city voted 61% in favour of Brexit.
To the outsider, the local accent is Geordie (which extends from industrial Northumberland down into Durham), but it's a shibboleth to say so. Since the 1980s the term "Mackem" is sometimes used by Sunderland folk to describe themselves. The difference in dialect is subtle: the most intensive study of it was in the 1970s when a taped phone call led police to believe the "Yorkshire Ripper" serial killer (Peter Sutcliffe 1946-2020) was from hereabouts. He was actually from Yorkshire, and with benefit of hindsight, perhaps his nickname was a clue.
Famous people from Sunderland include the actor James Bolam (b 1935), the vet and author James Herriot (pen name of James Alfred Wight, 1916–1995), the explorer and archaeologist Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), singer Bryan Ferry (b 1945), pioneer railway developer George Hudson (1800-1871), goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (b 1994), football player and manager Bob Paisley (1919-1996), cricketer Bob Willis (1949-2019), cookery author Jane Grigson (1928-1990) and monastic author the Venerable Bede (672-735). Those who stayed awhile include the artist LS Lowry, author Lewis Carroll, Lola Montez (it's best to draw a veil over her lurid career) and astronomer William Herschel, who didn't find Uranus here but fortunately kept looking.
Newcastle Airport (NCL IATA) has flights from many European cities plus Dubai, as well as domestic services and summer Med resorts. It's the terminus of the Metro Green Line, which runs all the way to Sunderland, see below.
Direct trains from London King's Cross are operated by Grand Central. They run every 3 hours or so and take 3 hr 40 min via York, Thirsk, Northallerton, Eaglescliffe and Hartlepool. An off-peak single advance fare might be under £20.
Otherwise travel on the frequent LNER trains from King's Cross to Newcastle upon Tyne then change for the Metro, see below. It takes no longer, and you pay a more realistic £60.
Sunderland is on the Metro Green Line. This runs from Newcastle airport via Newcastle City Centre, Gateshead and Heworth to Sunderland, and continues to the University City Campus and South Hytton. Reckon a 55 min ride from the airport and 30 min from Newcastle. Change in Newcastle city centre for the north Tyne towns of Wallsend, North Shields, Tynemouth or Whitley Bay.
Sunderland is in Fare Zone C so from the airport or Newcastle city centre you need an all-zone ticket. An adult single in 2022 is £3.90 and a day ticket is £5.70.
1 Sunderland Central Station has a staffed ticket office, toilets and cafe. The Metro station is 100 yards north.
National Express runs every 2 hours or so from London Victoria, taking 7-8 hours via Milton Keynes, Sheffield, Leeds and Middlesbrough, and continuing to Newcastle. Some services involve a change in Leeds; a single from London might be £40.
Megabus runs 3 or 4 times a day, taking almost 10 hours from London Victoria via Heathrow Airport, Reading, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Middlesbrough, for about £25.
2 Sunderland Interchange is the bus station: use Park Lane Metro for the Green Line.
From the south follow A1(M) to Junction 62 near Durham then head northeast on A690. Stay on this for town centre and south. For the north bank, use A19 to come onto A1231.
From the north bypass Newcastle to the east via A19 and Tyne Tunnel (toll). (You could also bypass to the west on A1(M), joining A1231 at Washington.) Leave onto A1231 Wessington Way along the north bank of the Tees. Either stay on the north bank for Stadium of Light, or cross the river on A1231 for town centre.
For local destinations within Fare Zone C you only need a one zone ticket, which in 2022 is £2.30 for a single and £3.60 for a day-ticket. On the Metro this covers from Seaburn to Stadium of Light, St Peters (for National Glass Centre), Sunderland (for railway station), Park Lane (for Interchange bus station), University City Campus, Millfield, Pallion and South Hylton.
Bus 700 / 702 loops every 15 min from the Interchange south to University City Campus and Royal Hospital, then north from Interchange to National Glass Centre, St Peters and Stadium of Light.
Go North East Bus 2 crosses the city every 30 min from Silksworth via the Interchange to High Barnes and Washington.
Bus 9 runs north every 30 min via Boldon to Jarrow.
Bus 20 runs every 30 min from Durham to Houghton-Le-Spring, the Interchange and South Shields.
Bus 56 runs north every 15 min to Gateshead and Newcastle.
Bus 60 goes south every 15 min to Seaham.
Taxis are white, with ranks at the Interchange and railway stations.
- 1 Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Burdon Road SR1 1PP, ☏ . M-Sa 10:00-16:00. Museum depicting the city's history and industries. Plus indoor Winter Gardens, opened in 2001 to replace the demolished Victorian original. Free.
- 2 Sunderland Minster (Church of St Michaels and All Angels), 309 High St West SR1 3ET. M-F 10:00-12:00, Su 09:45-10:45. This Anglican church is 20th century, preserving several features from its predecessor, which succumbed to mining subsidence.
- 3 Fans Museum (formerly Monkwearmouth Station Museum), North Bridge Street SR5 1AP, ☏ . M 10:00-14:00, Tu-Th 10:00-18:00, F 10:00-13:00. Small museum of football colours and memorabilia in a former railway station. This was built in 1848 in NatWest cod-classical style, but it was too small and the station moved 200 yards south to St Peters. From 1973 to 2017 it was a railway museum then took on its present guise. Free.
- 4 National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Roker SR6 0GL, ☏ . Daily 10:00-17:00. Glass occurs naturally and has been manufactured for 6000 years, but transparent glass was first made from around 1500 BC. The Romans had a big glassworks in Trier in Germany, and this knowhow and technology.spread across northern Europe. Benedict Biscop (628-690) was abbot of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Priory and brought over French glaziers to make abbey windows, the first known manufacture in Britain. Glass became a major industry in Sunderland from the 18th century, thanks to local coal, and sand brought as ballast in Baltic shipping, but the city's last glassworks closed in 2007. This centre, part of the University of Sunderland, has a museum and exhibitions of glassware. Free.
- Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (At National Glass Centre). M-Sa 10:00-17:00. This relocated from city centre in 2018 and is now able to build a permanent collection, as well as hosting exhibitions. Free.
- 5 St Peter's Church (next to the National Glass Centre). stands on the site of Monkwearmouth monastery. Only the porch and west wall survive from the monastery of 674 AD, which formed a combined abbey with Jarrow, and was the base of the Venerable Bede. The exterior is mostly 13th / 14th century and the interior was re-done in the 1870s and again following arson in 1984. It remains an Anglican church and is open to look around, and use the simple cafe, M-F 10:30-14:30.
- 6 Roker. is the nearest sea-side strip to town. Roker Pier was built from 1865 as a breakwater. It's 1198 ft / 365 m long; the lighthouse (completed 1903) is still in use. St Andrew's Church, north on Talbot Rd, is an elegant Arts & Crafts building of 1907, open M-F 10:00-12:00.
- 7 Watch House Museum, Pier View, Roker SR6 0PR. Su 12:00-16:00. Volunteer Life Brigades were formed in the 19th century: they don't launch lifeboats, but assist the Coastguard with shore-based rescue. Only three brigades remain active: this one (founded 1877), South Shields (founded 1866) and Tynemouth (the very first, founded 1864). This is the Sunderland Brigade's Watch House. Free.
- Seaburn the next beach north is sandy and a mile long. The water is every bit as cold as at Roker.
- 8 Herrington Country Park, Chester Rd, New Herrington DH4 7EL. 24 hours. The site of a former open cast coal mine, now redeveloped as park land and wildlife conservation area, and sometimes hosting events.
- 9 Penshaw Monument half a mile north of the country park was built 1844-45 in memory of John Lambton (1792-1840), 1st Earl of Durham and first Governor General of Canada. He was fabulously wealthy from Durham coal but was a reformist Whig. The monument is based on the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. Appropriately, that was the deity of metal-working, equally venerated by Athens' seething traffic and by the Nissan factory just outside Sunderland.
- 10 Hylton Castle, Craigavon Rd SR5 3PA, ☏ . M-F 10:00-16:00. Shell of a castle gatehouse built in 1400 and much re-modelled in later centuries. The rest of the castle has gone. Free.
- 11 North East Land Sea and Air Museums (NELSAM), Old Washington Road SR5 3HZ, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-16:00. So this is what became of Sunderland Airport. Aircraft and military vehicle museum, with a collection of 30 mostly military aircraft, plus a reconstructed WWII-era street. They don't have a Sunderland flying boat: these were named for the city, but made by Short Brothers in Kent. Dogs on leads welcome. Adult £6.50, conc or child £3.50.
- 12 Ryhope Engines Museum, Waterworks Rd, Ryhope SR2 0ND, ☏ . Ornate Victorian water-pumping station with engines regularly in steam.
- What's on? Listen to Sun FM on 103.4 FM, or read Sunderland Echo (evenings).
- Empire Cinema is in Sunniside leisure complex on Lambton St.
- 1 Sunderland Empire Theatre, 4-5 High Street West SR1 3EX, ☏ . Edwardian theatre staging drama, music and comedy.
- Sunderland Aquatic Centre, Stadium Park SR5 1SU (north side of Stadium of Light), ☏ . M-F 05:30-21:00, Sa Su 06:00-17:00. Olympic-sized swimming pool and diving pool.
- 2 Sunderland AFC were promoted in 2022 and now play soccer in the Championship, England's second tier. Their 49,000 all-seater Stadium of Light is just north of the River Wear. The womens' team play in their own Championship or second tier, with home games at Eppleton Colliery Ground in Hetton-le-Hole.
- 3 Tunstall Hills is an open area, good for strolling and dog-walking. The area consists of Green Hill and Rocky Hill and surrounding land, and has a nature reserve.
- 4 Silksworth Sports Complex, Silksworth Lane SR3 1PD, ☏ . Multi-use sports facility with 160 m ski slope.
- Golf: to the south are Houghton-Le-Spring GC, Sharpley Golf and Seaham GC. West is Wearside GC, and north is Boldon GC.
- Sunderland Airshow, Europe's largest free airshow, was held above Roker seafront on the last weekend of July, but in 2023 the city council cancelled the event as part of their aims to be carbon neutral.
- Festival of Light (aka Sunderland Illuminations) are held along Roker-Seaburn seafront and in Roker Park from mid-Oct to mid-Nov, evenings Th-Su. Roker Park these evenings has a funfair, entrance £3.
Bridges Shopping Centre stretches west from the railway station. It has some 80 shops including Boots, TK Maxx, Iceland and Tesco Metro. The Centre has toilets and a quiet room.
- Angelo's, 48 West Sunniside SR1 1BA, ☏ . M Tu Th F 12:00-14:30, 17:00-21:30, Sa 12:00-22:30. Great Italian dining at reasonable prices.
- Luciano's, 278 High St West SR1 3DZ, ☏ . M-Sa 12:00-14:00, 17:00-22:00, Su 17:00-22:00. Opened in 1991, a reliable choice for trad Italian.
- Borneo Bistro, 162 Hylton Rd SR4 7XU, ☏ . M-Sa. Small Chinese, also serves breakfast.
- Latimers Seafood, Shell Hill, Whitburn Bents Rd, Whitburn SR6 7NT (north end of beach), ☏ . Daily 08:30-17:30. Fishmongers with great little takeaway and cafe for shellfish and other seafood.
- Little Italy, 1 Whitburn Rd, Seaburn SR6 8AB, ☏ . M-Th 12:00-21:00, F-Su 11:00-21:30. Slick friendly place on the seafront.
- Gabriele's, 4 Queen's Parade, Seaburn SR6 8DA, ☏ . Tu-Su 16:00-21:30. The doyen of the seafront Italians serves great meals.
- Santinos, 5 Queen's Parade, Seaburn SR6 8DA, ☏ . M-Th 16:30-21:00, F-Su 12:00-21:00. Good speedy food, the "Happy Hour" before 7 pm is great value.
- Shagorika, 3 Queen's Parade, Seaburn SR6 8DA, ☏ . Daily 17:00-23:00. The original seafront curry house. Good service and variety of menu, some custmers found it bland.
- Goa Exemplary, 5-6 Queen's Ave, Seaburn SR6 8DA, ☏ . Daily 17:00-23:00. Good interesting food with sea views from the 1st floor windows.
- Many folk head into Newcastle for nightlife, but Sunderland is cheaper.
- The Borough, 1 Vine Place SR1 3NE (200 yards north of Interchange). Su-Th 10:00-23:00, F Sa 10:00-01:00. Friendly old-school pub with good beer, TV sport and indie / rock music as well as frequent live events.
- The William Jameson, 30 Fawcett St SR1 1RH (south side of railway station), ☏ . Daily 08:00-00:00. Not named for the Irish whiskey distiller, US Federal judge or two Scottish botanists, this William Jameson was the early 19th century planner of Fawcett Street. It's a Wetherspoon's pub with meals until 10 pm. They also run The Cooper Rose at 2–4 Albion Place.
- Independent, 27-28 Holmeside SR1 3JE (south side of railway station), ☏ . F Sa 22:30-04:00. Late spot with all types of music and cheap drinks.
- The Stables, East Herrington DH4 4ND (south entrance to Herrington Country Park), ☏ . Su-Th 12:00-22:00, F Sa 12:00-00:00. Good food and real ales in a pleasant village-green type surrounding.
- Vaux Brewery is on Monk St, at the junction east side of Stadium of Light. No tours, but their taproom is open weekends.
- Distillery: Poetic License make gin, vodka and liqueurs. They're on Roker seafront near the pier: no tours, but they have an on-site pub.
- 1 Premier Inn, 1-3 Hind St SR1 3QD, ☏ . Reliable budget chain hotel near city centre. B&B double £80.
- Travelodge, Low Row SR1 3PQ (At Bridges Shopping Centre), ☏ . Basic budget hotel, noise from nearby nightclub. B&B double £90.
- Hilton Garden Inn, Vaux Brewery Way, Monkwearmouth SR5 1SN (By football stadium), ☏ . Comfy budget place, great service. Free parking. B&B double £80.
- 2 Boars Head Hotel, 134 High St East SR1 2BL, ☏ . Charming small hotel in dockland. B&B double £70.
- 3 Acorn Guest House, 10 Mowbray Rd, Hendon SR2 8EN, ☏ . Clean friendly B&B south of centre. B&B double £60.
- 4 Grand Hotel, Queen's Parade, Seaburn SR6 8DB, ☏ . Comfy enough but tired facilities. B&B double £65.
- Seaburn Inn, Whitburn Rd, Seaburn SR6 8AA (200 yards north of Grand Hotel), ☏ . Smart new place, comfy and slick service. B&B double £80.
- Seaburn B&Bs include Mayfield and Lemonfield.
- 5 Seahall Hall, Lord Byron's Walk, Seaham SR7 7AG, ☏ . Grand Georgian mansion once owned by the Marquises of Londonderry: they seldom stayed, but in 1815 the poet Lord Byron married Anne Milbanke here. (Imagine the bar bill and the gambling debts.) Their only child Ada Lovelace worked with Babbage and is regarded as the world's first computer programmer. For most of the 20th century the Hall was a hospital or nursing home but is now this ritzy (and to some, over-the-top) spa hotel. Great dining beneath the portrait of Byron in his full Albanian rig. No dogs. B&B from £220.
As of Dec 2021, Sunderland has 5G from EE and Three, and 4G from O2 and Vodafone.
Local football club Sunderland has a very heated rivalry with Newcastle United, dubbed the Tyne and Wear Derby. Be sure not to wear a Newcastle United shirt when you are in Sunderland, especially on matchdays, as it could result in you getting singled out for harassment or even violence by local fans.
- The city of Newcastle upon Tyne is a 30 min metro ride away. South bank of the Tyne is Gateshead, with Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.
- South Shields has a reconstructed Roman fort.
- Wallsend has a Roman fort at the beginning of Hadrian's Wall.
- Washington has a pit museum and George Washington's family ancestral home.
- Durham has a well-preserved medieval centre around its magnificent cathedral.
|Routes through Sunderland|
|Newcastle upon Tyne ← Wallsend ←||N S||→ Peterlee → Middlesbrough|