Walk: South Shields to Sunderland, Tyne and Wear

On a sunny day, Tyne and Wear’s magnificent east shores are reminiscent of Portugal’s Algarve, with the bonus of a unique restaurant, lime kilns, two lighthouses and a labyrinth.

Bay with sea stacks
Published: July 1st, 2022 at 6:26 am

Very few people from outside the South Tyneside region seem to visit this stretch of coast – but they should.


The 7.5-mile stretch from South Shields to Sunderland consists of a series of sandy bays and is packed with a rich variety of coastal wonders. The magnesian limestone coast is reminiscent of Praia da Rocha in Portugal, the sea stacks and arches teaming with birdlife.

You can do as much of it as you fancy and simply catch the E1 bus back to the start. Route finding couldn’t be easier either. Take your choice between the England Coast Path or walk along the beach.

South Shields to Sunderland walk

7.5 miles/12km | 4.5 hours | moderate

1. Starting post

Follow the path behind the New Sundial pub then turn right on to the coast path. Piers at the start and end of the walk are like giant brackets encompassing the route, and the red lighthouse on stilts to your left is the starting post. Artworks were added to the shore when the path was improved in 2013.

2. Now you see it…

Divert briefly off the path to explore Trow Point, a small headland featuring a recreated disappearing gun. The original weapon from the late 19th century was designed to drop below ground when not in use.

Bay with sea stacks
Pause for refreshments at Marsden Grotto, a cave pub hewn into the cliffs/Credit: Alamy

3. Unique restaurant

Either gradually descend to Marsden Bay at its northern end if the tide is out, or via steps, or a novel lift that takes you straight into Marsden Grotto within the base of the 34m-high cliffs. It dates to 1782 when a leadminer, Jack the Blaster, set up home in the caves. In addition to aiding smugglers, he offered refreshments to visitors who came to see his novel abode. A subsequent owner in the mid-19th century built more rooms into the caves and turned Jack’s house into an inn. Today, it’s the UK’s only cave bar and restaurant, and also has rooms.

Half a mile on is Souter Lighthouse, built in 1871 and now operated by the National Trust. The Leas grassland beside it is the site of a colliery village that existed until 1968. Also look out for the huge lime kilns, just inland.

Red and white lighthouse
A marvel in its day, Souter Lighthouse was the first beacon in the world built to be powered by electricity/Credit: Alamy

4. Solve a puzzle

A more recent addition to the shoreline, a mile down the coast, is Finn’s Labyrinth. The puzzle was built from stones to commemorate the creator’s dog. The grassy mounds opposite were formerly part of a rifle range and further inland you’ll spot Whitburn windmill.

Sculpture on coast
Finn’s Labyrinth/Credit: Andrew Curtis, Geograph

5. Rare lighthouse

Continue for three miles into Sunderland, passing Roker Lighthouse at Cliffe Park. The beacon was relocated here from Sunderland’s southern pier in the 1980s. Unusually, it is made from cast iron.


South Shields to Sunderland map

South Shields to Sunderland walking route and map

South Shields to Sunderland walking route and map


Paul Kirkwood has been exploring, writing about and photographing every corner of Yorkshire since he relocated there in 1994.


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