Discover the Victoria Tunnel in Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel is one of the city’s most under-the-radar (and under-the-ground) attractions.

And I should know, cos I’m from there (the city, not the tunnel, obviously).

This hidden gem is fun, exciting, interactive, spooky and educational… so the tunnel-riffic attraction ticks a lot of varied boxes.

But what is it? How exactly do you get inside? And what happens on a visit?

In this dimly-lit guide, I’ve unpacked all that and more: here’s everything you need to know about visiting Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel.

Victoria Tunnel, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Victoria Tunnel, Newcastle upon Tyne
by Phil Thirkell is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

What is Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel?

It’s lots of things.

Originally, Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel was an innovative underground wagonway, built beneath the city to rapidly speed up the transport of coal (this part of the region was once an industrial powerhouse, with coal mines dotted around many parts of the place).

The tunnel stretched (and stretches!) from the Town Moor (that’s the big city center park in the west of the city) all the way to the Tyne River. That’s a lengthy total of around 2.4 miles (3.9 km).

It started operating in 1842, and ceased its coal-shuttling operations in the 1860s.

But after the Victoria Tunnel stopped being a working wagonway, it then became lots of other things.

In 1928, a local entrepreneur decided to embark upon a mushroom-growing business inside the tunnel. It failed.

Then, in World War 2 (that was from 1939 to 1945, in case you’re not up on your history), the place was repurposed again. This time, it became an air raid shelter, and was decked out with beds, toilets, blast walls, and more.

Around 30 years after the war ended, part of the tunnel was then transformed into a sewer.

Then around 15 or 20 years ago, the place underwent its final transformation… and became a tourist hotspot. It’s now one of the most interesting tourist attractions in all of Newcastle—but not enough people know about it (most locals haven’t even visited the place!).

Those who have visited know just how good it is. Sitting inside the Ouseburn area of the city, it’s won a whole load of different awards (both regional and international), it’s been featured on TV shows, and it’s consistently recommended as the #1 Newcastle attraction on TripAdvisor.

And get this: according to the tunnel’s official site, “in 2022, the tunnel was awarded the Traveller’s Choice Award [from TripAdvisor], and was recognised for being in the 10% attractions in the world.”

So don’t just take my word for it—it’s definitely worth a visit!

How to Visit Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel

You can’t just turn up and wander around the place yourself, no matter how much you might want to. It’s pretty big and pretty dark, so you might get lost, or die, or end up in a battle with a giant monster rat thing. Or something.

So, instead, you have three main options. They are:

  • a shorter tour,
  • a longer tour,
  • and a tunnel-and-food tour.

Here’s more information:

A Shorter Tour of Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel

If you’re interested in the tunnel, but admittedly not massively interested in the tunnel, this is the tour for you.

During these shorter 75-minute experiences, you’re guided around the tunnel by two of the volunteers who work for The Ouseburn Trust (the charity that operates and manages the place).

You’ll learn about the mining history of the region, and the tunnel’s role in that history. You’ll also get some brief insights into when it was repurposed into an air raid shelter…. and hear a small few spooky stories (some people* reckon they’ve seen ghosts here).

*by ‘people,’ I mean ‘gullible idiots.’

A Longer Tour of Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel

If you’re really interested in history and heritage and all that stuff, this is the tour for you.

The 2-hour tours take you deeper into the tunnel. You learn more about the tunnel’s role in World War 2, you’ll hear a few more paranormal stories, and you get more time to ask questions.

A Tunnel Tour Combined with a Food Tour

This is the tour I recommend.

The Ouseburn is most famous for being one of Newcastle’s eating-and-drinking epicenters. So visiting the Ouseburn area without eating and drinking there is a very stupid idea.

During this excellent experience, you can quickly cram in lots of tasty highlights on a short-but-brilliant tour. You see the tunnel, you learn about the tunnel, and (this is the important part!) you also eat your way through lots of gastronomic Ouseburn highlights. Massively recommended.

Bonus Options: Other Ways to See the Tunnel (or Its Nearby Neighbors)

If you want to do something a little different, you have other unique options for seeing and exploring the tunnel (and other nearby attractions and interesting areas). They are:

  • A virtual tunnel tour: if for whatever reason, you don’t want to leave your house (or enter the tunnel), you can do so online instead. For these Virtual Victoria Tunnel Tours, you just need a tablet or computer (or a phone!) and a nice comfy place to sit down.
  • A photography session: Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel is all strangely-shaped and unusually-illuminated, so it’s great for grabbing interesting snaps. On a photography tour, you can take along your camera to test out your skills. This is a really unusual artistic experience, and a popular gift idea.
  • Sounds of the Underground: the Ouseburn is the artiest, edgiest, and hippest part of the city. So, of course, the area’s tunnel is sometimes repurposed into an underground (both literally and figuratively) music venue—hosting both international and local names. If you like music and unique experiences, you won’t find much better than this.
  • A walking tour of the entire Ouseburn. If you’re more interested in the whole Ouseburn area (and not just the tunnel), get yourself on one of these tours instead. Over the course of 90 minutes, you’ll wander through the little but fun-packed place, learning about people, places, history, heritage, and recent regeneration.

What to Expect During Your Visit to Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel Visit

  • Most people book their tickets online. If you do so, you’ll receive your ticket via email. Take the e-ticket to the tunnel with you. If you don’t want to book online, you can instead call their number: 0191 230 4210.
  • You should arrive ten minutes before your tour begins, to save time, and get a little safety briefing, and all that stuff. You’ll spend these ten minutes standing outside, at one of the entrances to the tunnel.
  • You’ll need to wear a hard hat for your tour, in case you bump your precious little head on any of the walls. Don’t worry, these hats are supplied—you won’t need to source your own. 
  • Although the vast majority of the tunnel is still intact, only a relatively small section is open to the public. If you go on a longer tour, you’ll see around 25% of the tunnel’s total length. If you go on a shorter tour, you’ll (of course!) see a little less.
  • The tours are quite immersive and interactive, with sound effects, clever lighting, and some interesting props and themed areas. The experiences are much more than just wandering morosely around a dank tunnel.
  • As far as I’m aware, all tours are led by two guides. So there’s always good rapport, and there’s always a decent opportunity to ask questions at the end of your session.

Pro Tips for Visiting Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel (and Things to Know Before You Visit Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel)

  • Visit other parts of the Ouseburn: when you’re here, you should absolutely venture to other parts of the Ouseburn. I’ve already written a big guide to all the best things to do in the area, but highlights include an inner-city farm, lots of incredible places to eat and drink, excellent pubs, and the National Center for Children’s Books.
  • You need to book in advance: as I’ve already said, you can’t just turn up to this place, and you need to book in advance. Because the tunnel tours are very popular, they often book out—so book far in advance if you can. 
  • You (probably) don’t need to be scared: the tours aren’t particularly claustrophobic, and the tunnel is quite airy and well-ventilated (well, as much as tunnels can be). But if you’re massively averse to confined spaces, you might not want to go on a tour.
  • Don’t take super-young children: as per the rules of the tunnel, kids need to be at least 7 years old to enter. Kids 11+ probably won’t be scared. Kids between 7 and 11 might be, depending on how brave they are (or aren’t).
  • Don’t wear high heels or flip-flops or anything similarly ridiculous: the tunnel is a wet and slippy place, so make sure you wear sturdy footwear, with decent grip. 
  • You don’t want to wear your best trousers: they might get wet, and they might get stained. So wear something dark (that won’t drag across the floor).
  • It’s always 13°C (or thereabouts) in the tunnel: so whatever you’d usually wear in that type of weather, you should also wear for these tours. Don’t turn up in just a t-shirt and shorts.
  • The tours aren’t as dark as most people expect: the tunnel is relatively-well illuminated, and all guests get their own torch.
  • There are lots of annual events held inside the tunnel: apart from the live music we’ve already mentioned, other events include Santa visits, various talks and special tours, and themed fun for Halloween and other holidays.
  • The place has two entrances: which one you’ll use (I think) depends on which tour you book. So check your emails carefully, and make sure you arrive at the correct entrance.
  • Be on time: if you turn up late, you absolutely can’t join in. Be punctual! 
  • The tours are managed and operated by volunteers: you don’t need to give any tips at the end of a tour… but if you’ve had a good time, I definitely recommend it. Around 10% or 20% of what you paid for the tour is a good idea.
  • You’ll spend most of the tour on your feet: so if you can’t stand for a while, or have difficulty walking, this isn’t the tour for you.

Before You Go

And just like that, we’ve crept and clambered our way through Newcastle’s Victoria Tunnel. Thanks for joining us.

If you want to know anything else about adventures in and around the city, stroll on over to our guides on the best day trips from Newcastle, the best things to do there, and the regional (and ridiculous!) accent.

Thanks for reading, thanks for checking out Travelness, and thanks for being you. See you next time!

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