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The Best Ways to Spend the First Weekend of 2024 Clockwise from top left: The Bowes Museum | Bamburgh Castle | Dreamtime | Van Gogh
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January 2024
Reading time 4 Minutes

Kickstart the new year this weekend

From wild swimming to family shows, here are the best ways to get 2024 started this weekend.
King Edward’s Bay King Edward’s Bay

In the kitchen…
Why not stay out of the cold and try a new recipe this weekend? We’ve pulled together four great recipes to help you smash Veganuary. Budget-friendly, straightforward and filling, the chickpea and olive orzo is particularly special. For something sweet, we recommend giving these gluten-free classics a try (the carrot loaf cake is to die for). So pull on the apron, put on your favourite podcast and have a cosy afternoon of cooking.

Take a dip…
Enjoyed your Boxing Day Dip more than you thought you would? Make it a regular part of your year. If you’d like some company for your swim, there are a number of regional wild swimming groups you can join. Tynemouth Outdoor Swimmers meet regularly at 8am on Saturdays and Sundays at the south end of Longsands beach. FLOWS is a swim group based in and around Leeds that hosts wild swimming sessions, with updates on swim times available on their social media pages. If you prefer a bit more privacy for your dips, there are some great locations to try including the plunge pool at Thomason Foss in the North York Moors National Park and Linhope Spout in Northumberland. King Edward’s Bay in Tynemouth is also lovely (if busy), overlooked by the historic Tynemouth Priory. Wherever you swim, stay safe with these top tips.

Catch a show…
There’s always time to catch a show and there are some great ones on this weekend. Newcastle Theatre Royal are showing Pinocchio until 14th January, where you can see X Factor winner Joe McElderry star as Jiminy Cricket. At Guiseley Theatre in Leeds on Saturday and Sunday (6th–7th), you can catch Cinderella, with sing along tunes perfect for the whole family. Had your fill of panto? At Sunderland Empire you can see The Night Sky Show on Saturday 6th, hosted by astronomer and author Adrian West. Expect incredible visuals as you are taken on a journey through the cosmos and learn more about the stars above.

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience at York St Mary’s | Brimham Rocks Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience at York St Mary’s | Brimham Rocks

Read More: How a New Documentary is Paying Tribute to Trailblazing Photographer Tish Murtha

Tour de force…
Beginning Saturday 6th January, you can take a guided tour around East Riddlesden Hall in West Yorkshire where the friendly volunteers will happily tell you about the history of the hall, including its past residents and the fascinating artefacts in its collection. At Durham Cathedral, you can see their recent exhibit The World Comes to Durham, which features traded historic items from around the world, including French books, Spanish silk and Portuguese pottery. For a more unique day out, head to Whitby for the audio tour In The Footsteps of Bram Stoker. This tour can be experienced using your own phone and headphones and tells the tale of Stoker arriving at Whitby and the strange events that helped inspire Dracula.

An eye for art…
This weekend (5th–7th) is your first chance to catch the mesmerising Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience at York St Mary’s. Using virtual projection, the exhibit allows visitors to step into the artwork of Van Gogh as you learn about his life. The tour ends with a detailed look at eight of his most famous pieces with an explanation of their inspiration and impact. Further north, this is the last weekend to visit The Magic of the Silver Swan exhibition at the Bowes Museum in County Durham. With records of the amazing machine dating back to 1774, the Silver Swan has become one of the Bowes Museum’s most iconic pieces, with intricate internal mechanisms allowing for lifelike movement in the swan’s delicate neck. The exhibit also shows a number of other automata, celebrating the meeting of art and technology.

Step into the new year…
There’s no better way to blow the cobwebs off than a long stroll with some nice scenery. As the county with the highest number of castles in England, it would be criminal not to include Northumberland in one of your January strolls. Ross Sands, to the north of the county, is a relatively undisturbed stretch of coast with great views south to Bamburgh Castle and north to Lindisfarne, or head to Alnwick and pretty Hulne Park, in the shadow of the castle, which was once the hunting grounds for the Percy family. In Yorkshire, the Monk’s Walk from Brimham Rocks to the historic Fountains Abbey is a more challenging option, with steep sections and rocky terrain. You can find more great walks (and maybe a few places to grab a cheeky pint) here.

Read More: Meet The Team Behind The Tiger in Life of Pi at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Chevin forest Chevin forest

Run, rabbit, run…
Get the new year off to a flying start by trying one of the many fun runs on this weekend. This Girl Runs, an inclusive community running group, is hosting easygoing trial run sessions this weekend from local Sweaty Betty activewear stores in York, Leeds and Jesmond. The run begins at 10.15am with the option of doing a 3km or 5km distance. For some gorgeous scenery, try the Chevin forest 5km park run in Leeds, or head to the coast for the Whitley Bay 5km park run beginning at the Links Common. This run is held every Saturday and ends with a friendly coffee in the town, with great views of the coast along the way. Read more about easy ways to get into running here.

Footy mad…
Whether you’re a die-hard Magpie or you bleed red and white, you can’t miss this Saturday’s (6th) match between Sunderland A.F.C. and Newcastle United. The Black Cats are hosting the FA Cup third-round tie, which is the first derby match in seven years between the rival clubs. Tensions are sure to be high, with Newcastle experiencing their longest ever winless run against the team, and Sunderland facing elimination in their last four FA Cup ties against Premier League opponents. You can catch the game on ITV1 with a 12.45pm kick off, plenty of time to grab a cheeky pint and settle in.

In other regional FA feasts on Friday 5th Rotherham head to Fulham (7.30pm) and on Saturday 6th Sheffield United head to lowly Gillingham, while Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday host Birmingham and Cardiff respectively (3pm). Later that night another classic encounter awaits in Teesside as Premier League high-flyers Aston Villa head to the Riverside (5.30pm, BBC One). More fun awaits on Sunday 7th with Leeds heading to Peterborough and Huddersfield picking the short straw (but with nothing to lose) visiting the Etihad for an encounter with Champions League and current FA Cup holders Manchester City (2pm, BBC Red Button.) We wish them all well.

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