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Things to see and do at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas

A visitor sits cross legged on a bench on the edge of an area of short grass, looking towards the red and white striped tower and white painted buildings of Souter Lighthouse. Low sunlight casts long shadows. Pink tinged thin grey clouds cover most of the sky above a dark blue-grey strip of sea.
Taking in the view at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Souter Lighthouse stands proud on the coastline midway between the Tyne and the Wear. Climb to the top to take in the views, set out on a coastal walk along the cliffs, or explore the best of nature in the reclaimed colliery land at Whitburn Coastal Park. Whether you like learning about the past, exploring by bicycle or stretching your legs in the great outdoors, there’s something for you on a visit to Souter Lighthouse and The Leas.

Souter Lighthouse

Pay a visit to the lighthouse and discover why it was seen as 'a marvel of its age'. Inside, you can learn about the life of a lighthouse keeper and discover both a lost village and a lost industry. If you have a head for heights, climb the 76 steps to the top of the tower – you'll be rewarded with an amazing view.

The Leas

Stretching north from the lighthouse, The Leas is 2½ miles of magnesian limestone cliffs, wave-cut foreshore and coastal grassland. A lea is an area of farmland allowed to revert back to grassland. Striking coastal formations such as Marsden Rock and Trow Rocks can be seen during a cliff-top walk.

Whitburn Coastal Park

Whitburn Coastal Park is reclaimed colliery land that includes a bird observatory, viewing screens and wetland habitats. It was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2003, and a lottery-funded project in 2011 saw the installation of new ponds by the local Coastal Conservation Group charity. In 2018, building work was completed on an artificial sand martin nest bank.

Get active

Whether you want to walk, run or cycle, the green open space at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas provides the perfect base for getting outdoors and keeping fit.


There's a walking route for everyone here. Our downloadable trail The Souter Saunter is an easy, two-mile walk that takes in the dramatic coast and its wildlife. The England Coast Path is signposted along the cliff top, and a network of footpaths connects The Leas and Whitburn Coastal Park.

If you like an added challenge, thanks to Newcastle and Tyneside Orienteers there's an orienteering course in Whitburn Coastal Park. It's suitable for beginner and intermediate orienteers of all ages. You cand find out more and download a map on the Go Orienteering website.


The Two Rivers cycle way is a 10½-mile circular route that starts in South Shields before continuing along The Leas and past the lighthouse.


The Ranger Run is a 2km circular running route that takes in the Whitburn Coastal Park. If you fancy something a little more challenging, you could follow the England Coast Path north from the lighthouse the full length of The Leas and back, approximately 8km/5miles. If you've ever taken part in the Great North Run, you'll probably recognise the northern end of The Leas as the site of the finish line.

Complete an Active Mile

If you fancy a fun way to keep fit, give our Active Mile course a go at any time. From the starting point near the car park, follow waymarkers around the coastal park, pausing at each one to try a different exercise.

Staying safe on the coast

When on the cliff tops or the beach, please be aware that the cliffs are prone to landslips and rockfalls, particularly following periods of extreme cold or wet weather. Please respect safety barriers, stay several metres away from the base of cliffs and keep out of the sea caves, no matter how tempting it is to take a closer look or shelter inside. Anyone who sees somebody in danger on the coast should dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

A chaffinch at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas, Tyne & Wear
A chaffinch at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas | © National Trust Images/Dougie Holden


Kittiwakes nest in Marsden Bay, and it's now home to over 5,000 pairs. Turnstones and purple sandpipers can be seen along the length of the coast, along with other breeding birds including the large fulmar, cormorants, shags, razorbills and guillemots.

The bird feeding station in Whitburn Coastal Park is especially popular with Souter's colony of rare tree sparrows. You can tell them apart from house sparrows by their red-brown crowns and a distinctive black spot on white cheeks.

A variety of birds of prey can be seen along the coast at various times of the year, including kestrels, sparrowhawks, peregrine falcons and owls. These birds have a secretive nature and move very quickly, which means sightings of them are often both brief and distant.

Plants and wild flowers

Maritime plants like thrift, scurvy grass and sea plantain thrive on this coast, with magnesian limestone-rich soil supporting the flora. Rocket Green has the richest variety of rare wildflowers on this coast. The clifftop meadow is home to autumn gentian, bee orchid and dropwort. For plants like torgrass and yellow wort, Marsden is the northernmost point at which they'll grow in Britain.

A view from grassy cliff tops across Marsden Bay on a sunny summer's day. Blue sea and sky, cream coloured rugged cliffs and a rock stack frame the beach below. There are pink flowers in soft focus in the foreground.
The rugged cliffs and rock formations of Marsden Bay | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Don’t miss…

Look out for these interesting features as you explore Souter Lighthouse and The Leas:

  • The Wildlife Garden: discover ponds, wildflowers, a bog garden, hibernation areas and much more.
  • Velvet Bed: known locally as Camel Island due to its distinctive hump formation, this was used for picnics and bathing in the 19th century.
  • Manhaven Bay: local pilot boats used to set out from here when the Tyne was too rough. These small boats guided larger vessels to and from their moorings.
  • Frenchman's Bay: named after a French sailing ship that ran aground, the bay was also used by smugglers.
  • Trow Quarry: important for its geology, landforms, wildflowers and seabirds, this Site of Special Scientific Interest is also a Northumbria Coast Special Protection Area and a wetland space of international importance.
Adults and children look out the window of the lantern room in the Souter Lighthouse and The Leas, Tyne and Wear

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