Things to see and do at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas
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.
Christmas at Souter
You can do all your Christmas shopping under one roof at Souter and create handmade gifts, decorations and wreaths.
When it’s time to take a break from shopping, activities with the kids or a winter walk, you can indulge in seasonal drinks, snacks or warming comfort food in the Lighthouse Café. Before you visit, it's a good idea to check café opening hours on our homepage.
Get creative this Christmas
We're running a series of craft sessions for kids, starting with Advent calendars (11 November), then curled paper Christmas cards (18 November), clay baubles (2 December) and wooden slice Christmas trees (9 December). Places are limited, so booking is essential for these events; you'll find all the info on our what's on page.
We're hosting Christmas wreath workshops with The Northern Flower Garden, designed to bring festive flair to your home. Join them on 3 and 5 December. £50 per person. For full details and to book a workshop, head to Northern Flower Garden's website here.
Christmas craft fair
This year our Christmas craft takes place on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 November, 10am - 4pm. An altogether more relaxed way of shopping, while also supporting small local businesses. Entry is free.
Browse hand-made crafts, gifts, cards, jewellery and much more. Head to our what's on page for all the details.
Please note, we don't have space to accept any more stallholder bookings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Try out the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities children can enjoy by the sea, from paddling or swimming, to catching crabs and skimming stones.
While canoeing and kayaking are great ways to experience nature and keep fit, they can be dangerous if you don't follow the guidelines. Learn how to stay safe with our advice and guidance.
Discover where to eat, drink and browse for second-hand books during a visit to Souter Lighthouse and The Leas.
Discover the history of Souter Lighthouse and The Leas. From a lost village to world-leading technology, Souter has many stories to tell.
Find out what family activities you could get involved with on a visit to Souter Lighthouse and The Leas