If you have ever wondered how a penny managed to find its way into an impossibly small bottle then the answer lies in the city of Sunderland.

Sunderland’s association with glass goes all the way back to the times of the medieval monk Benedict Biscop, who introduced glass to Britain when he hired French glaziers to put windows into his nearby newly built priory in 674 AD. Then in the 18th century the glassmaking industry boomed on the shores of the river Wear as the great shipping links brought in a large amount of good quality sand from the Baltics plus there was abundant cheap local coal. It was even the British centre of revolutionary bakeware Pyrex for over eighty years. The National Glass centre in Sunderland is not only a celebration of the area’s importance in the history of making glass but also provides a learning zone and a creative hub for artists that love to use glass.

Adding more detail to the glassBlowing a blue vaseThe finished vase

Once you have browsed the archives then there is plenty of other things to see, including exhibitions, classes and talks from all kinds of artists. There was heaps of ingenuity and flair on show at the jewellery exhibition, which was great to marvel at. I particularly enjoyed watching the very informative glass blowing demonstrations that are given every day. They presented the techniques used to create bowls plates and vases, as well as little glass animal ornaments. There are plenty of gorgeous glass products to buy in the shop too, many of which are unique handmade pieces that were created at the centre.

some of the glassware for sale

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There’s even more history on show at Sunderland’s own museum, which also features art galleries and tropical gardens. It houses a large collection of works by the painter L.S. Lowry, who had visited nearby Seaburn coastal resort many times and as a result sketched local landscapes and industrial scenes. His illustrations of the region’s industrial past are stark reminders of just how much the area has changed with the closure of the ship building yards and coal mines.

Don’t forget to find the museum’s most popular exhibit, Wallace and then wonder why he’s the star attraction. It’s worth popping into the lovely artisan cafe Holmeside, especially if it is a sunny day, with its outside terraced seating area that comes equipped with a table tennis table.

Tyrannosaurus Rex in the foliagetropical trees in the winter gardensBrass band exhibition

There are plenty of options for further entertainment in the Sunderland area. The annual air show is the biggest one of it’s kind in Europe and attracts a crowd of millions of visitors. It features many aerial and parachute display teams, vintage aircraft, helicopters and fighter jets. It is usually held on the last weekend in July.

You can also check out the performances that are playing at the Sunderland Empire theatre, which is a large venue that often hosts productions on tour from London’s West End. It’s much easier to secure a ticket for a show that is often sold out in the capital, and is an opportunity to see inside the  also rumoured to be very haunted, non other than by legendary British comedian Sid James who died on the Empire’s stage in 1976 and a handful of other ghostly apparitions.

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white butterfly and red flower wall mural

Often synonymous with northern England, a night of greyhound racing was once a very popular outing amongst young people and the working class. It was introduced by an American, who mechanised traditional hare coursing and the sport took off just as quickly as the dogs themselves. With little to do other than dance clubs, theatres such as the Empire or the cinema, dog racing became the second most attended sport after football. Sunderland’s greyhound racetrack is one of the UK’s twenty two remaining stadium and often combines race nights with discos and food and drink packages.

Dogs racing around the trackPeople betting on the dog racing

For years there was a shadow hanging over the welfare of the greyhounds used in racing, but now due to strict regulations and a focus on rehoming retired athletes, the sport has considerably cleaned up its act. It is a enjoyable evening out, hopefully placing bets on the hound most likely to snatch victory and indulging in an alcoholic beverage or two. It certainly is a fast paced meeting with plenty of opportunities to win big, or go home!

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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