Berwick-upon-Tweed (pronounced "Berrick") is a town in Northumberland, two miles south of the border with Scotland, with a population of 13,170 in 2021. In medieval times it frequently changed hands, and was protected with stout walls. Berwick is on the north bank of the Tweed and nowadays forms a combined town with Tweedmouth and Spittal on the south bank. It's also the main town for nearby villages in the Scottish Borders, and along the Tweed valley inland.
Berewick means the patch of land reserved for growing the lord of the manor's personal barley, to be made into his bread and beer - mess with it at your peril. (Just to spell out his sense of ownership, the term "lord" derives from hlāfweard, the loaf-guardian, while his lady is hlǣfdige, she who digs or kneads the loaf). In Anglo-Saxon times, Northumbria ruled Berwick and all the way to Edinburgh, but this territory was won by Scotland in 1018. For the next 400 years the town was a shuttlecock, changing hands over a dozen times as England and Scotland were back and forth at war, so the town walls were built and the castle strengthened in 1318. The Scots were ousted for the last time in 1482 when Berwick became nominally an independent town, but in reality under the English thumb. The Elizabethans were sufficiently wary of Scotland to rebuild the walls, and render them proof against artillery as well as bows and arrows, in an age when many cities were tearing down their medieval bastions. So, like those of Londonderry built a few decades later, the walls are about 400 years old and in good condition.
In 1603 came the Union of Crowns of England and Scotland, and in 1707 the Parliaments and executives were combined, though never the legal systems. Berwick formed its own English county north of the Tweed while the south bank was the strange entity of Islandshire, governed from Holy Island or Lindisfarne. Berwick incorporated the south bank in 1835 and became part of the county of Northumberland in 1889. More significantly, the railway spanned the Tweed from 1850, binding the town to the smokestack economy of the south, and (as at Newcastle) demolishing most of the castle to make way for it. In the 20th century Berwick promoted itself as a seaside resort. The painter LS Lowry often visited. The south bank is industrial but the old town centre is well preserved.
- Tourist Information Centre (upstairs in the public library on Walkergate), ☏ . M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-5PM.
Berwick is on the East Coast Mainline, with trains once or twice an hour on their way between Newcastle and Edinburgh. These trains variously start from London King's Cross (3 hr 45 min), Bristol, Birmingham or Leeds, and some continue to Dundee and Aberdeen. Other trains hurtle through non-stop, change at Newcastle. Locally the trains may also stop in Morpeth and Alnwick to the south, and Dunbar to the north.
1 Berwick railway station is west side of town overlooking the Royal Border Bridge across the Tweed, which isn't the border at this point. There's a staffed ticket office and machines, cafe and toilets. The two platforms are an island reached by a footbridge with lifts.
There is a single National Express coach service to Berwick, number 591 between London and Glasgow, as of July 2023. Journey times are approximately 9 hr from London or 2 hr 30 min from Glasgow. The southbound arrival/departure (from Scotland, to London) is at around lunchtime and the northbound arrival/departure (from London, to Scotland) is in early evening. The coach stop for Berwick is located at Golden Square in the town centre on the north side of the new bridge.
Arriva Bus X15 runs from Newcastle every two hours, taking 2 hr 30 min to Berwick via Morpeth, Alnwick and Scremerston.
Arriva Bus X18 also runs from Newcastle two or three times per day, taking around 3 hr 50 min to Berwick. This is a slower but more scenic route which operates via the coast and is branded as "Coast and Castles". During the summer months Travelsure also operate journeys on the X18 route between Alnwick and Berwick, resulting in a bus every two hours between the coastal villages around Seahouses and Berwick.
Bus 267 runs six times a day from Wooller via Etal and Duddo, while Bus 464 takes the direct route via Scremerston.
Bus 235 runs every two hours north along the coast to Eyemouth, Coldingham and St Abbs. Bus 477 occasionally runs to Lindisfarne, times depend on the tides with services running most days (except Sundays) during the peak summer season (July/August) and most Wednesdays and Saturdays at other times of year.
The bus terminus is outside the railway station; all routes except for the 235 and 253 towards Eyemouth additionally serve Golden Square which is closer to the town centre.
By road from the south follow A1, which is only partly dual north of Newcastle; cyclists may use it. This nowadays bypasses Berwick, so for town centre branch off at Scremerston onto A1167 and follow the historic Great North Road into town. But for the north end (eg Travelodge) use the bypass.
Berwick is easy and attractive to walk around, but you need your own wheels for outlying attractions.
Both Scottish and English concessionary bus passes are valid on the local cross-border buses to Eyemouth and Coldstream.
- The old town within the walls has many 18th and 19th century buildings. Look for Holy Trinity Church (Anglican, 1660), Cockburn Tower and Town Hall.
- The town walls were built in the early 14th century but fell derelict. They were rebuilt from 1560, to withstand artillery instead of arrows, and are well-preserved. The only substantial medieval fortification to remain is the castle, just outside the walls and next to the railway station. Castle and walls are maintained by English Heritage: they're free to stroll any time.
- 1 The Lighthouse, completed in 1826, is simply a harbour light, a 13.5-m tower. It sits at the end of the 2877-ft (877-m) dog-legged "pier" which is more correctly a breakwater, as it's built over ribs of rock and vessels can't dock alongside. The view east is of grey heaving waters towards Denmark, and west is the Royal Border Bridge that doesn't span the border, for a hat-trick of misnomers.
- The riverside is scenic along its north bank, south bank is industrial. Follow it upstream from the pier to the original road bridge of 1610 (now southbound only), the Royal Tweed road bridge (1925, renovated 2000), and under the Royal Border Bridge (1850) the railway viaduct. A large colony of mute swans (Cygnus olor) glide up and down the tidal river. No, they're not Bewick's swans, which visit Britain but prefer tundra.
- 2 Berwick Barracks and Main Guard, Parade TD15 1DF, ☏ . Mar-Oct: daily 10AM-5PM. These barracks were built 1717-21 against Jacobite incursions. They were used on and off until 1963, latterly by the King's Own Scottish Borderers. They now house a museum, and a selection of art from the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. Adult £6.50, child £3.90, conc £5.90.
- 3 The Border on the A1 is just a draughty layby with trucks pounding past, don't bother stopping for a photo. But a short walk brings you to the most northerly point of England, on the coast. The railway separates A1 and coast so either access via Marshall Meadows or walk a mile north from Haven Holiday Park. The border is just a stile over a fence. Keep walking north into Scotland for views from the clifftops.
- 4 Burnmouth, Eyemouth and St Abbs are attractive fishing villages set into the cliffs north of the border, see separate page. Unlike Gretna Green on the other side of the country, Burnmouth and the border farm of Lamberton never became popular for elopement weddings, as it was easier for 18th-century couples to sail to Edinburgh.
- 5 Paxton House, Paxton TD15 1SZ (Off B6461 one mile west of border), ☏ . Apr-Oct: daily 10AM-5PM. This grand Palladian mansion was built 1758-66 by Robert Adam and furnished by Chippendale. In 1780 m'lud came home from his Grand Tour with a vast art collection, but died before it was even unpacked. The East Wing was built in 1812 to house the collection plus the library. The original collection has dispersed but the gallery displays works of the National Galleries of Scotland in 19th century style. The house is set in extensive grounds.
- 6 Marchmont House, Greenlaw TD10 6YL, ☏ . This plush Palladian mansion of 1750 is only occasionally open, check website for visiting days.
- 7 Jim Clark Museum, 44 Newtown Street, Duns TD11 3AU (17 miles west of Berwick), ☏ . Apr-Oct: M Tu Th-Sa 10AM-4:30PM, Su 11:00-3PM; Mar and Nov: from 11AM. A small exhibition about the motor racer Jim Clark (1936-68). Adult £6, conc £5.50, child £3.
- 8 Duns Castle. Just north of that village was built in 15th-16th century, but relentlessly made over in Gothic in the 19th. It's now an events venue with no interior tours, but you can visit the nature reserve on its north side. This is set beside an artificial lake called "Hen Poo" though wildfowl are the main culprits.
- 9 Norham Castle, Norham TD15 2JY. Substantial ruin of a castle built in 1121 to protect the Bishop of Durham's lands here (until 1844 Norham along with Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands were exclaves of County Durham). It was repeatedly assaulted, wrecked and rebuilt until 1596 when it was left derelict. It's scenically perched on a mound above the river and JMW Turner made several paintings of it in the early 19th century. Free.
- 1 The Maltings, ☏ (box office). An arts complex on Eastern Lane, with a theatre and cinema.
- Radio Rooms, 95 Main St Tweedmouth. F-Su 11AM-midnight. A performance venue south of the river.
- Walk: follow the rocky coast north from town to encounter sea caves in the cliffs. The trail along the cliff tops leads eventually to Burnmouth, Eyemouth, St Abbs, and Cockburnspath the trailhead for two long distance paths: the Southern Upland Way to Portpatrick on the west coast, and the John Muir Way to Dunbar, North Berwick and Edinburgh.
- Watch Scottish football but in England. Berwick Rangers are one of the few soccer teams to play in another country's league system, though they are less visible since being relegated from the Scottish professional leagues in 2019. They now languish in the Lowland League, the fifth tier of Scottish football. Their home ground is Shielfield Park, capacity 4100, on Etal Road half a mile south of the road bridges and definitely in England. The ground is adjacent to that of Tweedmouth Rangers, another cross-border club, playing in the sixth tier East of Scotland League. Revving round and round the Shielfield Park pitch perimeter, preferably not while someone's trying to take a throw-in, are Berwick Bandits Speedway Club.
- Beaches: north of town is rocky. The closest sandy beach is Spittal, the sand spit extending south side of the harbour. Another much quieter beach is 5 miles south at Cocklawburn and is the start of the sands that stretch out to Lindisfarne.
- Magdalene Fields Golf Course. At the east side of town on the coast, an 18 hole course of 6574 yards, par 72.
- Boat trips sail upriver and out to sea, in 2023 you pay £18 for a two-hour trip. The landing stage is on the north bank just below the old bridge.
- Sports & Leisure Centre, Northumberland Rd TD15 2AS, ☏ . M-F 6:30AM-9:30PM, Sa Su 8AM-6PM. This has a gym, fitness classes and pool.
- Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival is held in early March 2023.
- Berwick Literary Festival is next held on 12-15 Oct 2023.
- Make peace with Russia. In 1966 a modern myth got started that Berwick-upon-Tweed was still at war with Russia. Historically as the town changed hands between Scotland and England, legislation and proclamations would refer to "England, Scotland and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed" to avoid ambiguity. It was claimed that the 1853 declaration of the Crimea War specifically included Berwick whilst the 1856 peace treaty did not. (This was tosh, as an Act of 1746 had clarified that the term "England" in legislation always included Berwick and Wales unless otherwise specified.) The story was embellished with a supposed Soviet official visit to sign a peace treaty with the mayor, who declared "Tell the Russians they can sleep easy in their beds". The myth gained credence in a Cold War era of the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Mouse That Roared and From Russia With Love so it's a pity it wasn't filmed, with Peter Sellers in all the main roles.
- Morrisons is north at the bypass junction. It's open M-Sa 7AM-10PM, Su 10AM-4PM and has a filling station.
- From town centre you can walk to two retail strips south of the river: Tesco is on A698 west, and Asda (with filling station) is on A1167 south.
- Foxtons Wine Bar, 26 Hide Hill TD15 1AB, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10:30PM, F 11:30AM-midnight, Sa 10AM-midnight. This place gets great reviews for its modern British cuisine.
- Magna Tandoori, 39 Bridge Street TD15 1ES, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily noon-2PM, 5-11PM. Long-standing favourite for classic Indian food, the menu is as vast as the seating and consistently pleases.
- Audela at the north end of the bridge offers contemporary British cuisine. It's open Th-M 5:30-9PM, also for lunch Sa Su 12:00-14:30PM.
- In town centre are The Barrels, The Curfew, As Good As It Gets, and The Brown Bear.
- Along Castlegate towards the station are Brewer's Arms, The Free Trade Inn and The Red Lion.
- Meadow House, North Road TD15 1UR (A1 just north of bypass junction), ☏ . M-Sa noon-10PM, Su 9AM-10PM. The most northerly pub in England (though not the mostly northerly bar - that's at Marshall Meadows). Good bar food and service.
- 1 Berwick Youth Hostel, Dewars Lane Granary, Dewars Lane TD15 1HJ, ☏ . 55-bed hostel in a 240-year-old granary by the riverside, 55 beds in 13 rooms. Assistance dogs only. Dorm £18 ppn.
- Castle Hotel is a clean friendly place next to the railway station. The also run the 6 bed Queens Head Hotel on Sandgate
- Kings Arms Hotel, 43 Hide Hill TD15 1EJ, ☏ . Old coaching inn, some decor tired but good service and value. B&B double £60.
- Premier Inn on Sandgate is a good budget choice.
- Haven Holiday Park a mile north of town centre has self-catering in static caravans, they don't accommodate tourers or campers. They're open mid-March to October.
- 2 Travelodge, North Road TD15 1UQ, ☏ . Good reliable chain budget hotel, value for money. One mile north of town by retail park at junction with A1 bypass. B&B double £45.
- 3 Marshall Meadows Country House, Berwick TD15 1UT (off A1 near border), ☏ . England's most northerly hotel, a Georgian country mansion, peaceful enough as it's set back from A1. Comfy and value for money. B&B double £100.
- 4 Chirnside Hall, Chirnside TD11 3LD, ☏ . Grand 1834 mansion with excellent dining. B&B double £190.
- Allanton Inn, Main Street, Allanton TD11 3JZ (a mile south of Chirnside), ☏ . Pleasant small hotel with good dining. B&B double £105.
Berwick and its approach roads have 4G with all UK carriers. As of Aug 2022, 5G has not reached this area.
- Lindisfarne for the abbey and castle, but you must check the tides before setting off.
- Ford and Etal for Etal castle.
- North over the border towards Eyemouth and Dunbar in Scotland. With your own wheels there are scenic alternatives to the busy A1, either along the coast or through the hills inland.
- Edinburgh is an easy day-trip by train: don't take a car into the city.
|Routes through Berwick-upon-Tweed
|Edinburgh ← Eyemouth ←
|→ Alnwick → Newcastle upon Tyne