Berwick-upon-Tweed (pronounced "Berrick") is a historic town in Northumberland, two miles south of the border with Scotland. Between 1174 and 1482 it changed hands between England and Scotland over a dozen times, either by conquest or by treaty, and it was protected with stout walls since medieval times. These disputes ended with the Union of Crowns in 1603, whereby King James VI / I ruled both countries, and this was entrenched by the Act of Union of 1707 which created a single nation.
Berwick is therefore in England, forming a combined town with Tweedbank and Spittal on the south bank of the River Tweed, and in 2011 had a population of 12,043. But it's also the main town for nearby villages in the Scottish Borders, the former Scottish county of Berwickshire, along the Tweed valley inland and the rugged coast to the north. Their attractions are also described on this page.
The TIC is on Walkergate, open daily 10:00-16:00.
Berwick is on the East Coast Mainline, with trains once or twice an hour on their way between Newcastle and Edinburgh. These trains variously originate in London Kings 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 above town just north of the Royal Border Bridge across the Tweed, which isn't the border at this point. This is also the bus station.
Arriva Bus X15 runs from Newcastle every two hours, taking 2 hr 30 min to Berwick via Morpeth, Alnwick and Scremerston.
Bus 267 runs six times a day from Wooller via Etal and Duddo, while another six of 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.
By road from the south follow A1, which is only partly dual north of Newcastle. 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 first 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.
- The riverside is scenic along its north bank, south bank is industrial. Follow it upstream from the lighthouse (really just a harbour light) 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.
- 1 Berwick Barracks and Main Guard, Parade TD15 1DF, ☏ . Mar-Oct daily 10:00-17:00. 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 art from the Burrell Collection while its home gallery in Glasgow is being refurbished Adult £6.50, child £3.90, conc £5.90.
- 2 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.
- 3 Burnmouth is the first village reached in Scotland, straggling down the steep hill from A1 to a small harbour. 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.
- 4 Eyemouth is a fishing village on A1107, the coastal loop road off A1. It's a popular base for scuba-diving, with lots of scenic gullies and marine life under the cliffs.
- 5 St Abbs is a smaller and even more scenic fishing village. Scuba diving here is often straight from shore, with the stand-out sight being Cathedral Rock, a double-arched swim-through.
- St Abbs Head is a dramatic headland 2 miles north of the village, where the sea has eroded chasms in the soft rock while hard igneous rock stands out, and seabirds whirl above the waters. It's managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
- See Dunbar for scenery and villages further north along the loop road, which rejoins A1 at Cockburnspath.
- 6 Paxton House, Paxton TD15 1SZ (Off B6461 one mile west of border), ☏ . Apr-Oct daily 10:00-17:00. 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.
- 7 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.
- The Maltings is an arts complex on Eastern Lane, with a theatre and cinema. Box office is +44 1289 330999.
- Radio Rooms is a performance venue at 95 Main St Tweedmouth, south of the river. It's open F-Su 13:00-00:00.
- 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 Old Shielfield Park, capacity 4100, on Etal Road half a mile south of the road bridges and definitely in England. They share the ground with Tweedmouth Rangers, another cross-border club, playing in the sixth tier the East of Scotland League. Revving round and round the 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.
- Golf: Magdalene Fields Golf Course is east side of town on the coast, an 18 hole course of 6574 yards, par 72.
- Boat Trips sail upriver and out to sea, £18 for a two hour trip. The landing stage is on the north bank just below the old bridge.
- Swan Leisure Centre is south of the river on Northumberland Rd.
- Berwick Literary Festival is in October, with the next held 14-17 Oct 2021.
- Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival is also in October, but 2021 dates are tba.
- 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, but 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 07:00-22:00, Su 10:00-16:00 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 11:00-22:30, F 11:30-00:00, Sa 10:00-00:00. This place gets great reviews for its modern British cuisine.
- Magna Tandoori, 39 Bridge Street TD15 1ES, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 12:00-14:00, 17:00-23:00. 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 17:30-21:00, also for lunch Sa Su 12:00-14:30.
- 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 White Horse.
- Meadow House, North Road TD15 1UR (A1 just north of bypass junction), ☏ . M-Sa 12:00-22:00, Su 09:00-22:00. 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.
- 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 lets 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 is an excellent small hotel a mile south of Chirnside.
Berwick has 4G with all UK carriers. As of Jan 2021, 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 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 ← Dunbar ←||N S||→ Alnwick → Newcastle-upon-Tyne|