Berwick-upon-Tweed is one of our favourite Scottish towns – except it isn’t in Scotland. (Though it has been in the distant past.) We love its unique historical features, including its notable town walls, plus it has a vibrant cultural life, interesting shops and places to eat. And the folk are friendly. It’s a Scottish must see, in England.
When it comes to Berwick-upon-Tweed, yes, I am prepared to be controversial here, though only a little bit. This fine historic place just happens to be one of my favourite towns anywhere.
It’s just the right size and it wears its history plain to see in the shape of its well-preserved Elizabethan fortifications and its fine bridges across the River Tweed.
In fact, I’ll go further. We love Berwick. OK? That’s just how it is. We go there as often as possible. It’s only got one tiny drawback in our view, for including it in this Scottish site. We will return to this obvious inconvenience further down the page…
You drive through the old walls to reach the centre of Berwick-upon-Tweed by road from the north.
(As this is a site about Scotland, this place to us is a bit exotically ‘down south’. I appreciate this may be a minority angle though. Anyway, it’s got good rail connections too, both from Edinburgh and the south.)
If it’s a Saturday, Berwick-upon-Tweed will be holding its reassuringly slightly scruffy street-market and, judging by the wares on sale, your first thought will be, ‘Heck, how many high-visibility jackets does a chap need?’
But then, they just catch your eye. By definition, really.
Right in the centre, the handsome time-worn town hall is dead ahead.
Easy Parking In Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Park (easy, we usually just roll down through the town and straight out through the walls again and out on to the quayside.
There are usually plenty of other places, including a left turn before you pass through the town walls, the Castlegate car park
Berwick cares about its shoppers, so you can park for free in most parks so long as you use one of these time-disk clock-face card-thingies, which you pick up locally.
After you have sorted out that, then wander through the town and its shops and you can browse for books, musical instruments, heaps of wholefoods and other ethically sourced stuff (mostly on Bridge Street).
Or you could haggle over a set of spanners at the street market to go with the hi-viz jacket. Then go for a walk, right round the old walls.
You can more or less ‘circumnavigate’ the town via the wall-top walkways – always a popular place for folk to breath the sea air and stride out!
Anyway, afterwards, there are plenty of cheery wee places that do decent coffee or lunch.
If you are culturally inclined then Berwick Barracks, in a handsome 18th-century building with its wide parade ground, is very well presented by English Heritage, the down-south equivalent of our Historic Environment Scotland.
The town also has an active cultural centre, theatre, etc, called The Maltings, already mentioned. As a creative kind of place, Berwick is also associated with a variety of artists, past and present.
The painter LS Lowry was especially fond of the town and there is a Lowry Trail to follow, though there are few matchstick men to be seen in the streets these days.
The Granary, as an exhibition venue, between The Maltings and the river, is worth keeping an eye on.
By the way – eating tip – The Maltings Kitchen is excellent for lunch. Delicious menu, friendly staff, great views – its the high set of windows in the pic above, just in front of the Town Hall spire
We go there when we can – which isn’t so often these days as we now live at the other end of Scotland! We miss it though.
Oh, and – drinking tip – check out The Curfew, a very tiny brewery, actually a ‘micro-brewery’, in Bridge Street nearby.
Grab an a top quality coffee from the Northern Edge Coffee Bar on Bank Hill – Open Friday – Sunday 10am – 4pm ( longer in summer.)
Berwick-upon-Tweed also has plenty of beach for dog walking (if you must), though you could also stroll along the promenade at Spittal on the south side of the River Tweed, or head out on the slightly disconcerting breakwater that forms the north side of the estuary of the River Tweed.
To be clear, the breakwater is only disconcerting because it seems to go halfway across the North Sea towards Denmark.
The town’s skyline, with its spires and red tiles, is also eye-catching. There’s only one little hitch here for mentioning it on a site about Scotland. Berwick-upon-Tweed isn’t actually in Scotland, as I’m sure you knew…
Sure, Berwick has been Scottish in the past. In these warring border-lands, it changed hands several times, finally becoming part of England in 1482.
Central to its story is its strategic location on the border. Today, the old county of Berwickshire is in Scotland. The town’s football and rugby teams play in Scotland.
But you seldom see it in Scottish guides, at least, not much after Murray’s Handbook for Scotland, 1894 edition.
In tourism terms, the Tartan Curtain descended and promotional activity was defined by administrative borders rather than what made a logical day’s touring for the visitor.
Berwick Is A Great Day Out!
Irrespective of which side of the Border you are based, Berwick-upon-Tweed is a great day out – and a must-see if you’re travelling north for a Scottish tour.
And if you are spending time in this part of the Scottish Borders, then make sure you take in picturesque St Abbs as well. Plus there are fine coastal walks along the Berwickshire Coastal Path hereabouts as well.
Oh, all right, one more Berwick-upon-Tweed picture then…