Welcome to the (updated) second part of my brief look at Berwick as the star of the Literary Festival (fitting, as a new film about Robert the Bruce, ‘Outlaw King’, was filming in the town when I wrote this in 2017). My last post encouraged you to wet your whistle and whet your appetite in Berwick’s cafés and eating houses.
After all the stimulating Festival sessions, you’ll probably need some fresh air and the opportunity to wander and ponder. Berwick is the ideal place to do just that, enjoying views and wildlife along the way:
- The Walls: No visit to Berwick is complete without a walk round the historic Elizabethan walls. This 30-40-minute stroll offers vistas across the mouth of the Tweed, out to sea (with views to Lindisfarne and Bamburgh on a clear day) and takes in many of the town’s historic highlights including a great view along Marygate from atop Scot’s Gate – as seen and recorded by LS Lowry.
- The Lighthouse: Pop down to Pier Road and take a blustery stride out to the lighthouse and back – it’s always possible you’ll see seals or dolphins – you’ll certainly enjoy views out to sea, across to Spittal and to the north.
- The River: New Road is actually a footpath that runs inland from town along the Tweed to the base of the Stephenson-designed Royal Border railway bridge (opened in 1850 by Queen Victoria) and beyond. Spot herons, seals and otters (if you’re lucky) and pop back up to town along one of the relatively steep paths leading through the beautiful Castle Vale parks.
- The Bridges: If you’re pressed for time, why not simply walk over one historic road bridge and return by the other? You’ll be rewarded with lovely views of the railway bridge up river and, the other way, the coast. The modern Royal Tweed bridge was opened in 1928 and was ground-breaking in its use of reinforced concrete – it’s certainly of an era and usually elicits a Marmite-response from people. The 17th-century Old Bridge replaced the wooden bridges (which were variously swept away or destroyed in conflict) and was funded largely by James VI/I (Scotland/England). It opened in 1624.
- Spittal: The historic seaside town of Spittal across the Tweed is home to St Paul’s, one of the Festival’s venues. When you pop over there to enjoy the programme, do take a moment to walk along Spittal Prom. It’s a classic Victorian promenade – a place to take in the air and savour the views out to sea and across to Berwick lighthouse. If you’re lucky you may see the pod of dolphins that frequents our coast.
- Berwick to Spittal via Tweedmouth: The walk from Berwick to Spittal is an interesting and scenic one but do allow 20 to 30 minutes to get round to Festival venue St Paul’s. Turning left off the Old Bridge you’re in Tweedmouth and you’ll find Riverside Café. As you head on towards Dock Road, several lovely shops including the florist Buds , Dockside Gallery and Nannies Attic are worth pausing your stroll for. You could always stock up on shellfish or grab a seafood lunch at Berwick Shellfish on Dock Road before heading on round to Spittal.
- The Boat Trip: If your sea legs fancy an outing and you have an hour or so between sessions, why not take a trip out from Berwick quayside? The ‘Border Rose’ makes regular trips up and down the River Tweed and out to sea to the end of October.
- The Town and Shops: Of course, you may just want to peruse a few shops and take in the general gorgeousness of Berwick. Such a stroll might include a jaunt north through Scot’s Gate and along Castlegate where you’ll find Pier Red (café/wine bar), and some independent outlets including a couple of lovely vintage shops and second hand bookshop Berrydin Books. Walking back through Scot’s Gate take the right turn just before Fantoosh (café/gifts) and drop down Bank Hill past The Loovre ice cream parlour, into Love Lane and on to Bridge Street. This street is packed with delightful independent shops such as Marehalm (gifts) and Cook, Live, Dream pictured above), galleries such as Foldyard and The Irvine Gallery. There’s a marvellous organic outlet The Green Shop, and The Market Shop a gallery-cum-foodstore-cum-card shop. You won’t be able to resist second hand bookshop Slightly Foxed nor the new paper-making outlet and workshop, Tidekettle Paper. At the far end of Bridge Street turn left up Hide Hill and poodle up the hill past gift shop Decorum to the Guildhall and Buttermarket. From the steps of the Guildhall take time to gaze along Marygate and the facades above the now predominantly chain store outlets for a hint of what the high street once was. Also, don’t be fooled, there are a number of pleasing independent shops here such as local craft collective Serendipity, the cornucopia that is Vintage upon Tweed and various cafés. Another street well worth a look is the cobbled West Street which links Marygate and Bridge Street and is home to Upper West Street and charming independent shops including the jewellery outlet Bijoux and house of handmade artisan chocolates Cocoature.
There are many lovely walks around Berwick and, as you stroll, you’ll probably find some of the narrow back streets and footpaths too enticing to resist. Enjoy!