There aren’t many places I want to visit after I pass through on the train, but Berwick-upon-Tweed is one of them. As the UK’s east coast main line service turns toward the Northumberland coast, green pastures give way to wide sandy beaches and arched railway bridges. Eventually the tracks lead to Berwick, the medieval-walled, orange-roofed town that sits picture pretty at the mouth of the River Tweed.
But Berwick-upon-Tweed’s beauty belies its turbulent past. Right on the border of England and Scotland, the town has changed hands 13 times, and according to a sign in the 18th century Main Guard museum, it’s the only town in the United Kingdom to have been represented in both the English and Scottish parliaments.
As is the case with many border towns, Berwick is fortified with thick medieval walls, historic military barracks, and a sturdy gunpowder magazine. But there’s more to the city than military history, and I’m here to discover the lovelier side.
After a great visit to nearby Holy Island, my boyfriend and I do a day out in Berwick-upon-Tweed to explore what rivals Durham as the prettiest town on east coast train line. It’s a particularly good time to be here, too, as this year Berwick is celebrating the 900th anniversary of King David of Scotland naming it one of his two Royal Burghs.
We start our trip with the Lowry Trail, a signed path that corresponds to artist L S Lowry’s paintings of Berwick-upon-Tweed. It runs through pretty little streets and around the town’s walls, leading all the way out to the lighthouse at the end of the long pier in the North Sea.
The Lowry Trail takes us by the Main Guard and other historic landmarks in town, as well as newer additions like the Gymnasium Gallery and Granary Gallery. Along with a number of artist studios, they’ve started to give the town a reputation for its artistic treasures alongside its historic ones.
The trail also leads along Bridge Street, one of the loveliest streets in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Shops like Bridge Street Bazaar sell all kinds of vintage treasures, while Marehalm offers lovely gifts and Audela serves pretty coffee and cake. Around the corner on Sandgate is the sweet Queen’s Head restaurant, and down the road is Love Lane, which pretty much sums up how I feel about this part of town.
Also in Berwick are picturesque historic streets and great waterfront views, particularly those over the River Tweed. The bridges are as lovely to look at from land as they are from the train, and even when we get caught in a downpour I don’t mind getting soaked as I take photos.
There’s more to explore during a day out in Berwick-upon-Tweed than what I see in my short time here, but my brief visit has proven that the town isn’t just a pretty facade to look at from the window of a train. While other cities on the same rail line are better known (ahem, Newcastle and Edinburgh), Berwick is almost more exciting because it’s not as firmly on the tourist trail. Yet.