Berwick-upon-Tweed has been shaped by centuries of conflict.
Situated on the north-west coast of England, a mere four kilometres from the Scottish border, it was at the centre of a tug of war between these two nations for 300 years. After changing hands between England and Scotland a staggering 13 times, the future King Richard III finally claimed it for England in 1482.
Today’s Berwick is quieter and has a thriving arts scene, but it is also a town that wears its battle scars proudly. From Elizabethan ramparts to riverside walks, let’s explore the best things to do in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
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How to get to Berwick-upon-Tweed
Berwick is easy to get to.
The town is on the East Coast mainline to Edinburgh and the train station is close to the centre of town. From Newcastle, the journey takes just over 40 minutes.
Alternatively, the X18 and X15 buses serve Berwick.
By car, just keep going up the A1 and you’ll hit Berwick. Parking in most of the car parks in the town centre is free with a Northumberland parking disc, available from ticket machines or designated shops for £1.
Best things to do in Berwick-upon-Tweed
Walk the Town Ramparts
Start your visit to Berwick with a walk along its Elizabethan ramparts. This walk provides the best perspective of the town and allows you to mentally bookmark places to explore later.
Known locally as ‘the Walls’, these grey limestone ramparts were built between 1558 and 1570 to keep the invading Scots at bay, effectively turning Berwick into a fortress. The Walls, which are the most intact defensive walls in the UK, are just over a mile in length.
You can hop onto the Walls at any point and the walk should take you less than one hour. However, I suggest that you take more time than this, coming down from the ramparts to explore places of interest.
Pick up the excellent free Berwick-Upon-Tweed Castle & Rampart map from the Berwick Visitor Centre or Visit Berwick Tourist Information Centre.
Take a riverside walk to view an iconic bridge
As its name suggests, Berwick sits on the shores of the River Tweed, offering ample opportunity for gentle riverside strolls.
I recommend dropping down to the river at the quayside and pausing for a cream tea – a must-try English food experience – at the wonderful Lookout Café.
Then walk off your newly acquired calories by continuing to the Royal Border Bridge.
This iconic Grade I listed railway viaduct, with its 28 graceful, semi-circular arches, spanning a length of over 650 meters, was completed in 1850
Designed by Robert Stephenson, the bridge was the last link in the railway line linking London to Edinburgh.
From this point on the River Tweed, a steep wall – the White Wall – climbs to Berwick Castle.
Once one of the most important strongholds in Britain, the White Wall is the only main surviving part of the castle today. Construction of the ramparts made Berwick castle obsolete and it fell into decline. The arrival of the railway sounded the final death knell when much of what remained was demolished to make way for the station.
Visit Berwick’s parks
Close to what remains of Berwick castle are two lovely landscaped parks overlooking the River Tweed: Castle Vale Park and Coronation Park.
The Castle Parks Trail will take you on a circular scenic route through these parks, both created in the 1930s, and along the river.
Follow the Lowry Trail
When LS Lowry wanted to escape from it all, he headed to Berwick-Upon-Tweed.
Over the space of forty years, he immortalised the town on canvas and today you can follow in his footsteps on an easy six-mile walk around Berwick. The Lowry Trail is waymarked by 18 information boards displaying the Lowry painting of that location and providing background information.
Download or pick up a free Lowry Trail leaflet from the Berwick Visitor Centre or Visit Berwick Tourist Information Centre. It should take you around three hours to complete the trail.
Visit Berwick Barracks
Due to its strategic position on the England-Scotland border, for centuries Berwick was a garrison town.
Designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in the 18th Century, Berwick Barracks were among the first purpose-built barracks in England. At the time, they were a huge hit with the townspeople who no longer had to house the soldiers.
The barracks were in use for over 200 years until closing their doors in 1963. Today, Berwick Barracks host ‘By Beat of Drum’, an exhibition depicting the life of a British infantryman.
Also on site are The King’s Own Scottish Borderers regimental museum and the Berwick Museum and Art Gallery.
Take a stroll to Berwick Lighthouse
Berwick has its very own lighthouse at the mouth of the River Tweed, reached by a ten-minute walk along the pier.
Your reward? A glorious walk, sweeping views along the coast and the chance to spot seals or even a school of dolphins.
Take to the water with Berwick Boat Trips
If you don’t manage to spot seals or dolphins on your walk to Berwick Lighthouse, why not try your luck on a boat trip?
Berwick Boat Trips depart from the pontoon on the harbour and there is a menu of options, from a one-hour river trip to a two-hour sea safari.
Take a day trip to Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Ironically, one of the best things to do in Berwick is to get out of Berwick for the day. And I don’t mean that unkindly.
Berwick is the best base for visiting the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, especially if, like me, you don’t have a car.
Steeped in history and surrounded by wild coastal beauty, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a very special place. Unchanged from the time when Vikings raided its shores, and accessed by a dramatic causeway from the mainland, Lindisfarne fires the imagination like few other places I have visited.
Where to stay in Berwick-upon-Tweed
For a town of its size, Berwick has a good choice of places to stay, most of which are guest houses or bed & breakfasts. Because of its size, location should not be an issue.
Alannah House – I stayed in this bed & breakfast close to Berwick Barracks. Lynn and Steve are great hosts and serve a fabulous breakfast.
Here are some alternative choices that I have found:
Premier Inn – I love a good Premier Inn, and one of the newest additions to this budget chain can be found slap-bang in the centre of Berwick.
YHA Berwick – if you’re travelling on a budget, I spied this YHA property on my ramparts walk. Although staying in a youth hostel isn’t usually in line with flashpacking style, I would seriously consider YHA Berwich for a return visit. This Grade II listed building is a converted 240-year-old former granary and offers rooms with en-suite bathrooms and dorm rooms.
Berwick-upon-Tweed: Final thoughts
Confession time. The main reason I visited Berwick-upon-Tweed was for the opportunity to take a day trip to Lindisfarne.
But with its rich history, an easy-going and friendly vibe and sensational scenery this under-rated town offers so much more. Go before the word gets out.