Berwick upon Tweed
Berwick Northumberland Travel and Tourism Information
Berwick has enjoyed its fair share of admirers over the centuries – some welcome, some not so. The most northerly town on the Northumberland coast, this picturesque port and trading centre was for hundreds of years a much sought after trophy in the seemingly never-ending wars between the Scottish and English crowns.
Between 1147 and 1482 the town which lies at the mouth of the River Tweed changed hands no less than 13 times. Since then it has remained resolutely in English hands and vast sums were spent on fortifying the settlement in Elizabethan times.
But it may not be invaders from within these shores that Berwick has to worry about. Local legend claims the town is still fighting the Crimean War nearly 160 years on! When Britain went to war with Russia in 1854, Berwick was given a special mention in the declaration, but was missed off when peace finally came in 1856.
Are they still at war or not? It is a question that has been exercising many learned brains for decades. But one thing is certain if Russia does decide to invade townsfolk won’t be able to retreat behind the walls of Berwick Castle as it was demolished to make way for the railway line in the 19th century.
The ramparts and military barracks have thankfully survived, however, and are now one of this colourful and historic town’s biggest tourist draws.
From the top of the wall there are impressive views of the Tweed estuary as well as the justifiably famous railway viaduct that crosses high above the river and carries the East Coast main line (Berwick has its own station) linking London to Edinburgh and beyond.
Russians aside, a host of new fans bent on capturing Berwick have come along. But their weapons of choice are not guns and swords but palettes and paintbrushes.
More than 150 artists have been identified as having links with the town, most notable Turner, Mackintosh and Lowry, no doubt drawn by the area’s spectacular beaches, hills, rivers and architecture.
Lowry especially loved Berwick and used to regularly holiday there from the mid-1930s until just before his death in 1976. The Lowry Trail visits many of the sites he cherished, painted and drew.
Inside the walls, Berwick itself is a jumble of Georgian townhouses reflecting the town’s past prosperity and the charming streets, many of them cobbled, feature an eclectic mix of chain stores and independent shops.
Berwick is the cultural capital of this part of north Northumberland and the Borders, and has the Maltings Theatre and Cinema which regularly hosts top touring stage productions and concerts as well as the latest films. There are also many art galleries, including Berwick Gymnasium housed in the barracks.
Berwick is also home to the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival – one of the most impressive film festivals in the North of the UK.
Festivals take place throughout the year, the most famous of which is the age old Riding of the Bounds and Border Marches in May involving hundreds of horses and riders following the old boundary of Berwick.
Berwick also holds a thriving monthly farmers’ market as well as a popular yearly food festival in September organised by the town’s Slow Food Group which celebrates the area’s rich culinary heritage.
The town is the perfect place in which to base yourself to explore the wider area with Holy Island, the historic battle field of Flodden and numerous castles, including Bamburgh, Chillingham, Norham and Etal, all just a short drive away.
Where is Berwick?:
See the map on our Northumberland maps page.