It may be only 29 miles long but the Berwickshire Coastal Path is a hidden gem. Running from Berwick upon Tweed along the coast to Cockburnspath it connects up with the Southern Uplands Way at its northern end. Several years ago I walked it from Berwick upon Tweed northwards to St Abbs and caught a bus back. The outstanding section from St Abbs to Cockburnspath is high on my list to do.
As for this walk I am joined by my wife and daughter and we will be walking south from the attractive little fishing town of Eyemouth to Berwick upon Tweed.
There is a fairly good bus service between Berwick upon Tweed and St Abbs via Eyemouth so we are catching a morning bus to Eyemouth.
It is already mid-morning by the time we reach Eyemouth and the local shops are proving more of an attraction than setting out on the walk. I end up looking around the attractive harbour before meeting up with my wife and daughter outside the Tourist Information Centre by which time it’s time for the customary morning coffee break. We do eventually set off around this picturesque harbour. There is plenty to see but we don’t have the time to visit the prominent Gunsgreen House so this will need to wait until another day. Built in 1753, the house was once owned by John Nesbit, a respected gentleman of the town who led a double life as being a smuggler and the cellars below his house were used to smuggle contraband.
Leaving Eyemouth, we decide to stick to the coast as there is an obvious path rather than follow the path inland. It does mean dodging the golfers, and asking permission to walk this route they are quite happy for us to go that way. A good and pleasant coast path leads up to Blaikie Heugh which at just over 100 metres is the highest point on the walk. A few people are out walking including a couple of groups doing the ‘Duke of Edinburgh Award’. Along this section we stop several times to admire the good coastal views. My intention is to drop down into Burnmouth for lunch but my wife spots a cliff top seat just prior which is a good spot if a little windy. As it turns out, the small coastal village of Burnmouth didn’t have any decent seats to stop for lunch after all.
To reach the shore at Burnmouth we have to turn inland briefly before taking the steep lane down into the coastal village. The cottages at Partanhill to the north look interesting, huddled in below the cliffs and reached only along a rough track but Burnmouth itself has little to offer other than its attractive setting.
The path out of the village at neighbouring Cowdrait is hidden between houses and the ascent is somewhat overgrown until we reached a field at the top of a wooded slope. Heading south next, we stay close to the railway for the remainder of the walk and the peace is only occasionally interrupted by speeding trains. We are hemmed in between the main line railway and the cliffs. Initially we follow a farm track to Lamberton Holdings before continuing on a good path until it enters a nature reserve where it becomes a bit overgrown for this section. There are display boards every so often depicting the local history, flora and fauna and it appeared that this section of isolated coast was once a haunt of smugglers. We make steady progress south with trains passing by at high speed every so often. We pass a few serious walkers and after a few miles we reach the border with England. Here we make a small diversion to view the historic sign by the East Coast main railway line. Even the coastal path has signs but the one welcoming you to Scotland is much more prominent than the England one. It is ironic to think that this is not only the more northerly footpath in England but England’s most northerly point also.
We soon come to Marshall Meadows with its cluster of mobile homes and caravans which is in complete contrast with the walk so far. There is no access to the bay here as it is ringed with cliffs. My wife is getting tired so accompanied with my daughter I route them inland to the A1 where it is an easy walk to the Travelodge, our base for a few days. Meanwhile I want to see a couple of coastal features at Needles Eye, a rock stack and Brotherston’s Hole, a sandstone inlet a little further beyond. Rounding another golf course I now finally leave the coast and take a path inland before joining residential roads back to Berwick Travelodge.
Berwick upon Tweed is a fascinating town and one rich in history. With so many historic wars between Scotland and England it has found itself in both counties but has been in England since 1482. The substantial Elizabethan ramparts make an enjoyable evening walk as so was the case on our visit. Centrepiece in the town is the fine Town Hall which was built between 1754-1760. The suburb of Tweedmouth is separated from the town by the tidal River Tweed. Three bridges cross the Tweed close to this point with the historic fifteen arched Berwick Bridge being the oldest. With a length of over 1,100 feet, construction began in 1608 and took sixteen years to build. It is now a Grade 1 listed structure.
Alongside and upstream is the Royal Tweed Bridge which was built in the 1920’s and until the 1980’s was the main road bridge carrying the A1 but probably the most iconic bridge is the Royal Border Bridge which carries the East Coast main line some 121 feet above the River Tweed and consists of twenty eight arches. It was opened in 1850 having taken three years to build.