Wednesday 8 August 2018



Berwick-upon-Tweed is a market town in the very north of Northumberland just south of the Scottish Border and not from the A1. Berwick station is on the train route from London to the Scottish East Coast making it an ideal base to explore North East England and Scotland. It sits at the mouth of the River Tweed and is bordered by the North Sea and beautiful countryside. Berwick has a turbulent history and has changed hands many times between the English and the Scots. The Medieval Town Walls and Elizabethan Ramparts surround the town and enclose the barracks and the historic town centre. The remains of Berwick Castle sit on a rocky outcrop overlooking then majestic River Tweed which is spanned by three iconic bridges.

It is thought that the name Berwick is of Old English origin meaning 'barley village" or "barley farm".  In post-Roman times the area was inhabited by Celtic Britons and during the time of the Kingdom of Northumbria  the town was founded an an Anglo-Saxon settlement. In 1018 after the Battle of Carham control was passed to the Scots. In the reign of King David I Berwick was made a royal burgh, by 1127 the castle had been built and by 1153 a mint was present in the town. Berwick also had a medieval hospital which was administered by the church.

Berwick is the ideal place to immerse yourself in history, walking the ramparts and visiting the ruins of the castle. You can then enjoy the delights of a boat trip, either into the countryside or out into the sea looking for seals and dolphins and finish off with a trip to one of the glorious unspoilt sandy beaches.

During the wars of Scottish Independence Berwick changed hands between England and Scotland many times and suffered a succession of raids and sieges. In 1174 the Scottish King, William the Lion was defeated and captured at the Second Battle of Alnwick. To secure his release, both the castle and the town were passed to King Henry II the following year under the Treaty of Falaise. After Henry died in 1189 Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) became King of England and to help fund the Third Crusade he sold both the town and castle back to the Scots. By the middle of the 13th century Berwick had become a prosperous town.

In 1292 Edward I of England announced his support for the anointing of John Balliol as King of Scotland. However, John defied Edward, thus promoting the First War of Scottish Independence and in 1296 Edward seized Berwick using the castle as his headquarters during his subsequent invasions of Scotland. He oversaw the "sacking" of the town, killing about 8,000 inhabitants and had Balliol removed as King as placed in the Tower of London. During his reign Edward had the castle substantially improved and the town fortified. The town walls were completed in 1318 and were subsequently improved under Scottish rule. In 1297 William Wallace led a Scottish army in an attack on Berwick. Although the town fell the castle did not and the following year Wallace and his army withdrew from the town.

In 1306 Robert the Bruce rebelled against Edward and was crowned King of Scotland. Edward  prepared his armies to march north but unfortunately he died whilst camped waiting. His son ,Edward II was not like his father and allowed Robert to slowly reduce the English garrisons in Scotland. By 1314 only Stirling and Berwick held out. Following the English defeat at The Battle of Bannockburn several attempts were made to besiege the town until eventually in 1318 it fell, followed six days later by the castle. Edward attempted unsuccessfully to recapture the castle, but in 1333 his son,  Edward III eventually managed to capture the town and the castle despite the First war of Scottish Independence ending in 1328.

In 1355, during The Second War of Scottish Independence a surprise Scottish attack recaptured Berwick but withdrew the following year.  In 1461 during the War of the Roses Berwick and the castle was ceded to the Scots by Queen Margaret of Anjou in exchange for support for the Lancastrian cause. In 1482 Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Richard III) captured the town and castle for the last time.

In the 1500's Elizabeth I upgraded the town's fortifications building what are known as 'The Elizabethan  Ramparts and improving the Medieval Town Walls. In 1707 following the Act of Union Berwick remained in England and suffered no further disruption.

St Andrews's church

Spittal Beach

Berwick Lighthouse

Berwick Castle
The remains of the castle lie between the river and the railway station. Little remains of this once great castle whose turbulent history matches that of the town. During the border wars the town and castle changed hands from Scottish to English rule many times, eventually in 1482 being taken by the English for the last time. 

Berwick Castle was founded in 1127 by King David of Scotland and in the next few hundred years was besieged and captured many times. In 1292 after capturing the castle and "sacking" the town, killing about 8,000 inhabitants King Edward I made the castle his headquarters. Border warfare continued and possession of the castle continued to change hands. In 1482 Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Richard III) captured the castle for the last time. In the 16th and 17th centuries the castle was abandoned and left to become ruinous. In the 19th century during the construction of the railway much of the remaining structures were demolished. The station was built on the site of the Great Hall.

Berwick Castle

Berwick Castle

Town Walls, Ramparts and Barracks

After Edward I had taken control of Berwick in 1296 work began on building the town walls. The work was complete by 1318 and subsequently improved under Scottish Rule. The walls, which were 22 feet high stretched for about 2 miles in length and were protected by a number of smaller towers. However by 1405 they had fallen into disrepair.  In 1560 Elizabeth I order the destruction of much of the old walls and the building of new fortifications. The new walls were smaller and enclosed only two thirds of the town, however this allowed for more artillery placements and five large stone bastions. The wall also had four large gates. These became known as the Elizabethan Ramparts. The ramparts are a fantastic place to walk, taking in the sea air and history.

The barracks were built between 1717 and 1721 to protect the town during the Jacobite Risings. The original buildings were two blocks of military accommodation with a third block added between 1739 and 1741. The barracks were abandoned after the Napoleonic Wars but were used again in the 1850's. In 1881 the barracks became the regimental headquarters of the Kings's Own Scottish Borderers until they moved out in 1963. A museum is now housed in the barracks.

Berwick Barracks

Bell Tower

Lords Mount

River Tweed
Berwick is situated at the mouth of the River Tweed and is spanned by three iconic bridges. In the 18th century Berwick became a boat building town and in the 19th century became a centre for the salmon fishing industry.  The oldest of the bridges is Berwick Bridge, a stone bridge which was completed in 1624, although a bridge at Berwick has existed since at least the 12th century. When it was built Berwick Bridge was the largest bridge in Britain.

In the 1920's the Royal Tweed Bridge was built. This bridge was built to divert traffic away from the 17th century Berwick Bridge. Originally all traffic between London and Edinburgh passed over the bridge and it became part of the A1. In the 1980's the A1 bypass was built and traffic on the bridge was much reduced.

The Royal Border Bridge is a railway viaduct built between 1847 and 1850. It was designed by Robert Stephenson and opened by Queen Victoria. The bridge has 28 arches and sits 121 feet above the river. The railway line runs between London and the East Coast of Scotland and the magnificent viaduct makes a lasting impression.

Berwick Bridge

Royal Tweed Bridge

Royal Border Bridge

Other Places Nearby
   Cheswick Sands  
         Holy Island
      Paxton House

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