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Berwick Town Walls

Explore old Berwick and then take a longer ramble beside the Tweed.

Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs 15min

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Paved pathways and field paths, flood-meadows may be wet and muddy, particularly around high tide, 4 stiles

Landscape Town, riverside and woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 346 Berwick-upon-Tweed

Start/finish NT 998529

Dog friendliness On leads in town and near livestock

Parking Below ramparts outside Scots Gate

Public toilets At car park, below ramparts

Notes Sheer, unguarded drop from outer edge of town walls and bastions, keep to marked pathways

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the old Town Hall, walk west along Marygate to Scots Gate. Immediately before it, turn left to find a gateway on the right, where you can climb on to the walls by Meg's Mount. Follow the wall back over Scots Gate and on past the Cumberland Bastion.

2 The next battery, Brass Bastion, lies at the northern corner of the town. Some 100yds (91m) beyond, a path descends inside the wall to meet The Parade by the corner of the parish church graveyard. Turn right past the barracks to the church, both of which are well worth visiting.

3 Return to the walls and continue around, passing Windmill Bastion and the site of the earlier Edward VI fort. Beyond King's Mount, the walls rise above the Tweed Estuary before turning upriver at Coxon's Tower, past elegant Georgian terraces and on above the old quay.

4 Leave the walls at Bridge End and cross the Old Bridge. Turn right past the war memorial, go beneath the modern Royal Tweed Bridge and remain by the river beyond, shortly passing below Stephenson's railway viaduct.

5 The way continues upstream along an often muddy path. Where the bank widens to a rough meadow, keep along the left side to a kissing gate in the far corner and carry on at the edge of the next field. Eventually, beyond a gate, a contained path skirts a water treatment plant. Turning left through a second gate, it emerges on to a tarmac track, where you should turn right.

6 At a bend 40yds (37m) on, bear off right along a field edge above the steep river bank. Continue in the next field but, towards its far end, look for a stepped path descending the bank to a stream. Rising to a stile beyond, bear right to the main road.

7 Cross the Tweed and drop right on to a path, signed 'Berwick via Plantation', which crosses a couple of stiles to a riverside pasture. Walk away beside the left boundary for about ½ mile (800m). After crossing the head of a stream, move away from the hedge, aiming to meet the river below a wooded bank. Over a side bridge, bear right to a stile and continue through the trees beyond to a path at the top of the bank.

8 Go right, eventually dropping from the wood by a cottage, where a riverside promenade leads back to Berwick. Just beyond the Royal Tweed Bridge, turn sharp left, climbing back beneath it and continue beside the town walls to return to Meg's Mount.

Overlooking the Tweed Estuary, Berwick is a true Border town and, despite it standing on the northern bank, it is actually in England. Yet in the 12th century it was a Scottish Royal Burgh and the country's most prosperous port, busy with the export of grain from a richly fertile hinterland. The town first fell into English hands in 1174 but, for the next 300 years, was repeatedly attacked by one side or the other as each tried to wrest control. It changed ownership so many times that the long-suffering inhabitants must have wondered just whose side they were on.

When the political shuttlecock finally came to rest in 1482, Berwick found itself in England, although it retained the status of an independent state until 1836. However, the Scottish threat remained and, cut off from the surrounding countryside that had once made it rich, prosperity continued to be elusive until renewed threats of the 'Auld Alliance' prompted Elizabeth I to commission new fortifications in 1557. Wiping away much of the town's medieval walls, no longer effective against modern artillery, she spent £128,000 to enclose the town within thick ramparts and complex projecting bastions, from which defensive artillery could rake attacking forces. With hindsight, she probably wasted her money, for the expected attack never came and the economic boost to the town was short-lived.

It was not until the succession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne in 1603 that the town embarked on its road to recovery. The graceful bridge was built and the harbour developed and, by the middle of the 18th century, there was a regular packet service to London carrying both passengers and cargo. For the first time the salmon, for which the Tweed is still renowned, appeared in the capital's markets, kept fresh during the voyage by ice produced on the quayside. The boom continued into the 19th century, with a spate of elegant building catering for the civil, military, religious and domestic needs of the town.

Perversely, the spanner that brought the economic wheel to a halt was the very thing that might have been envisaged to do just the opposite - the arrival of the railway. Whilst it opened up many new areas and industries by providing cheap, fast and convenient transport for freight and people, it did no good at all for the coastal seafaring trade. The port, previously the key to the town's success, gradually dwindled and with it, the trade it had once brought. Despite that, Berwick continues as a busy and attractive market town, with much of interest to see as you wander around its Elizabethan defences, unique for their completeness.

While you're there

You can spend the whole day in the town. Visit the 18th-century Ravensdale Barracks, where there's an exhibition illustrating changing army life over the centuries and the Regimental Museum of the King's Own Scottish Borderers. Other places of interest include the old Town Hall and Main Guard as well as the intriguing 17th-century parish church.

Where to eat and drink

There are any number of eating places in the town that will suit all tastes and pockets, but if you want something a little different, try Barrels Ale House by the Old Bridge, with its interesting selection of soups and baguettes.

What to look for

Berwick is a town of bridges: the delightful Old Bridge, built in 1611, supposedly in response to James' caustic comment concerning its Tudor predecessor; the Royal Border Bridge, designed by Robert Stephenson and opened in 1859 to carry the east coast railway into Scotland; the Royal Tweed Bridge built in 1928 to accommodate the increasing number of cars, and finally the bypass bridge, enabling motorists to avoid the town completely after 1983.

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