Sep 18 Berwick and Lindisfarne

Two years ago, our lovely next door neighbours moved to Allanton near Berwick.  We finally found ourselves in a position to pay them a visit and make use of their drive (and washing machine!).  Whilst we were there we visited Berwick and Lindisfarne.

Berwick is England’s most northerly town.  It was once Scotland’s wealthiest royal burg and it’s greatest seaport.  It’s strategic location and commercial importance put Berwick in the frontline during 300 years of warfare in the Middle Ages.  From 1296 to 1482 it changed hands 13 times between the kingdoms of England and Scotland:

List of ownership changes

The Tudors were keen to hang on to Berwick and spent vast sums on its defences.  In 1558, just before Elizabeth 1 came to the throne, the new Italian designed ramparts were commissioned.  These walls took 12 years to build and cost £128,648 (almost £40 million today).  The Union of the Crowns in 1603 meant that the town would never change hands again.

Today, you can walk around the walls enjoying the views and the three bridges. The Old Bridge, also known as Berwick Bridge, dates from 1611, The Royal Tweed Bridge is the most recent, completed in 1928, and The Royal Border Bridge is a 19th Century railway viaduct designed by Robert Stephenson and opened by Queen Victoria in 1850.

The Old Bridge with glimpses of the more recent bridges beyond
The most recent two bridges

On the river Tweed, there is a variety of wildlife and a large colony of swans.  It is the second largest mute swan colony in Britain.

There are plenty of opportunities to explore Berwick’s history.  The Borough Museum and Art gallery are within the historic Barracks.  Dewar’s Lane Granary was immortalised by LS Lowry in his paintings and it now houses a cafe, gallery and 5* youth hostel.

Information about ‘The Lions’ – used in many of Lowry’s paintings
The actual building described above

It was interesting to spend time in an environment that had obvious impact on Lowry’s life and his paintings.

The Main Guard, which was moved from Marygate to Palace Green in 1815. Contains the history of Berwick life through the ages

The town itself is quite attractive and the main street is dominated by the spired Town Hall.  You can take a tour around the Guild Hall and old gaol cells.  We didn’t as we had arranged to meet our friends for their own version of a guided tour, followed by a delicious lunch in one of the independent tea rooms.

Spired Town Hall in Marygate

As ever, there was more to see and do in Berwick and we would enjoy another visit.  There is a campsite just across the river with views out across the estuary………..

On the way back to Allanton, we stopped at the oldest iron suspension bridge in the UK.  It is called the Union Bridge and I have included a picture of the history board below.

Iron suspension bridge information
The actual bridge

We just had to stand on it with one foot in England and one in Scotland.  It is actually quite understated, but historic nonetheless.


Next day we had a trip to Lindisfarne (correct name is now Holy Island).  To access the island you have to await low tide so that the road across the causeway is accessible.  We had 6 hours in which to make our trip.

View from the causeway

Lindisfarne Castle is run by the National Trust and as we are all members, we went for a look.  Sadly, it has been undergoing a program of renovation and all the furniture has been temporarily removed.  The castle sits on a small pyramid of rock half a mile from the village.  It was built in the middle of the 16th century to protect the island’s harbour from the Scots but had fallen into disrepair when it was rediscovered by Edward Hudson in 1901.  He was the founder of Country Life magazine and he commissioned Edward Lutyens to turn it into an Edwardian country house.

Lindisfarne castle from the bridge
Castle view from the causeway
View from the castle

The village was busy with school parties and a few foreign tourist groups.  We could have visited the Priory ruins but as it was a bit of a nippy day, we opted for a bowl of soup in the nearby hotel, and viewed it from a warm window seat.

There are some shops selling local produce, honey and mead are popular.  The charm of the place is its remoteness from the mainland and the wildlife.  On the way back across the causeway, we saw a seal in the shallows.  Presumably it was awaiting the incoming tide.



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