Berwickshire Coastal Path – Introduction

Published 20 March 2022. Last updated 10 April 2022

Half a mile to Scotlandcestershire.

The Berwickshire Coastal Path is 30mile/48km walk along the dramatic coastline of the historic county of Berwickshire, in the Scottish Borders. From just within England at Berwick-upon-Tweed, the trail weaves north through fishing villages, resorts, and nature reserves before meeting with the Southern Upland Way at Cockburnspath. It’s a walk I did over two days in the summer of 2021.

Logistically it made the most sense. I was in Berwick-upon-Tweed. And that town marked the southern terminus of the Berwickshire Coastal Path. The obvious thing was to walk north. But logically it made most sense for me to walk the trail south and end in Berwick.

There were good, valid reasons for this. They included the fact that the northern end of the trail was at Cockburnspath. I knew Cockburnspath. I’d visited it ten years earlier when I’d walked the Southern Upland Way, which ends there. I knew that it’s a small village consisting of some houses, a shop, a car mechanic’s garage, and a bus stop. A bus stop served by a bus every two hours. In 2011 it had an hourly bus. Such is progress.

But in short, there’s nothing much to detain you in Cockburnspath. No pub to celebrate in. No B&B to stay at. Not even a railway station from which to zoom home from.

St Abbs Lighthouse on the Berwickshire Coastal Path

Ah, the train. That’s the other good reason. After two days of walking the Berwickshire Coastal Path, I needed to get a train home. And because Cockburnspath doesn’t have a railway station, I’d need to board that train in Berwick. If I ended in Berwick all I’d need to do was wander over from the trail’s terminus to the station and head home. But if I finished at Cockburnspath I’d have to catch for one of those infrequent buses. And if I missed one, there would be a long wait, with little to entertain me

All this I knew to be true and sensible as I left my hotel on the morning of the first day. I had plenty of time to get the 0810 bus to Cockburnspath. It was obvious that I should walk to the bus stop, pay my fare, and take a ride north, then start walking south. It just… made… sense…

But it felt wrong. My heart was tugging me strongly to walk north. My head said, “c’mon dude!”. My heart said, “be crazy!”

There was a reason for this. I’d arrived in Berwick the day before having spent five days walking the Northumberland Coast Path. I’d walked that trail from the south to the north. To now start going the other way round, well it felt wrong. So wrong that this kept going through my mind as I walked to the bus stop.

It was logic vs emotion.

And in the end, emotion won.

Nisbets Tower and Eyemouth Harbour, on the Berwickshire Coastal Path

At 30 miles long, the Berwickshire Coastal Path is only a tiddler of a walk. But it’s one on a mission. And that mission is to traverse the coastline of the historic county of Berwickshire.

Berwickshire’s name comes from its original county town. No prizes for guessing that town was Berwick-upon-Tweed. Both have a shared history. In the 6th century they formed part of the Kingdom of Bernica. In the 7th century Bernica merged with its southern neighbour Deira. The result was the Kingdom of Northumbria. And so it remained, until the 9th century when the Vikings invaded and took much of what had been Deira. The rest of Northumbria carried on for a bit longer. But in time the kingdom ended up split between England and Scotland. Berwickshire and Berwick-upon-Tweed landed in Scotland. Everything south, England.

Then came a four hundred year period where the town of Berwick changed hands between Scotland and England a dozen times. Only after the English invaded in 1482 did its status finally settle down. Berwick-upon-Tweed’s been in England ever since, whilst Berwickshire remained in Scotland.

A Coastal Path signpost near Dowlaw

In time Berwickshire became an official county of Scotland. It remained so until 1975, when, after centuries of history, it was subsumed into a new area called Scottish Borders.

Now the Scottish Borders area, it must be said, has no other sections of coastline. All it has is what it inherited from Berwickshire. So I guess you could accurately call the trail the Scottish Borders Coastal Path instead. But whoever created it didn’t, so it isn’t.

The Coastal Path follows most of the coastline of the old county. But in deference to Berwickshire’s history, and for reasons of accessibility, the trail starts in England. At Berwick-upon-Tweed.

The grassy cliff path of the Berwickshire Coastal Path

It’s a trail that’s well worthy of walking in it’s own right. But, if as I did, you combine it with the Northumberland Coast Path, you get an even better walk. A walk where you get to follow the coastline of a long gone kingdom.

I was looking forward to it. Even if I didn’t really have any idea what the area was like. My experience with the Berwickshire coastline was limited to a short stretch south of Cockburnspath. It’s at that point the Coastal Path meets with the Southern Upland Way. The last couple of miles on each trail are shared. But a couple of miles can’t sum up what you’ll get to expect from a 30 mile walk.

I knew there was sea, and some cliffs. Well it is a coastal path. You tend to expect some things. But that was about it. Otherwise Berwickshire otherwise was a mystery to me. And I couldn’t wait to find out more about it.

And now that I’d decided which direction I was going to walk in, I could do just that.

Next time: it’s time to head out of the border town and head up the Berwickshire coastline!


Stuart S

26 March 2022 at 6:53 pm

Hi Rambling Man,
How did it go? This walk is on my ‘list’ to do in May, but nothing planned as yet. It’d be interesting to hear of your experience!

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