Northumberland Coast Path Day 5 (Part 2) – Redshin Cove to Berwick-upon-Tweed

Published 13 February 2022

A rather fancy Northumberland Coast Path signpost

Heading along the county’s stunning coastline, the 62 mile/100km long Northumberland Coast Path offers some of the best coastal walking in the UK. Running from Creswell to the south of the county, all the way up to Berwick-upon-Tweed near the Scottish border, the path offers beautiful sandy beaches, a vast array of wildlife, rare birds, a glimpse of holy islands, and a good dose of history. With a good friend, I walked the trail over five days. Our final day kicked off with another railway crossing, seeing a Holy Island from afar, and – obviously – golf. After lunch it was time for our triumphant arrival into Berwick-upon-Tweed.

We lingered over lunch as long as possible. But we couldn’t put it off forever. At some point we’d have to do the final few miles to Berwick-upon-Tweed. To walk into a place that would be far busier than we’d become used to over the last few days.

Things were about to get busier. And they started a short way beyond our lunch spot at Redshin Cove.

A stepped path took us down to the promenade of the town of Spittal. I’d never heard of it, but it’s long beach got a ranking of the tenth best in Northumberland in one beach guide I read. Although it must be said, eight of the entries in the top ten had also featured in our walk. And if we’re brutally honest, there aren’t that many beaches in Northumberland in the first place.

The Coast Path followed the mile long promenade running alongside the beach. The place was busy, and we walked through the crowds who had flocked to enjoy the sand and the sun. As we walked, we checked out the seafront facilities. These seemed to consist of one building housing a chippy, an amusement arcade, and little else. Spittal felt more like a place the locals went to the seaside than a major tourist destination.

On the promenade at Spittal.

What Spittal did offer in abundance was interpretation boards. There were loads of them on the prom, with information about the variety of wildlife that lives in in the Tweed estuary. And then there were the ones about the paintings of one LS Lowry. Salford-born painting legend Lowry was a big fan of Berwick and the surrounding area. He spent many holidays in Northumberland, and he did a fair few paintings here too. He may have been best known for his industrial scenes, but Lowry also did many featuring the Northumberland coast. Across Spittal and Berwick, the information boards showed the real views Lowry captured.
Beyond Spittal came Tweedmouth. If Spittal was the area’s leisure destination, then Tweedmouth was the area’s industrial heart. Tweedmouth housed Berwick’s port; the lifeboat station too.

Now, if you ask people though what Berwick is most famous for, then I’m afraid neither Spittal nor Tweedmouth are likely to feature much in the answers. Swans may make the cut. The town’s historic city walls are another possibility. Others, well they may well mention the town’s three bridges, which cross the mighty River Tweed.

The River Tweed becomes the Tweed Estuary.

Tallest is the railway viaduct – the Royal Border Bridge – standing 38m above the river. Opened by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1850, this 659m long bridge with 28 arches dominates the skyline. For those riding the trains that use it, it provides a grand viewpoint looking down on the town and estuary.

Its nearest competitor, the Royal Tweed road bridge, is smaller and not as high. It used to carry the A1 through Berwick. At least until the 1980s when the road was re-routed to the west. The Royal Tweed Bridge also didn’t get an opening by a monarch. The duty was instead carried out by the Prince of Wales in 1928. Yes, okay, he’d become Edward VIII six years after, but it’s not quite the same. Especially given Edward abdicated after less than a year on the throne so he could marry an American divorcee.

Best of the bridges though must be Berwick Old Bridge. Built between 1611 and 1624 it replaced an older wooden bridge. For centuries the bridge was the principal way to get across the river. And it’s rather beautiful. Made of sandstone quarried at Tweedmouth, it remains subtle, elegant and rather lovely.

The Royal Tweed Bridge – now the main road bridge at Berwick.

It was – quite clearly – not built to cope with modern traffic demands. These days the biggest users are pedestrians. And whilst it doesn’t have the height of either of its two neighbours, it offers a grand view over the estuary. Which is why the last act of the Northumberland Coast Path is to cross it as the trail heads into the centre of Berwick. Our 62 mile journey was coming to an end.

Our guidebook told us to head right along the harbour front. After a bit of hunting, we found the Anchors Statue that marks the official end of the trail. And indeed, a way point or terminus for several other walks and trails. It’s the southern terminus of the Berwickshire Coastal Path. The northern end of the Pennine Cycleway. Oh and the midpoint of the 200 mile long Coast and Castles cycle route that runs between Newcastle and Edinburgh.

The Anchors. Official terminus of the Northumberland Coast Path (and two other trails, and a passing point for others.)

But for us, it was the end. Time to kick back our boots, pull up a seat at the bar, and celebrate. Well it would have been if Tal hadn’t spotted something.

“There’s a coast path signpost pointing that way,” he said, raising a finger in the direction away from the anchor. The sign pointed towards a path heading alongside the Tweed, and towards the railway station.

It mirrored something I’d spotted on the Ordnance Survey map. The map showed the Northumberland Coast Path ending at the railway station. Could there be two endings? Tal was well up for making sure. Hey, he’s a details kind of guy. So we followed the sign, spotted a second one pointing away from the river. Then noted that there weren’t any more. Somehow, we ended up on Berwick’s high street feeling at a bit of a loss.

It didn’t matter. Tal had a train to catch so we had to go to the station at some point. With a little time to kill, we adjourned to the pub next to the station for that celebratory pint. Tal was heading home, whilst I’d be heading off for another two more days of walking. Farewells would be in order. A time to review, reflect, remember the good times, and shudder at the thought of those less good.

A stray Northumberland Coast Path on the way to the railway station.

The excellent ice cream parlour at Cresswell. The lack of food in Embleton. The beautiful scenery. The buckets of rain. Lindesfarne from afar. Beaches, oh so many beautiful beaches. An excellent pork pie. Room mix ups. And good company.

Before setting off I’d had concerns about walking a coast path. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it. Visions of winding, twisting paths filled my mind. Steep cliffs, and huge detours every time the coast headed inland. Big ups and downs along cliffs. Of walking for many miles up and down a gorge only to end up a few metres from where we’d started. But the Northumberland Coast Path had proved me wrong. I’d fallen for this wonderful part of the country with its stunning coastline, hook line and sinker. The Northumberland Coast Path had been an excellent walk and I’d enjoyed it a lot. A huge amount. Even when it rained. When the heavens had opened on us in spectacular style. It had still been great.

Berwick Bridge – the old bridge crossing the Tweed.

A couple of pints later I bade Tal farewell as he boarded a sleek, modern and very white looking train to London. I potted around trying to see if there actually was a second ending of the Northumberland Coast Path at the station. An interpretation board. A waymark, perhaps. Just in case we’d missed it. It seemed like a good idea to double check.

There wasn’t. The signs we’d seen pointing to the station were presumable old ones, never changed when the trailhead was relocated.

I’d had to find out though. For like Tal, I’m a details man. I needed to be sure.

But with no further answers, I headed to my hotel, then went to hunt for some food. To adapt to being alone. And to prepare myself for the next two days of walking still to come.

A bench looks out to sea at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

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