England’s most northerly town – only two miles from the Scottish border – Berwick-upon-Tweed has a lot to offer anyone who visits. A cluster of historic buildings set in Elizabethan ramparts, it’s one of the best preserved walled towns in Europe. It photographs beautifully, with its three distinctive bridges, its hilly streets of Georgian stonework, the town hall’s clock tower rising above the market square on ancient Marygate, wharfs and quay walls and a long lighthouse pier trailing into the Tweed Estuary. But what’s it like to live there?

Local resident Sarah Watson can’t think of anywhere she’d rather be. ‘Berwick is a little honeypot,’ she says. ‘People say it’s like a mini York, but it still feels undiscovered.’

Sarah moved from Newcastle to remote Northumberland five years ago, partly to give her two children, now aged 12 and 13, a better life, partly to fulfil her dream of running her own restaurant. Two years later, she and a business partner opened Audela on Bridge Street.

For Sarah, the advantages of Berwick life include fresh air, a low cost of living (house prices are at least 30 per cent below the national average) and a low crime rate. ‘It’s a very safe place for children to grow up in,’ she says. And she raves about the wildly beautiful landscapes of coastal Northumberland – one of the least populated counties in the British Isles – with its creamy beaches and haunting castles. ‘We have some of the best views in the UK,’ she adds.

One of the things she loves to do is walk to Tweedmouth and Spittal, on the other side of the river, crossing the Old Bridge (Grade I-listed and dating from Jacobean times). She likes to see the trains zipping across Robert Stephenson’s Royal Border Bridge, with its colourful evening light show. ‘And I never get tired of walking the ramparts,’ she says. On a clear day, you can see right across the sea to Holy Island and the castles at Bamburgh and Lindisfarne.


Among Berwick-on-Tweed’s huddle of listed buildings (around 260 of them in total), there are some handsome properties – most of them Georgian and built of rugged brown stone, typical of the Scottish borders. Premium streets include Ravensdowne (once named in The Times’ top 10 smartest streets in Britain), Castle Terrace (handy for the station), Quay Walls (overlooking the River Tweed), and, on the seafront walk to the lighthouse, Pier Road. Tweedmouth, on the other side of the estuary, is more industrial, not as pretty, nor as desirable, but it does have some good-value houses – and the best views of Berwick’s distinctive townscape. Prices range from around £120,000 for a one-bedroom house in Spittal up to £495,000 for a six-bedroom, semi-detached house in Berwick.


For days out, head for the magnificent castles at Bamburgh or Alnwick, explore Holy Island, or the long, lonely beaches which line the dramatic Northumberland coast. Try salmon fishing on the River Tweed, or a round of seaside golf at Berwick’s own Magdalene Fields – for stunning views of Scotland from the eighth hole. The Maltings Theatre and Cinema offers a diverse programme of entertainment, as well as hosting the Berwick Film Festival in September. In town, there’s a twice-weekly charter market on Marygate, and some good local restaurants, including Audela, a tearoom and restaurant specialising in seasonal British cuisine. For more information, see visitnorthumberland.com.


Berwick was founded on shipping, salmon fishing and defence and Tweedmouth still has a small cargo dock, but the majority of jobs are in tourism, the service sector or in larger towns and cities. On the map it looks rather remote, but the little town has great connections: on the East Coast mainline, Berwick is a station stop on the London-to-Edinburgh route. By rail, you can be in Edinburgh or Newcastle In 45 minutes (both cities have international airports); getting to King’s Cross takes around three and a half hours.


Berwick’s Middle School is rated Good by Ofsted, while Berwick Academy is deemed to be in need of improvement. Longridge Towers, a co-ed boarding school, is just outside the town.

The town has a small cottage hospital, but the nearest A&E is at Wansbeck General at Ashington, which is 50 miles away. Shopping is a bit limited – though there are some nice little boutiques, particularly good for homewares and antiques (check out Bridge Street). Berwick can feel somewhat desolate in winter, but, according to Sarah, there’s always something going on – and, for a city fix, Newcastle is just down the road.