Popular with holiday makers, North Berwick is a charming seaside town in East Lothian, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth.
The dignified and slightly faded Victorian seaside resort of North Berwick is 23 miles east of Edinburgh and easily visited as a day trip from the capital. The town's chief attractions are its fine sandy beaches and the two excellent golf courses, the West Links and the Glen, but there are several other points of interest for visitors. For 2 weeks in August, North Berwick is host to the Fringe by the Sea, a popular extension of Edinburgh's Fringe Festival.
Local Sights & Activities for North Berwick
The biggest attraction is the award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre on the harbour. It's a bit like a hi-tech hide, with remote control cameras on the Bass Rock transmitting live pictures to screens placed in the visitor centre. You can control the cameras yourself, rotating, panning and zooming so that you can get the best view possible. Cameras are also trained on Fidra, Craigleith Island and the Isle of May, so that you can watch the puffins too.
If you visit during the winter, when the gannets and puffins have left, you can watch the grey seals with their fluffy white pups on the nearby Isle of May (best time December). There's also a very popular café here, with great views across the water. Opening Times: Summer daily 1000-1800; winter Mon-Fri 1000-1600, Sat, Sun 1000-1730. Tel. 890202, Sea Birds
Next to the harbour are the remains of the Auld Kirk, the 12th-century Church of St Andrews, scene of one of the strangest events in Scottish history. In 1590, while King James VI was returning from Europe with his new wife, Anne of Denmark, Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell was plotting against him. The Earl summoned the witches of East Lothian to the church to meet the 'Devil' (actually Bothwell in disguise) and attempted by means of witchcraft to cause a storm in the Firth of Forth in order to drown King James and his new wife. The attempt failed and, when James got wind of this satanic treachery, several witches were tried and executed. Bothwell himself was imprisoned but later escaped.
North Berwick is overlooked by Berwick Law, a 613-ft volcanic crag, topped by the ruins of a watchtower built during the Napoleonic Wars, and an arch made from a whale's jawbone. It's an easy walk to the top and the views on a clear day are rewarding. Take Law Road out of town and then follow the signs.
Three miles east of town, off the A198, are the mid-14th-century ruins of Tantallon Castle, perched dramatically on the edge of the cliffs, looking out to the Bass Rock. This formidable fortress was the stronghold of the 'Red Douglases', Earls of Angus, until Cromwell's attack in 1651, which left only the massive 50-ft high curtain wall intact. Opening Times: Apr-Sep daily 0930-1830; Oct-Mar Mon-Wed and Sat 0930-1630, Thu 0930-1200, Fri and Sun 1400-1630. Tel. 892727 (HS). To get there, take the Dunbar bus from North Berwick. There's a great beach a few miles south of Tantallon which is well worth the slight detour. Turn left off the A198 at Auldhame farm, follow the road for about a mile to the gate (£1 toll charge) and beyond to the car park, then walk.
Three miles offshore is the 350-ft high Bass Rock , a massive, guano-covered lump of basalt, used as a prison in the 17th century but now home to millions of nesting gannets and other seabirds including guillemots, razorbills and fulmars. There are also puffins nesting on the nearby islands of Fidra and Craigleith.
Local North Berwick Tours
There are boat trips from North Berwick daily between May and September, weather permitting, to the Bass Rock and the islands of the Forth. Trips on Sula II (01620 892838) cost around £9.00 per person and last about 1.25 hrs.
For wider Scottish Tours check out the scottish tours pages
North Berwick Hotels & Accommodation
The Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa, Cromwell Rd, (Tel 892406, Fax 894480). 83 rooms. A luxury hotel, overlooking North Berwick’s championship golf courses and award-winning beaches.
The Nether Abbey Hotel, a boutique style small hotel, which has recently undergone major renovationshttp://www.netherabbey.co.uk/ TEL: 01620 892802 FAX: 01620 895298.
There are many excellent guesthouses and B&Bs to choose from, including:
- The Glebe House, on Law Rd, Tel/Fax 892608;
- The Studio, Tel895150, on Grange Rd; Tantallon House, Tel 892873, open Apr-Oct, at 2 West Bay Rd; and
- Palmerston, Tel 892884, at 28b St Andrew St.
There's a campsite at Tantallan Caravan Park, Tel 893348, open Mar-Oct, on Dunbar Rd, overlooking the Glen golf course.