The Royal Burgh of North Berwick is a beautiful coastal town in the South East of Scotland! It has often been referred to as the Biarritz of the North and as such has been host to many a royal or politician in its time! It is situated in the county of East Lothian which, itself, is known as Edinburghs playground owing to the number of visitors from Edinburgh that the town and nearby countryside affords.
It has also recently been featured on TV owing to the amazing gannet colony situated on Bass Rock (see below). The attractions of North Berwick are so plentiful that it would be impossible to include them all in this review! However, I have tried below to give you what I perceive to be the most important information to consider when you are deliberating about where to go on your next holiday / weekend break /day out!
North Berwick is a lovely coastal town situated on the East coast of Scotland. It is approximately 25 miles East of Edinburgh with a regular (hourly off-peak) train service to / from central Edinburgh (Waverley Station) which takes approximately 35 minutes. There is also a regular bus service from Edinburgh. Access by car is easy as North Berwick is only about 8 miles off the A1.
1. The Sea / Coast!
North Berwick has two beautiful sandy beaches East and West beach, as well as other lovely beaches and bays along the nearby coast. An Australian friend of mine once remarked, in surprise or was it shock(!), that the sand was as soft as that found in Sydney! There is also a boating pond on East Beach that the children use for paddling when it is not being used for model boating enthusiasts on Sunday mornings!
The town also has a lovely harbour and as such there is ample opportunity for sailing and other water sports. East Lothian Yacht Club is based near the harbour and runs sailing courses for beginners or more experienced sailors during the summer. There are also regular dinghy racing competitions held at North Berwick throughout the summer which are amazing to watch! Allegedly, there is even a bunch of surfing fanatics that regularly go out and test the waves along the coast every Sunday morning!!
There are also several companies that offer daily boat trips during the summer season around the bay including trips around Bass Rock (see below). During these boat trips expect to see an abundance of wildlife including puffins (June, July), seals basking on the island rocks and other seabirds. A dolphin was also spotted last year along the coast! Additionally, the town attracts many divers and there is the opportunity for diving tuition offered by a local company.
2. Bass Rock and The Scottish Seabird Centre.
North Berwick is also well-known for Bass Rock, an island off the coast that hosts the largest Gannet colony in Europe. The view of the sun shining on the colony while the Gannets are there (early to late summer) is truly spectacular as if the rock is covered in snow! North Berwick also has the newly opened Scottish Seabird Centre that is a major tourist attraction in Scotland. At the centre, you can take time having a meal or aperitif on their terrace overlooking the waves breaking onto the rocks below, before you view via telescopes the birds on the nearby islands. There are also live cameras on Bass Rock to see the Gannets in action from the comfort of the Seabird centre!
3. Walks / Cycling
If you are not totally enamoured by the idea of sitting on the beach all day, then there are plenty of lovely walks along the coast. Or if you wake up felling totally energised then there is always The Law to climb. The Law is an extinct volcano that overshadows the town and is a must to climb for the view of the coast and surrounding countryside! It takes about 20 minutes to climb / walk along the track to the top! North Berwick has a New Years Day tradition whereby several brave souls, including one of the reverends, climb to the top to partake in a hot drink and minced pies followed by joining hundreds of people on the beach to watch several even braver souls take a New Years day swim! There were about 30 swimmers this year!
4. Castle ruins, Kirks & Witches!
If castle ruins are more your thing, then there is always nearby Tantallon Castle to visit! This is a beautiful ruin that sits on the coast East of North Berwick and well worth a visit! Within the town itself, there are two old Kirks to see! The Auld Kirk, near the Seabird Centre, is of particular interest as it is not only of archaeological interest but is also the place where the witches of East Lothian were accused of using witchcraft to summon up a storm in attempt to drown King James VI of Scotland (who later became James I of England). As legend goes, the witched were tried, found guilty and put to death!
It is impossible to write a review about North Berwick without mentioning Golf! Im told that there are 16 golf courses in East Lothian! There is the famous Muirfield Golf Course in nearby Gullane as well as other competition golf courses nearby! There are three golf courses within the town itself where you can play alongside the coast enjoying the spectacular views! As Im not a golf buff myself, I will leave it up to you to further research all the golfing opportunities!!
6. Outwith North Berwick:
Being so close to Edinburgh and with a rail service to the capital, North Berwick is an ideal town to stay in if you want to visit Edinburgh a few times during your stay! Also of interest in East Lothian is the nearby Museum of Flight which now hosts Concorde! Exploring the surrounding countryside is sure to delight children with the Highland cattle, sheep and more rare animals to be found in the fields!
North Berwick - The Town itself:
There are a host of lovely shops dotted along the High Street, ranging from little gift shops to little supermarkets. There is a fantastic butcher in the town and lovely delicatessens to visit / use! There is also a very good wine specialist on the High street. A larger supermarket is situated on the outskirts of the town.
2. Activities within the town:
North Berwick seems to have something on throughout the year! Whether its the regular musical concerts held in the local Blackadder Church or the Art shows held in the Hope Rooms or the other events, there is something for everyone! There is an annual lifeboat fete (July) and the renowned Highland Games that take place in August. There is also an annual raft race where you can watch the locals or tourists attempting to survive the sea course without capsizing!! Also, throughout the summer, you will hear the local Bagpipers practising for the piping competitions often you can see them walking down one of the main streets! They generally practise on Wednesday evenings near the Information Centre!
3. For Children:
If your children get bored of the sea there is always the two parks to visit and explore! One of the parks has a roller-skating ramp while they both have swings and such like! Of course, being a coastal town, you are never far away from an ice-cream van in the summer! The seabird centre also regularly arranges entertainment for children and the fetes / Highland Games cater extremely well to children. There is also a popular park about 12 miles away that has a variety of animals (goats, sheep, chickens etc) wandering around with you and a train that takes you around the outskirts of the park to see the bigger animals (e.g. llamas). Highly recommended to keep children happy for a couple of hours!!!
Accommodation / Eating:
As you would expect, there is an abundance of accommodation to be found in North Berwick. There are several bed & breakfasts and several hotels. There is also a letting agent in the High Street which offers good quality self-catering accommodation. The hotels range from small hotels (5 bedrooms) to the large (80 bedrooms) and the price varies as well. Several of the hotels have their own website. There are also at least two caravan parks near the town one of which is a Caravan Club site.
Restaurants / cafes are plentiful! For example, there is a lovely French / Scottish restaurant on the High Street and a lovely newly refurbished tapas bar / brasserie in one of the hotels. Take away outlets are also in abundance. Restaurants to be found in North Berwick include: Chinese, Thai, Indian, French/Scottish, Scottish, British(?!), Italian, and a seafood restaurant! Afternoon Teas are available at several of the hotels and cafes. There are a number of pubs / bars scattered around the town with two of them offering live music (ranging from traditional to more modern) on Friday and Saturday nights
I cannot recommend North Berwick enough whether it is for a holiday or a day trip! North Berwick also has its own website (free & with no adverts!) which you can easily find using any search engine! On this website, you can check out accommodation / things to do / events happening etc. and view pictures of the town and see what I mean!