Before the union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603, BERWICK-UPON-TWEED, twelve miles north of Holy Island, was the quintessential frontier town, changing hands no fewer than fourteen times between 1174 and 1482, when the Scots finally ceded the stronghold to the English. Interminable cross-border warfare ruined Berwick’s economy, turning the prosperous Scottish port of the thirteenth century into an impoverished English garrison town. By the late sixteenth century, Berwick’s fortifications were in a dreadful state and Elizabeth I, fearing the resurgent alliance between France and Scotland, had the place rebuilt in line with the latest principles of military architecture. Berwick was reborn as an important seaport between 1750 and 1820, and is still peppered with elegant Georgian mansions dating from that period.
Berwick’s walls – one and a half miles long and still in pristine condition – are no more than 20ft high but incredibly thick. They are now the town’s major attraction; it’s possible to walk the mile-long circuit (1hr) round them, allowing for wonderful views out to sea, across the Tweed and over the orange-tiled rooftops of the town. Protected by ditches on three sides and the Tweed on the fourth, the walls are strengthened by immense bastions.