Cream Of The Country: Berwick-Upon-Tweed

This historic town is a real mish-mash of Scottish and English cultural influences
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The Independent Online

This protracted tug-of-war left its mark. "There is nowhere else quite like it," says Simon Hunter, who moved to Berwick from Newcastle five years ago with his partner, Gail Thompson. "Everything about the place is slightly out-of-kilter and different," agrees Gail. "It's not quite Scottish and it's not quite English. It has a character all of its own. You notice it in the way people speak and in various little things that don't quite add up, like the fact that the local football team plays in the Scottish league."

Berwick's historic core is remarkably compact. Its centre is concentrated around the High Street, where most of the shops and banks are to be found. The town offers a good selection of restaurants and pubs - notably the King's Arms and the Queen's Head - as well as a sports centre and an arts complex with its own cinema. Leading off from the High Street and down to the town walls is Hide Hill - a narrow cobbled thoroughfare where a bustling twice-weekly outdoor market is held.

The town's architectural highlights, meanwhile, include the ruined castle skirting the site of its railway station and the Holy Trinity Church - one of the very few built during Cromwellian times. Residential properties within the town walls are much sought-after and prime locations include Palace Green and Palace Street at the bottom of Hide Hill, where one finds a good selection of Georgian townhouses, and along the Quay Walls where imposing 17th-century stone houses enjoy spectacular views over the River Tweed.

Berwick is also famed for its bridges. These include Robert Stevenson's Royal Border Bridge, and the 17th-century sandstone Old Bridge spanning the river to the neighbouring Tweedmouth dockland area. Although just a five-minute walk away from the centre, properties here tend to be significantly cheaper than those found within the walls. It is in Tweedmouth that the river broadens out into a mud-flat estuary before leading out into the North Sea a few miles away, at the pretty coastal village of Bamburgh, with its spectacular stretches of sandy beaches.

Beyond Bamburgh and across Budle Bay lies Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne, that can only be accessed at low tide via a causeway. Holy Island is an ancient Christian site steeped in folklore. Architectural sites of interest on the island include a ruined Norman priory and a 16th-century castle.

Heading north from here towards the little fishing village of Coldingham and St Abbs Head, the coastal scenery becomes increasingly wild and rugged. Following the River Tweed inland from Berwick, meanwhile, offers fine fishing opportunities and some equally spectacular landscapes of wooded hills and hamlets dotted with castles and historic ruins.

"Berwick-upon-Tweed was for a long time a secret but word of its many attractions has gradually spread and we are now seeing an increasing number of people moving into the area," says Kirsty Lauder, of the local estate agent Edwin Thompson.

Many of the newcomers are retired people and southerners looking to buy holiday homes. However, the town is also becoming increasingly popular among young urban professionals like the Thompsons, who have both kept up their old jobs in Newcastle, a 40min train journey away.

There has also recently been a marked increase in the number of people moving into the town from north of the border, especially from Edinburgh, where property prices are often as much as four times higher.

The lowdown

Cost of living: One-bedroom flats from £90,000; two-bedroom terraced houses in Tweedmouth from £140,000; three-bedroom houses within the town walls from £175,000; four-bedroom period houses from £200,000; five-bedroom houses from £250,000.

Attractions: Ruined castle

and 14th-century town walls, 17th-century sandstone Old Bridge, plus a fine selection of Georgian townhouses and stone dwellings adjoining the walls; good schools; spectacular surrounding countryside and coastline; sports centre and arts complex.

How to get there: Frequent trains from Berwick-upon-Tweed station to Newcastle (40min), Edinburgh (40min) and London (3.5 hours).

Drawbacks: Lack of parking.

USP: Unique blend of Scottish and English cultural influences.