Explore the dramatic history and extraordinary architecture of Berwick-Upon-Tweed by walking the Elizabethan Walled Defences. These formidable ramparts are unique to England and cost a staggering £128,648 (equivalent to £5 million today) when completed in 1565 - the most expensive project of the Elizabethan period.
Surrounding the Old Town, the Walls are virtually intact and cover an easy walking distance of just over one mile. A good starting point is at the archway over the main road to Scotland. Scotsgate (1) was enlarged by the Victorians giving access through a triple archway. Facing the arches, with your back to the Town Hall, take the steps up to the Walls on the right and cross back over the main road towards the Tweed. Steps immediately to the right lead to Megs Mount (2), which takes its name form Roaring Meg, the cannon which used to be positioned here. Standing 90m above the river you have a commanding view of the area, with Berwick's three bridges below and The Holy Island of Lindisfarne to the south.
Descending down Bankhill (3) you pass the memorial statue to Lady Jerningham and under the Royal Tweed Bridge towards the riverside and the Berwick Bridge. On your left is one of Berwick's remaining ice houses, which were vital to Berwick's thriving fishing industry as they were used to store ice for transporting fresh salmon to London. The path that runs parallel to the river is the starting point for an alternative Riverside Walk (4). The Berwick Bridge known locally as the Old Bridge, was completed in 1634 and is the fifth known structure to be on or near this site.
Cross over the road at Bridge End, and keep to the Walls. Below to the right are the Quayside carpark and Chandlery building (5), now used as offices and workshops. The buildings along the Walls are mainly private houses, showcasing some remarkable Georgian architecture. Narrow steps beside house number 5 lead down to Sallyport (6) - a passageway between the quay and Bridge Street with its intriguing mix of shops and restaurants. The newly refurbished Granary can also be accessed here, with an exhibition gallery at this level, cafe below and YHA accommodation above. Another set of steps to street level are further along at Sandgate.
Continuing onwards, the Tweed estuary starts to open out. A cobbled slope leads to the Main Guard on the left, which has moved from Marygate to its present position in 1815. The Main Guard houses a history exhibition, including a prison cell for drunken soldiers. Returning to the Walls you pass Wellington Terrace, facing the formidable saluting battery (7) with its 13-gun emplacements guarding the mouth of the river.
Coxons Tower (8) is the southernmost point of the walled defences and has uninterrupted views across the river to Spittal Point, Holy Island and - on a clear day - down to Bamburgh Castle 20 miles away. Now in view is the Russian cannon at Fisher's Fort, taken from the Crimea and gifted to the town. The pier and lighthouse can be seen through the gun-posts.
The grassed area behind you, The Avenue, is an old rope walk, with imposing houses dating from 1720. Ahead, moving uphill, is Kings Mount (9) named after Kings James VI of Scotland and I of England. Steps lead down through the wall where you can stand in the broad deep ditch that served as a moat. The moat was probably only thigh deep but had hidden trenches many feet deeper running through it. Further on, the tall Lions House and Magazine, with buttressed walls designed to send the blast upwards in the event of an explosion. Next you pass Windmill Bastion (10) and Berwick's Barracks, containing the Borough Museum and the Regimental Museum of the King's Own Scottish Borderers. Completed in 1721, Berwick Barracks are the first purpose-built infantry barracks in England. The sloping path takes you to Cow Port (11) the only surviving gate through the wall, with two sets of gates and a portcullis. Continuing along the wall path the large grassed area you can see below is known locally as The Stank's - a mediaeval word for 'standing water'. Next comes the Brass Bastion (12), an imposing corner defence that bristled with cannon. It's walls are 30 feet high, with a further 16 feet or earthworks on top. The original cobbled sentry Walkway w, which ran the whole length of the Ramparts, can still be seen here.
Sheltering behind is Holy Trinity Parish Church, one of only two built during the Commonwealth period of Cromwell. Opened for worship in 1652, the church was built during Puritan times and was originally Puritan in style and appearance - it had no altar, steeple, chancel, stained glass, bells, font or organ. this Grade I listed building is open every day; visitors are always welcome. Turning sharply towards the river, you are now heading away from the coastal defences. The cannon within Cumberland Bastion (13) dates from 1700. The ramparts were Italian in design, reflected in the gun emplacements which would be able to take cannon ball outward to repel an enemy attacking the wall. Returning to Scotsgate your view is of Marygate, the main street, dominated by the Town Hall (1750-61). The Cell Block Museum within the Town Hall houses the original joal (Old English for joal), complete with a condemned call, branding irons, shackles and leg irons and this was one jail that treated women as equals.