Berwick-upon-Tweed is home to many a quirky historical fact; from its ever-changing ownership, swapping hands between England and Scotland 14 times, to its supposed war with almighty Russia following its omission from the Treaty of Paris in 1856. Its spectacular seaside views and amazing architecture inspired work from Lowry, Turner and Mackintosh, while the delicious Berwick cockle sweets have set tourists' tastebuds tingling for several generations. There is little left of the famous Berwick Walls originally completed under the reign of Edward II. However, the town was fortified by Elizabeth I in the most costly undertaking of the Elizabethan period, and to this day it remains the only example of its style in Britain.
Today, the town's legacy as a cultural hub prevails. In fact, retail guru Mary Portas recently awarded the seaside town a generous grant to revamp the town centre to its fullest potential, and this isn't the only recent investment into Berwick's rich heritage and bright future. In honour of its artistic ancestry, the Berwick-upon-Tweed Preservation Trust recently led a £5 million project to lovingly restore the Dewars Lane Granary to its former glory, reopening as an art gallery (the only MLA Grade I exhibition space between Newcastle and Edinburgh), bistro and youth hostel in June 2011. The original Granary was built in 1769 as part of a network of mills, maltings, workshops and smokeries that lined the narrow cobbled streets and alleyways. In 1815 it was badly damaged by fire, but the owners were uninsured and unable to rebuild, so it was propped up with buttresses and put back to work. As a result, the building acquired an inverted lean and eventually a complete disfigurement that remained in place until its eventual closure in 1985. Visitors today can enjoy exhibitions from local talent in the Dewars Lane Gallery, alongside interpretive materials and artefacts from the granary which are on permanent display in the bistro
If you'd like to explore Berwick's historic art scene even further, why not take a leisurely stroll along the Lowry Trail? Lowry himself visited Berwick many times from the mid-1930s until the summer before he died, and allowed its sights to influence both his panoramic dreamscapes and his smudged pencil sketches of matchstick crowds, of which there were over thirty in total. Beginning in Dewars Lane, the walk identifies the sites of some of his most influential paintings and sketches throughout the town, allowing participants to follow in his footsteps and experience his greatest inspiration for themselves. It runs for five miles, taking in the riverside, town hall, harbour, Spittal Promenade and many other Berwick landmarks, and is a great way to absorb the summer scenery accompanied by some rich artistic heritage.
Such a trail will no doubt work up quite an appetite, and if you haven't wolfed down too many 99s or classic seaside fish and chips, Foxtons Wine Bar and Restaurant is the ideal location to rest weary legs with a chilled bottle of wine and an indulgent three course meal. The well-established venue, a firm feature on Berwick's Hide Hill for nearly 18 years, provides a top class, locally sourced dining experience, from cooked-to-perfection 21 day aged steak to local seafood delicacies such as Craster kippers, mussels and fresh lobster.
After an hour or two of wining and dining, the Maltings Theatre and Cinema provides the ideal entertainment to round off a superb supper. Indulge in a freshly brewed coffee in the Maltings Kitchen, enjoying breathtaking views across the River Tweed and the Jacobean Old Bridge, before heading downstairs to the beautiful 311-seat theatre, complete with proscenium arch stage, circle and boxes. The award-winning media arts centre boasts a jam-packed programme of over 700 events every year, from live comedy by the likes of Jason Manford and Kevin Bridges, to international broadcasts via their state-of-the-art projection system, bringing world class performances such as the Bolshoi Ballet straight to Berwick.
Of course, if you'd rather spend a summer's evening outdoors, then make your way to Meg's Mount and prepare to be dazzled by the panoramic views that stretch all the way down the coast to Bamburgh and Holy Island, and along the Tweed Valley to the Southern Uplands of Scotland. Said to have been named after a cannon called Roaring Meg, Meg's Mount is a demi-bastion on the Berwick Walls and is famous with locals for the peacefulness it evokes.
The magical healing powers of crisp sea air are no secret, and have been used as a remedy for both body and soul for generations. Combined with some fascinating history and some good old-fashioned pub grub, you're sure to leave Berwick feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Just watch out for the seagulls!