LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Berwick-upon-Tweed

South of the border, steeped in Scots football lore

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

Universally known as the English town whose football club plays in Scotland, Berwick-upon-Tweed overlooks the mouth of the Tweed in the far eastern corner of Northumberland.

Just as this town reflects its history of wars, raids and shifting frontiers – Elizabethan fortifications, Britain’s earliest barracks, the Royal Border Bridge – so this club, Berwick Rangers, hopped from England to Scotland to England, and then back again.

As author Alan Bell entitled his pre-1914 history of the club, Berwick play An International Every Week.

Welcome to Berwick/Andy Potts

Starting life as a member of the Northumberland Soccer Association, the Black & Gold won regional silverware against fellow English opposition, switched to (and won) the Scottish Border League, switched back to English football then, then in 1905 and ever since, have been a special member of the Scottish football fraternity.

The first match to be played in Berwick, in fact, was between two teams from either side of the border, Dunbar and Newcastle, in 1881.

But Berwick, closer to Edinburgh than it is to Newcastle, owes its football to more than national affiliations. Fish played a part, too. Around the time that the club was formed in 1884, it was a Berwick fish trader who provided the space for its first ground. A team of fishermen from Seahouses, North Sunderland, handed Rangers their first defeat, in 1885. Berwick’s stint in the Northumberland leagues proved to be both competitive and relatively lengthy.

Welcome to Berwick/Andy Potts

In fact, after World War I, around the same time that the A1 road was built, connecting London to Edinburgh and passing close to Berwick’s ground of Shielfield Park, Rangers tried several times to rejoin the North Northumberland League, without success.

With occasional exception – most notably, the famous Scottish Cup win over Glasgow Rangers in 1967 in front of a record attendance – Berwick have trodden a somewhat lonely and impecunious path in the lower reaches of the Scottish League. Low crowds, meagre gate takings and a groundshare with Berwick Bandits speedway club have typified recent decades. Rangers almost went into administration in the 1990s – in 2016, even the speedway club was put up for sale.

In 2009, the Berwick Rangers Supporters Trust took over the club and kept the club in the safety of League Two for a decade until the drop down to the Lowland League in 2019.

Away from the SPFL since, Berwick have bumped along with the Gala Fairybanks and the Bo’ness Uniteds, even playing a growing number of fellow former League clubs, but hope is fading of a return to The 42. In February 2024, even the Supporters Trust announced its closure, unable to carry on its selfless work on a voluntary basis.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and tips

Berwick is almost halfway between Newcastle and Edinburgh – Newcastle Airport is slightly closer, 85km (53 miles) away than Edinburgh’s 88km (54.5 miles).

There is no direct public transport from either to Berwick – once you get into town, by metro in Newcastle and by tram in Edinburgh, a regular direct train from each city is 45mins and around £10-£17 single online.

From Glasgow, change at Edinburgh Waverley (overall fare to Berwick £25, 2hr journey time).

Berwick station is north-west of the city centre a short walk away. The ground is on the south bank of the Tweed. The nearest crossing, the Royal Border Bridge, is for rail traffic only, and any walk would involve heading into town and over Tweed Bridge.

Several bus and coach companies serve Berwick, the most useful being Borders Buses, with contactless payments on board and mobile tickets. The 24hr pass (£10.15) includes Edinburgh, Carlisle and Berwick.

For a local taxi, A1 Cabs (01289 308 524/07760 774 938) are based close to the football ground and offer airport transfers for Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Cosy, friendly pubs dot the town centre. Pick of the bunch is probably CAMRA award-winning The Barrels at 59-61 Bridge Street, a revered spot for live music and popular with supporters on match days.

Also near the waterfront, The Leaping Salmon, a former Wetherspoons, is a convenient find on Golden Square, where football and breakfast are priorities – note the 9am opening.

Round the corner, the Brewer’s Arms at 115 Marygate is known for its food but also brings in punters for football-watching on plasma screens. Off Marygate on Hide Hill, the Brown Bear is more upscale while still offering TV sport. Sought-after brews and a sun-trap beer garden provide extra reason to visit.

If you’re coming or going by train, close to the station on Castlegate, The Free Trade (No.75) is delightfully old-fashioned, dating back to 1847 and with Hadrian Border beers on offer.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the ground and around town

Visit Berwick has a database of local accommodation.

There are a handful of modest lodgings on the south side of the Tweed, halfway between town and the ground, but it’s a fair stroll to or from the centre. The best of them is the Rob Roy Inn (Dock Road, 01289 306 428), a family-run guesthouse of five rooms, a bar and restaurant, with views overlooking the harbour.

There’s plenty of choice of accommodation around the historic town centre north of the Tweed. The contemporary and business-like Kings Arms has its own café, cocktail bar and Italian restaurant. The Queen’s Head also appeals to the discerning visitor, its six rooms colour-coordinated and containing pocket-sprung mattresses, its restaurant one of the best in the region.

Right by the station, the Castle Hotel offers a mix of rooms, both en-suite and non-, with its own restaurant and cosy lounge bar. 

For a budget stay, the glass-fronted, quayside YHA Berwick is a cut above the average youth hostel, with private and family rooms as well as dorms, all en-suite. Its Granary Bistro hosts live music and comedy clubs.