The coastal corner of Scotland that is shamefully under-visited

Just an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, Berwickshire is a beautiful region in the south-east of Scotland. Steeped in maritime heritage, it is sadly under-visited.

The coastline runs south from Cove Harbour, just a few miles south of “Sunny Dunny” Dunbar, all the way to the English border, where Berwick-upon-Tweed just falls over the English side (and has fallen over the Scottish side more than once).

Perhaps one of the reasons this part of the Scottish Borders has been overlooked as a travel destination is because it is so unassuming. It is a place of big skies, high cliffs, working fishing ports and quiet beaches, and yet Berwickshire either doesn’t realise its appeal, or doesn’t want everyone to know about it.

In the 18th century, a certain degree of obscurity worked to the region’s advantage, as smugglers brought contraband goods such as brandy, tobacco and tea to the coast, taking advantage of the coast’s many sea stacks and hidden inlets to conceal their cargo.

Today, kayakers and paddleboarders explore these coastal areas to reach beaches that would otherwise be inaccessible, or to get closer to the thousands of seabirds that breed in St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve from April to July.

Further along the coastal route, an outdoor feel has also developed, particularly on the stretch between St Abbs and Eyemouth. This attracts locals from Edinburgh, many of whom have holiday homes here. Some have even decided to move to the area.

It’s easy to see why they come. With a small population and plenty of space to play, Berwickshire is ripe for adventure sports and activities.

Both diving and snorkelling have become popular here, thanks to some of the clearest coastal waters in the British Isles and a soft coral reef teeming with colourful marine life. Wild swimming is also popular – and it’s not uncommon to see people practising yoga on the beach before or after a cold dip – while nature walks are the perfect tonic for the overworked and stressed.

Reasons to Visit Berwickshire, Scotland in 2024

One of the best beaches on the east coast of Scotland

There are many beautiful beaches along the Berwickshire coast, but Coldingham Sands, just a 10-minute walk south along the coastal path from St Abbs, is the kind of beach where you dream of owning a beach house one day. There’s a cool café, a wide expanse of soft golden sand, rock pools, safe swimming – there are lifeguards on patrol from June to September – colourful beach huts, grasslands teeming with wildlife, even surfing lessons.

A little further north, past St Abb’s Head, is Pease Bay, another beautiful sandy beach popular with surfers and families. This time, it is backed by red sandstone cliffs and is within walking distance of the village of Cockburnspath.

Walk through the villages

Alongside sheep farming, fishing is Berwickshire’s main traditional industry, as you’ll discover as you explore its unpretentious villages. In St Abbs, a working fishing port, you can buy lobster and crab straight from the boat. If St Abbs looks familiar, it’s because it starred as New Asgard in Avengers: Endgame – an association celebrated in the visitor centre above the harbour, although not all locals are proud of the link.

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You can buy lobster and crab straight from the boat at St Abbs, a working fishing port – Arterra Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

Further along the coast and a little inland is Coldingham, a conservation village dating back centuries. The best way to walk between the two is to follow the Creel Path, a narrow country lane that fishermen used to take to sell their fish in the village green.

About three miles south of Coldingham is Eyemouth, a harbour town with a sandy beach, a historic Georgian house and museum called Gunsgreen (currently closed for maintenance) which was home to John Nisbet, a notorious tea smuggler, and the secret tea trough to prove it. However, Eyemouth Museum, housed in a church in the town centre, is very open and tells the harrowing story of the Eyemouth Fishing Disaster of 1881, when 189 fishermen, mostly from the town, were killed in a terrible storm. There’s also a decent selection of places to eat and drink in Eyemouth. There are plans to revitalise the town’s historic waterfront which have faced all sorts of obstacles, but with further funding secured in spring 2024, it’s hoped that the plans will move a little closer to realisation.

You can find lots more inspiration for things to do in the area at Visit Berwickshire Coast (

Enjoy nature and wildlife

This region is teeming with wildlife, and the hub of the action is St Abb’s Head, which is a hive of activity from spring to early summer as guillemots, razorbills, lesser black-backed gulls, cormorants – and even a growing population of gannets – fly to and from their nests during the breeding season. Head to the nature centre to find out more about the birds and other wildlife you can see here, or to book a ranger-led walk.

You can also book a wildlife cruise around Abb’s Head with In Our Nature ( This cruise is run by Liza Cole, a former National Trust ranger with over 30 years’ experience, who knows all about the seabirds here.

Seals are also common along the Berwickshire coast. In November, during the whelping season, you can see hundreds of seals – sometimes more – on hard-to-reach beaches along the coast, such as Lumsdaine – but please keep your distance.

You will usually see them bobbing in the water as you walk along the coastal path. In Eyemouth Harbour you are almost certain to see one or two.

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RIB trips from Eyemouth bring you close to the birds and other marine life – Jason Baxter

Led by Tim Grimshaw, Eyemouth RIB Trips operates seasonal (April to October) high speed RIB trips from Eyemouth, which also get you up close to the birds and other marine life (from £25 for the 1-hour Coastal Explorer trip).

For underwater wildlife, book a snorkeling session with Snorkel Wild ( They offer lessons and tours for beginners and families. You can encounter anemones, crabs, sand eels, shrimps and more.

Eat fresh seafood from the coast

In Eyemouth, you can have a delicious fish and chips at Giacopazzi’s (which also serves fantastic, freshly made ice cream every day), or book a table at The Ship next door for a more culinary experience. Check out the daily specials.

A short (but very steep) walk out of town takes you to Eyemouth Golf Club. The Heathers restaurant may look like it has seen better days, but the staff are warm and friendly, the views (on a clear day) are fantastic and the scallops are delicious.

In St Abbs you can get a crab roll for just under £7 at Ebbcarrs Cafe on the harbour, with crab delivered by one of two boats moored on the other side of the harbour. Interestingly, for some unknown reason the locals call crab ‘poo’, but a ‘poo sandwich’ doesn’t sound nearly as appetising.

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Eyemouth, the harbour town, has a sandy beach, a historic Georgian house and a museum known as Gunsgreen – South West Images Scotland/Alamy

If you’re looking to buy local, head to Jarvis Pickle, an artisan pie maker who sells award-winning pies – with fillings including Cullen skink, pork and blue cheese – to self-catering guests who can order and collect on arrival. You can also buy the pies from a number of local cafes, including the Old School Café in St Abbs.

Bottles of the handcrafted Left Field Kombucha drinks, which incorporate the town’s tea history into the fermented flavours, are available to buy from the Oblò shop/bar in Eyemouth. Gunsgreen House has also got in on the action by producing its own gin, inspired by the former owner’s tea-smuggling past. This gin is available to buy from the house when it’s open, and can also be found in some local bars and restaurants.

Important information for visitors

How to get there

From Edinburgh, it’s about an hour’s drive to Berwickshire. If you’re happy to ditch the car for the weekend, the train journey from Edinburgh to Berwick-upon-Tweed on the LNER takes 40 minutes. If you’re coming from London, LNER trains take just over three and a half hours to Berwick-upon-Tweed, from where it’s a short taxi ride to Eyemouth ( It’s a slightly shorter taxi ride from the recently reopened Reston station to Eyemouth than from Berwick-upon-Tweed, but the trains aren’t as frequent. Once you’re in the area, you can walk the coastal path between the villages or use the Pingo app (, an on-demand bus service that makes car-free travel much easier.

Where to stay

Nisbet’s Tower (01890 752062; ), a renovated 18th-century doo’cot overlooking Eyemouth Harbour and its namesake’s former home, Gunsgreen House, is an immaculate self-catering accommodation for up to four people, with a walk-in shower, double bedroom, kitchen and sitting room with sofa bed. From £166 per night, minimum stay of two nights.

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Stay at Nisbet’s Tower, a renovated 18th-century guest house overlooking Eyemouth Harbour

Tower Farm, near Cockburnspath (01368 864 782; ) offers two properties, each sleeping up to 10, for holidays with friends. The Farmhouse (from £1,052 for a three-night stay) has its own walled garden, plus an open fire in the sitting room, while Red Gauntlet (£1,264 for a three-night stay) is a more modern house with plenty of room for two families.

For a cosy stay within walking distance of Coldingham Sands and a good local pub, try Crosslea (01573 226 711; ), a beautiful whitewashed stone cottage sleeping six with a woodburning stove in the sitting room and three bedrooms, and lots of traditional character. From £945 for a week’s stay.

Kidcleugh Hide ( is a contemporary, open-plan, ground-floor cottage for two, with a private balcony overlooking five acres of serene gardens near Duns, 15 miles inland. Four nights from £712.

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Kidcleugh Hide offers a private balcony overlooking two acres of tranquil grounds

Braeview Glamping (07939 119 662; ) is an adults-only countryside resort with just six pods in a green field just outside Coldingham, with luxury beds, smart TVs and optional extras such as afternoon tea – two of which even have outdoor hot tubs. From £450 for a three-night stay.

This article was first published in May 2022 and has been revised and updated.

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