A couple of years ago I went to the Edinburgh Fringe. Rather than drive – I had heard about the horrors of parking, I took the train. It’s a long old haul, and three hours in I was pretty bored. Then I went to a different era.
Suddenly, I was just there, beside the longest beach I had ever seen. Miles of it. Offshore, tankers sat idly in the distance and little Islands – many of them ransacked by Vikings a millennium ago – resting on the waves. A beautiful town…
I decided there and then that one day I would drive that route, and I have, and now I tell the tale.
First Stop – Holy Island
Take the A1 north from Newcastle and look for signs to Beal. You will cross the railway and the causeway leads straight onto the island. Beware, tidal conditions, and weather, can mean that the road is unusable, a good clue is when you can’t see it, because it is underwater, or the waves are breaking over it. A good walk along the beach, looking out towards the island (while singing ‘Run for Home’ of course) and a cup of tea in Beal are nearly as good as the Holy Island itself.
Second Stop – Berwick Upon Tweed
This is possibly the most beautiful town in the entire country, mainly because of the stunning bridge across the Tweed. From the A1 turn off east along the A698, find somewhere to park, and enjoy.
Third Stop – Coastal Route
Shortly north of Berwick the A1 turns inland for a bit. Turn off on the A1107 towards Eyemouth – a pretty little town on an estuary with a good beach, then continue until the road re-joins the A1. The views out to the North Sea are splendid.
Fourth Stop – Dunbar
This is a cosy little town with its own distillery. A little beach offers views out towards Bass Rock which guards the mouth of the Forth of Firth. Dunbar is a good place to stay for the night. There are a couple of pleasant restaurants along the small High Street and houses that tell you that you are well and truly in Scotland. Big, sturdy buildings built to withstand the North Sea winds.
Fifth Stop – North Berwick
Or you could stay here for the night…follow the signs from Dunbar along narrow country roads and the hidden gem that is North Berwick will soon be in sight. There are some seriously expensive hotels on this tiny seafront town. Spending a couple of hours walking along its sea front and into the quaint High Street is a brilliant way to get some fresh air.
Sixth Stop – And on to Edinburgh
The secret now is to stay seaward of the A1. Views across the Firth bring Kirkcaldy into sight, and the mixture of heavy industry, brilliant dunes (we are now in Britain’s links golf coast) and pleasant, quiet villages – Gullane, Longniddry can fill half a day, or more. There are many more organised attractions as well along this coast.
Soon, too soon, it might be necessary to re-join the A1, perhaps at the splendidly named Prestopans. From there, it is a short drive into Edinburgh with all its attractions, or if needs must, a left turn to return down the A1 to home. Allow two full days to enjoy the trip at its best. But a full week can easily and leisurely be filled in this most secret part of Britain.