A Day in North Berwick, Scotland: 18 Things to Do

Nestled on the east coast of Scotland, North Berwick is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. This seaside escape is located about 20 miles from Edinburgh and has all the ingredients for a perfect day trip from Edinburgh.

With its stunning beaches, historic sites, breathtaking scenery, captivating atmosphere and abundant wildlife, North Berwick is undeniably one of the most charming seaside towns in Scotland.

There is nothing like the smell of salty sea air and the sound of the waves crashing into shore. North Berwick is home to two excellent sandy beaches. The quaint shops, restaurants, and pubs provide a perfect end to a day of adventure.

In this guide, you will find everything you need to plan a perfect holiday or a day trip to North Berwick, with our personal recommendations on the best things to do and where to eat. So, be sure to add this pretty town to your Scotland itinerary.

18 Best Things to Do in North Berwick

1. Build Sandcastles and Paddle on Milsey Bay Beach

Situated on the eastern side of the North Berwick Harbour, Milsey Bay Beach is a must-visit for anyone travelling to this seaside town.

In hot summer days, it’s a busy spot with locals and tourists coming from Edinburgh and nearby areas for a beach day.

Stretched around a mile, this golden sandy beach is a perfect place to stretch your legs and enjoy a stroll with lovely views. Out of the two beaches of North Berwick, Milsey Bay Beach is our favourite. 

You will get a wonderful view of the Bass Rock from here. The further you walk, the view of Bass Rock keeps getting better. 

Kids will have a great time exploring the small rock pools along the shore. Plus, there is a tide-filled boating pond. In summer, you will find families swimming and paddling here. 

2. Take a Boat Cruise to See the Bass Rock

Sitting dramatically on the Firth of Forth, Bass Rock is one of the best places to visit in North Berwick for all nature enthusiasts and avid bird watchers. This striking geological feature is renowned as the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets. 

During the breeding season, over 150,000 gannets live here. They arrive in late February and depart at the end of October. Other than the gannets, keep your eyes peeled for puffins, guillemots, razorbills and various other seabirds.

If you are a wildlife enthusiast, you will also love the village of St Abbs in the Scottish Borders, which takes about 45 minutes from North Berwick.

To visit Bass Rock and learn about its rich history, take a boat tour from the Seabird Centre. Explore the Lighthouse and the ruins of a 17th-century prison that once held political and religious prisoners.

We highly recommend climbing the North Berwick Law and visiting Seacliff Beach for a stunning view of the Bass Rock.

3. Explore the Colourful History of Tantallon Castle

Perched dramatically over a cliff on one side, the magnificent ruins of Tantallon Castle are a must-visit attraction for all history buffs visiting North Berwick. 

This imposing fortress was built in the mid-14th century and once was a stronghold of the influential Douglas family. It played a crucial role in Scotland’s history, enduring several sieges and battles, including the siege by Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1651, which left the castle severely damaged.

While here, visitors can explore the great hall, the dungeon, and the keep. Also, climb the castle tower to marvel at the stunning view of the Bass Rock, the Firth of Forth and surrounding countryside.

The castle has been featured in several movies and TV shows, including Under the Skin and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

Tantallon Castle is located only three miles east of North Berwick. You can catch a local bus service 120, operated by Eve Coaches, which takes only 10 minutes to get here.

4. Enjoy the Endless Views from the North Berwick Law

For breathtaking views of the sea and the Bass Rock, take a short hike to North Berwick Law. The walk takes about 30-45 minutes, and the trail is easy to follow.

Created by volcanic activities millions of years ago, this steep conical hill is a landmark of this coastal town, dominating its skyline. 

The trail starts from the car park at the foot of the Law and winds through grassy slopes and rocky outcrops. There are places along the way where you can rest and take in the views.

From the summit, admire the awe-inspiring views over North Berwick, the Firth of Forth, Bass Rock, Craigleith and the countryside of East Lothian. On clear days, you can even spot Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

Also, you will find the replica of whale jawbones, which makes a great photo point. Near the summit, look for the ruined naval signal station used during the Napoleonic Wars and the Second World War.

5. Visit the Scottish Seabird Centre

Located in the historic North Berwick Harbour, the Scottish Seabird Centre provides a fascinating insight into Scotland‘s rich and diverse marine life and seabird populations.

For an up-close encounter with aquatic wildlife, they offer various boat tours. From relaxing cruises around the Bass Rock to extended excursions to the Isle of May – These tours provide excellent opportunities to see seals, dolphins, and the spectacular seabird colonies.

If you are lucky, you might even spot dolphins and whales during your tour. Not to mention, you will get a cracking view of North Berwick from the boat.

Also, during your visit, you can enjoy several interesting interactive displays and educational exhibits. Plus, there are live cameras to observe seabirds, including puffins, gannets, shags and cormorants, on nearby islands such as the Bass Rock and the Isle of May.

6. Tuck into Fresh Seafood at The Lobster Shack

For all seafood lovers visiting North Berwick, The Lobster Shack is an unmissable destination. Located on the scenic harbour, this small eatery is known for serving fresh and locally sourced seafood.

Their menu offers an array of seafood dishes. You can get their freshly caught lobster, which is cooked to perfection and served with melted butter and lemon.

Other popular dishes include lobster rolls, crab sandwiches, fish and chips. Their specials often include dishes such as grilled sea bass, fish tacos, and seafood chowder. 

The seating arrangement here is more casual. Also, you can order a takeaway. There are many picnic tables and benches around the harbourside area. So, sit back and enjoy your meal while taking in the stunning views of the harbour.

7. Enjoy Peaceful Strolls on the Seacliff Beach

Away from all the hustle and bustle, the peaceful and serene Seacliff Beach is a hidden gem near North Berwick. This unspoilt private beach offers a dramatic view of the Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock. We highly recommend checking this out.

Meander around the sandy beach. At low tide, Seacliff Beach reveals an array of rock pools teeming with various marine life. In summer, you can try swimming and surfing. Also, this is a perfect spot for a picnic.

Don’t forget to visit the tiny harbour at one end of the beach. Believed to be the smallest harbour in Scotland, it is carved out of rocks.

Though Seacliff Beach lies only four miles east of North Berwick, getting here is not very easy by public transport. You can access this beach via a private road off the A198, and there is a small fee for vehicle entry. 

8. Stroll Around the North Berwick Harbour and Town

A leisurely stroll around the streets of this seaside town is an ideal way to soak in the unique atmosphere and discover its many hidden treasures. 

Start your stroll at the North Berwick Harbour, a bustling area where you can watch fishing boats come and go. The Harbour was built in the 12th century and used by pilgrims heading to St Andrews

Look out for the remains of historic St. Andrews Old Kirk. There are quite a few statues around the Seabird Centre. Also, search for the Watcher Statue – a boy with his binoculars looking at Bass Rock.

North Berwick town centre is lined with quaint shops, art galleries, cosy cafes, chippies and pubs. If you are looking for a unique and quirky shopping experience, check out Quality Street and High Street.

9. Delve into Delicious Food at Drift Cafe

Set on a steep cliff overlooking the stunning Firth of Forth, Drift Cafe provides an unforgettable dining experience with its picturesque setting. Also, it is one of the best places to eat in North Berwick.

You can pop here for a delicious breakfast or lunch. The menu includes freshly made sandwiches, hearty soups, and delicious cakes. Plus, they offer a wide range of drinks, including expertly brewed coffees, speciality teas, and refreshing soft drinks.

The decor is rustic yet modern, with large windows showing uninterrupted panoramic views of the Firth of Forth, Bass Rock, and the surrounding coastline. Also, there are outdoor seating arrangements and a small trailer for takeaways.

While they take walk-ins, it can be busy, especially during weekends and holidays. So, we would recommend making reservations. Drift is located along the coast, just a short drive from North Berwick.

10. Uncover the History and Heritage at Coastal Communities Museum

Located only a short walk from the Scottish Seabird Centre, this small museum is a must-visit tourist attraction for those wanting to learn the fascinating past of North Berwick.

It covers every aspect of this coastal town, from maritime heritage and social history to the local culture and natural history. Also, it is intriguing to learn about the chronological development of this town over the centuries.

This community-driven museum provides insight into the daily domestic lives of the people who lived here. Various personal stories, photographs, and memorabilia bring the history of North Berwick’s residents to life.

You will also learn about the unique geological formations of this area. Exhibits include model ships, fishing equipment, and artefacts from shipwrecks, providing a vivid picture of the region’s nautical past.

11. Visit the Tranquil Dirleton Castle and Gardens

In Scotland, you are never too far from a castle. Built in the 13th century, Dirleton Castle is located only two miles from the town centre of North Berwick and is well worth a visit. 

This medieval fortress is one of the oldest surviving castles in Scotland. Over the centuries, it has changed hands numerous times, including the ownership by the de Vauxs, Haliburton and Ruthven families.

While here, step inside the castle and learn its rich history. Meander around the beautiful gardens surrounding the castle, which include a Victorian garden and a medieval garden. Also, Dirleton Castle has the longest herbaceous border in the world.

From North Berwick, you can catch bus service 124 and X5 by East Coach Buses to get here. The journey takes only eight minutes.

12. Soak up the Sun at West Bay Beach

North Berwick is blessed with not only one but two lovely sandy beaches. Located on the western side of the town, West Bay Beach stretches along the scenic coastline of East Lothian.

Take a leisurely stroll along the shore to enjoy the fresh sea breeze. You will get a stunning view of the harbour and the small islands of Craigleith and Bass Rock. Also, from the furthest corner, you can see the entire stretch of this beach with North Berwick Law towering over the townhouses.

In warmer months, this is a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing. Adventurous travellers can participate in various water sports such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and windsurfing. 

There is a putting green behind the beach, which is open during the summer months. Golf lovers can play at the golf course, which runs parallel to this beach.

13. Sit Back and Enjoy Some Delicious Gelato

Is there anything better than sitting by the beach and enjoying a cone of homemade gelato? Whatever the weather is, you can’t say no to ice cream, right?

You can’t visit North Berwick and not indulge in a creamy scoop of freshly made ice cream from Alandas Gelato. It is a firm favourite of both locals and visitors. On sunny summer days, there is usually a long queue outside this shop. It is located on Quality Street, just a short walk from the harbour.

From vanilla and chocolate to salted caramel and pistachio – they offer a wide variety of flavours that will satisfy all different taste buds.

14. Sit Back with a Picnic at Yellowcraig Beach

East Lothian has no shortage of gorgeous beaches. Located only two miles from North Berwick, the lovely Yellowcraig Beach is a must-visit for all beach bums. The wide stretch of golden sandy beach is backed by dunes and a scenic woodland area.

One of the highlights here is Fidra Island and its lighthouse, which was constructed in 1885. The island is rumoured to be the inspiration behind the adventure novel Treasure Island, written by famous Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.

It takes around 10 minutes to drive here from North Berwick. Alternatively, you can walk along the coast to get here, which takes around an hour one way.

The sandy shore makes Yellowcraig Beach an ideal spot for swimming and sunbathing. Make sure you pack a bucket and spade for building sandcastles. There is an adventure play area for kids. Also, watch out for various bird species.

15. Take a Tour at North Berwick Distillery

If gin is your tipple, you would love a trip to the North Berwick Distillery. Founded in 2013, they offer guided tours and experiences, where you will learn the history of this distillery and get in-depth knowledge about the distillation process of their award-winning Scottish gins and rums. 

Tours usually last about an hour and a half and conclude with a tasting session. It costs £25 per person. They also have a shop on the premises.

To get here, catch bus service 120 from the town centre. Alternatively, it takes 10 minutes to drive here.

16. Visit the Scenic East Linton

On your day trip to North Berwick, you can easily add a brief stop at East Linton. Situated on the River Tyne in East Lothian, it is one of the prettiest villages in Scotland.

One of the highlights here is the historic Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot. Its picturesque setting has made it a popular filming location, which includes the famous TV series Outlander. Also, it is one of the oldest working watermills in Scotland. 

You can also take a peaceful riverside walk from here to visit the nearby Hailes Castle.

From North Berwick, it takes about 15 minutes to drive to East Linton. Also, you can catch a bus, which will take around 24 minutes to reach East Linton.

17. Hike the John Muir Way

Named after the renowned Scottish naturalist and conservationist John Muir, this long-distance walking trail stretches across central Scotland. 

North Berwick sits on the John Muir Way. Even if you are not walking the entire trail, you can certainly walk or cycle a few sections from this town. It is the perfect day-out option for avid hikers.

Leaving behind the scenic beaches of North Berwick, walk towards the bustling town of Dunbar, the birthplace of John Muir. This hike takes around 5-6 hours and covers a distance of 14.25 miles. 

It takes you through some of the most scenic and historically rich areas of East Lothian. The path meanders along the coastline, offering stunning views of the North Sea and opportunities to spot a variety of seabirds.

18. Explore the National Museum Of Flight

Only a 15-minute drive from North Berwick, the National Museum Of Flight is a great place for all aviation lovers. If you are looking for a kid-friendly attraction nearby, this place should go in the itinerary.

Situated on the historic East Fortune Airfield, which served as a fighter station during the World Wars, this aviation museum houses an impressive collection of aircraft, from vintage biplanes to military aircraft. Additionally, they offer a range of interactive exhibits and educational displays.

You will learn about the history of aviation, the development of aircraft technology, and the role of aviation in both world wars and peacetime. There are flight simulators and several hands-on activities, which kids of all ages would enjoy.

Map of the Attractions in North Berwick

Here’s a Google map of North Berwick showing all the awesome attractions mentioned in this travel guide. We have also added some cafes, restaurants and pubs you might like to check out. Save this map for future use.

How to Reach North Berwick from Edinburgh

This town is very well-connected with Edinburgh and other cities of Scotland. You can use various modes of transportation to get here.

By Train: It is our favourite way to reach this coastal town. Also, it is one of the most convenient and scenic ways to travel. 

Hop on board a North Berwick bound train from Edinburgh Waverley Station. Train services are very frequent, and the journey takes approximately 30 minutes. Train tickets can be purchased online or at the station.

By Bus: Travelling by bus is a budget-friendly option. But they take longer to reach North Berwick. Buses are operated by East Coast Buses. From Edinburgh, you can catch bus services X5 and 124. 

By Car: Driving to North Berwick offers flexibility and the opportunity to explore the surrounding areas at your own pace. The route is straightforward and well-signposted. 

Take the A1 road east from Edinburgh, then follow signs for North Berwick. Depending on traffic, it takes around 40 minutes. There are several paid and free car parks around this town.

Best Time to Visit North Berwick

We have visited this charming town in every season over the years. Therefore, we can say with confidence that the best time to explore North Berwick is during the summer months.

The warm, sunny days are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and various water sports. With long daylight hours, there is plenty of time for outdoor adventures. However, it is also the peak tourist season. So, it can be quite busy.

Spring and autumn are ideal for those seeking milder weather and fewer crowds. Plus, spring is an excellent time for bird-watching. Several seabirds return to nearby islands. Also, you can enjoy the coastal paths and trails around North Berwick without the summer crowds.

We hope this guide was helpful in planning your next trip to this scenic town.

With Love, Sankha and Moumita

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