Things to do in North Berwick – 19 Must-Visit Places in the Captivating Scottish Seaside Town

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Bass Rock with the Firth of Forth sea water and a beach with a dog running on it in North Berwick Scotland.
This dog living his best life in the very dog-friendly North Berwick

North Berwick is a coastal town located 30km outside Edinburgh on the shores of the Firth of Forth in East Lothian, Scotland. The tiny seaside community attracts history lovers with its connections to the Great Scottish Witch Hunt and magnificent ruins like Tantallon Castle, while others are enticed by its superb seabird population and excellent golf courses.

If you’re wondering what there is to do in North Berwick, the answer is: plenty!

Whether you’re thinking about taking a day trip from Edinburgh or you’re planning on spending a full weekend in North Berwick, I’ve put together a North Berwick Itinerary to help you make the most of your time in the town.

Top 19 Things to do in North Berwick

Bass Rock from the high seas in North Berwick (credit: Chris Prior)

Get up close and personal with seabirds at Bass Rock

North Berwick’s iconic Bass Rock is an island that sits in the Firth of Forth and is home to the largest colony of northern gannets in the world. The rock appears to be white from a distance, but it’s an optical illusion. It looks white in colour because it’s completely covered in birds and their droppings!

It’s incredibly difficult to take a good photo of Bass Rock from North Berwick’s beaches without it looking completely pixelated, due to the hundreds of birds that fill the sky surrounding the rock. To get a stellar shot, one of my favourite things to do in North Berwick is to take a boat tour out to Bass Rock so you can see the birds up close. Visit the Scottish Seabird Centre to book a tour.

Spend the afternoon at the Scottish Seabird Centre

If heading out to sea isn’t your thing, spend an afternoon exploring the Scottish Seabird Centre instead. It’s fitted with cameras that let you zoom right into Bass Rock, so you can watch the birds clearly from a distance. There are also cameras pointed at other islands occupied by different wildlife, including seals and puffins which you might spy on the Isle of May.

The centre also features displays of local sea creatures such as hermit crabs. The centre has films and interactive exhibits that teach visitors about the work the centre does protect the local birdlife. There’s also a huge section dedicated to the education and entertainment of children, making the Scottish Seabird Centre one of the best family things to do in North Berwick.

One of the best parts of the Scottish Seabird Centre is the boat trips they offer. Be warned — the boat trips are seasonal and they don’t run during inclement weather. But if you’re visiting at the right time of year and the weather is pleasant, you’ll have the chance to take a boat tour to Bass Rock, Craigleith and the Isle of May.

Bonus: Make sure you take the time to admire the statues and monuments in front of the Scottish Seabird Centre.

The Scottish Seabird Centre sitting just off the cliff leading to the sea
The Scottish Seabird Centre is one of the most popular things to do in North Berwick

The Watcher Statue

My personal favourite statue is the Watcher Statue which depicts a man with binoculars looking toward Bass Rock birdwatching. My friend Chris and I always refer to the Watcher Statue as “Chris’s dad”, as he’s also an avid bird watcher.

Arctic Tern Statue

A beautiful sculpture of a Scottish seabird looking to the sky. I imagine he’s screaming because that’s what birds do. You can see Arctic terns in the waters surrounding North Berwick in the summer months — be sure to take a boat tour to see the real birds up-close.

Catherine Watson Monument

This is the giant Celtic cross monument dedicated to Catherine Watson. She lost her life in 1889 after diving into the water to save some young boys who were being swept out to sea. She drowned trying to save them.

If you’re stuck for things to do in North Berwick in the rain, visiting the Scottish Seabird Centre is an excellent choice because you get to watch the seabirds while keeping dry.

Address: The Harbour, North Berwick EH39 4SS, United Kingdom
Distance from High Street: 0.8 miles (4-minute drive or 5-minute walk)

Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle, which now stands in ruins, once belonged to the Red Douglas dynasty. Despite multiple attacks, the castle held strong until it was finally beaten by Oliver Cromwell’s army in the 1650s.

What remains is a dark history in the form of fascinating historical artifacts that reveal secrets about the castle’s ties to Robert the Bruce, the Red Douglases, failed sieges and other important events from the past. A tour of the castle gives visitors access to the horrifying former pit prison, ruins of the Great Hall and Curtain Wall, and the towering defence walls from where you can see amazing views of Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth.

With Tantallon Castle being just 3 miles away from North Berwick, you can walk from North Berwick to Tantallon Castle — but it will take you about an hour to complete the trek. While in the area, be sure to stop by the nearby Seacliff beach if the weather’s right for it.

Address: North Berwick EH39 5PN, United Kingdom
Distance from High Street: 3.2 miles (an hour walk or 10-minute drive)

Roam the beaches of North Berwick

If you want to take a break from sightseeing and you find yourself wondering what to do in North Berwick, take it easy and head to one of the beaches for a day of restful relaxation. Here you can dip your toes in the cool waters, have fun building sandcastles, wander while collecting seashells, gorge on a homemade picnic or just enjoy a seaside walk.

Milsey Bay

Located next to the Scottish Seabird Centre, Milsey Bay is the most accessible and popular North Berwick beach. You can have a great time in the sea, sunbathing and building sandcastles on warm summer days. The beach also has a boat pond which provides a safe place for families to venture into the water.

Address: Melbourne Rd (right next to the Scottish Seabird Centre)
Distance from High Street: 0.8 miles (4-minute drive or 5-minute walk)

Seacliff Beach

Located southeast of Tantallon Castle, Seacliff beach is a quiet hidden bay boasting gorgeous views of Bass Rock. You can only access the beach at low tide since most of it is underwater during high tide. But when it is there, you can see a tiny hand-carved sandstone harbour.

Distance from High Street: 4.3 miles (13-minute drive or an 80-minute walk)

Yellowcraigs Beach

While you’re in North Berwick, you’ve got to visit the beach that inspired Treasure Island, the award-winning novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. Known as Yellowcraigs beach, this bay is just west of town and has a path that leads to a volcanic vent with views of the Fidra Island Lighthouse.

Distance from High Street: 1.7 miles (6-minute drive or a 30-minute walk

National Museum of Flight

If you’re looking for what to do near North Berwick, you should definitely add a trip to the National Museum of Flight onto your to-do- list. Located at the East Fortune Airfield in North Berwick, this fascinating museum is home to a large collection of aircraft.

The aviation museum gives visitors the opportunity to learn about everything from modern avian technology to avian history that goes back to World War I.

When you enter, you can climb into some of the planes, tour the aviary hangers and see historically-important aircraft such as the Airship R.34 and the Spitfire.

Address: East Fortune Airfield, B1347, EH39 5LF
Distance from High Street: 6.3 miles (17-minute drive or 2-hour walk)

Celebrate puffins with Puffin Fest

Adorable puffin sitting on a mossy rock in North Berwick Scotland
See the adorable puffins bask in North Berwick Scotland

One of my favourite things about North Berwick is Puffin Fest. Held at the Scottish Seabird Centre, the festival takes place over 10 days in May and celebrates the return of the puffins to the coastal Scottish town.

One of the most fun activities is the puffin spotting cruise. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in North Berwick in May!

NB Distillery

Scotland is well-known across the globe for Scotch whisky, but the NB Distillery gives you a slightly different experience and invites you to explore the world of gin, vodka and rum. There are several different distillery tours to choose from. I recommend doing a drop-in Taster Tour which includes a full tour of the distillery.

If you’re looking for more Edinburgh distillery tours, be sure to check out the Scotch Whisky Experience. It’s amazing!

Address: Halflandbarns, EH39 5PW, United Kingdom
Distance from High Street: 3 miles (10-minute drive or an hour walk)

North Berwick Harbour

boats floating in the North Berwick Harbour at sunset

The historic North Berwick Harbour was originally built for pilgrims travelling to St. Andrews. Today, the beautiful harbour is busy with private boats and yachts and plays host to the North Berwick Harbour Trust Association.

There’s nothing more calming than sitting on a bench near the harbour, watching and listening to the boats bob in the water as they’re tied to the docks. If you’re yearning to get out onto the water on your own, rent a kayak from the North Berwick Kayak Hire and get exploring.

Address: 28 Victoria Rd
Distance from High Street: 0.8 miles (4-minute drive or a 5-minute walk)

Explore the Coastal Communities Museum

The Coastal Communities Museum is a small gallery that highlights the local heritage and important parts of history from North Berwick and the surrounding communities. The museum sits above a library which provides visitors with even more information on things to do in North Berwick.

The maritime gallery is also one of my favourite free things to do in North Berwick. The exhibits are ever-changing and always interesting, so be sure to stop in every time you’re in North Berwick to see what’s new.

Address: School Rd, East Lothian EH39 4JU, United Kingdom
Distance from High Street: 0.6 miles (4-minute drive or a 4-minute walk)

Visit the Birds at the Lodge Grounds

North Berwick is home to more than just seabirds. Be sure to stop by the Lodge Grounds and visit the aviary to see all kinds of colourful species, from cockatiels to lovebirds.

A visit to the public park, originally created by the Dalyrymple family, is one of the best family things to do in North Berwick.

In addition to the Victorian garden where you’ll find the aviary, there’s also a large play area for children. Round up the family, grab a picnic basket and have a wonderful afternoon out.

Address: 2C East Rd
Distance from High Street: 0.2 miles (4-minute drive or a 4-minute walk)

Dirleton Castle & Gardens

Ruins of a medieval fortress in North Berwick Scotland
The ruins of Dirleton Castle is one of the things to see and do around North Berwick

North Berwick truly is the land of castles. The medieval fortress known as Dirleton Castle is surrounded by incredible Victorian gardens, including a herbaceous border.

If you’re looking for what to do around North Berwick, you’ve got to explore the castle. Take the time to stop by the 13th century de Vaux Towers, tour the castle vaults and explore the dovecot, home to more than 1000 pigeon nesting boxes.

Address: Dirleton Ave, Dirleton
Distance from High Street: 2.7 miles (8-minute drive or a 50-minute walk)

Fringe by the Sea

North Berwick’s answer to Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, Fringe by the Sea gives you the chance to experience all the comedy, drama and adventure of the big festival without the crowds the original event draws. You also get to enjoy it alongside an incredible view of the sea — something you don’t get in the capital.

If you’re travelling from Edinburgh to North Berwick for the festival, know that the trains run later than usual, so you don’t have to rush back. Alternatively, you could just spend the night in breathtaking North Berwick and explore the city under the twinkling stars.

Fringe by the Sea is definitely one of the best things to do in North Berwick in August. The dates change each month, so make sure you check the website for the exact schedule before you make any arrangements.

Website: Fringe by the Sea

The Foodie’s Guide to North Berwick

If you’re hungry for more than just tea and cakes by the sea, you’ll be glad to know North Berwick is transforming into a haven for foodies.

With gourmet restaurants dishing up everything from traditional Scottish cuisine and local craft beers to fresh-as-can-be seafood, ground-to-order coffee and vegetarian toasties, this small town offers something for every palate.

Here are my top picks of North Berwick restaurants to suit everyone’s taste buds and culinary requirements:

Steampunk Coffee

By far one of the most popular cafes in North Berwick, Steampunk Coffee offers delicious hot drinks, delectable cakes, vegetarian soups and crunchy toasties to keep you warm in the cold seaside air.

It’s also dog-friendly! So if you’re looking for things to do in North Berwick with a dog, definitely add a trip to the café to your list.

Address: 49A Kirk Ports
Distance from High Street: 300 feet (1-minute walk)

Buttercup Café

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, visit the Buttercup Café for one of their ultra-decadent cakes. If you’re more of a savoury person, opt for one of their stovies, hot filled rolls or sandwiches instead. I always stop by the Buttercup Café every time I’m in North Berwick.

Address: 92 High St
Distance from High Street: 200 feet (1-minute walk)

The Herringbone

The place to be if you’re a craft beer lover. The Herringbone serves all kinds of creative cocktails, beers and liquors made from local distilleries.

Popping in for a drink is a great excuse to support local businesses while you’re in North Berwick.

Address: 1-3 Westgate
Distance from High Street: 0.1 miles (2-minute walk)

The Lobster Shack

North Berwick is known for its amazing lobster and if you love seafood, you’ve got to stop by the Lobstershack for a bite to eat.

Lobster isn’t the only thing on the menu. Other fresh catches include mussels, crabs and the classic fish and chips.

Address: North Berwick Harbour
Distance from High Street: 0.8 miles (4-minute drive or a 5-minute walk)

Bostock Bakery

If, like me, you have an insatiable love of baked goods, make sure you stop by the Bostock Bakery for something to eat. Here you’ll find all kinds of delicious savoury pastries, like cheese-filled croissants and freshly-baked bread.

Address: 42 High St
Distance from High Street: 250 feet (1-minute walk)

The Sugar Mountain

Not interested in a full meal, but craving a sweet treat? Stop by The Sugar Mountain to stock up on traditional Scottish sweets and delicious ice cream. I recommend the American Cream Soda-flavoured ice cream. It’s fantastic!

Address: 86 High St
Distance from High Street: 150 feet (1-minute walk)

Travel back in time and learn about the North Berwick witch trials

Discover what happened during the North Berwick witch trials at St. Andrews Auld Kirk. The Great Scottish Witch Hunt began in North Berwick, where 100-200 witches were killed.

St. Andrews Auld Kirk was also the suspected hangout for witches’ covens where people thought they summoned storms. You can learn even more about witchcraft history in Scotland in my post on Witches in Scotland.

Address: 27 Victoria Rd
Distance from High Street: 0.7 miles (4-minute drive or a 5-minute walk)

Hike your heart out in North Berwick

large hill with the beaches of North Berwick in the foreground
There are plenty of places to go for a hike in North Berwick

North Berwick is a great place for everything from a casual stroll along the beach to a long walk to explore the town’s major landmarks or a full-on hike through the rolling hills.

Climb the North Berwick Law

History buffs who also love hiking will have an amazing time climbing up the North Berwick Law. Along the way, you’ll see stone ruins and hut circles where people lived over 2000 years ago.

When you reach the summit of North Berwick Law, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible sight — a replica whale jawbone! In the 1700s, a genuine whale jawbone was placed on the top of the hill. Sadly, it collapsed and was replaced by a fibreglass copy. Regardless, it’s still cool to see!

Your trek to the top will also be rewarded with incredible views of East Lothian, the Forth Bridge, Fife, Edinburgh and the adorable Exmoor ponies in the distance.

Distance from High Street: 1.2 miles (5-minute drive or a 30-minute walk)

Walk along the John Muir Way

If you’re just visiting North Berwick for a day, you can walk along a portion of the John Muir Way.

This is the trail connecting North Berwick with Dunbar that passes by many things to do and see in North Berwick, including Tantallon Castle, North Berwick Law, the Coastal Communities Museum, the Preston Mill and the National Museum of Flight.

If you want to do the complete walk check out these maps for more information.

Address: North Berwick, United Kingdom
Distance from High Street: 1 mile (5-minute drive or a 20-minute walk)

Gullane Bents

An amazing hike that takes you along the beaches of North Berwick. If you’re looking for a coastal walk in between North Berwick and Gullane Bay, you can take this path by walking along the shoreline towards Yellowcraig beach. The entire stretch is about 7 miles, so be sure to plan ahead just in case the weather changes part of the way through.

Address: W Links Rd, Gullane EH31 2BB, United Kingdom
Distance from High Street: 5 miles (14-minute drive or an hour and a half walk)

North Berwick is a wonderful place for Golf Lovers

Scotland is famous for golf and many people flock to St. Andrews every year just for the chance to play on one of the many spectacular greens. If you want to combine your passion for the sport with dramatically picturesque views, be sure to stop for a round at North Berwick’s Glen Golf Club.

The 18-hole course offers incredible views of the Firth of Forth and is one of the most fun things to do in North Berwick. Take extra care not to hit your golf ball over the cliffs, as you won’t be getting it back!

Address: East Links, Tantallon Rd, North Berwick EH39 4LE
Distance from High Street: 1 mile (6-minute drive or a 12-minute walk)

Firth of Forth Lobster Hatchery

One of the cooler and more educational things to see and do in North Berwick is the Firth of Forth Lobster Hatchery. You can learn about the conservation of North Berwick’s lobster population.

This place is responsible for helping strengthen the local marine ecosystem via the introduction of lobsters and other marine life. The tiny baby lobsters here are surprisingly adorable!

Address: 45 Victoria Rd
Distance from High Street: 0.3 miles (4-minute drive or a 5-minute walk)

Preston Mill

Old mill made of stone with a large water mill wheel in North Berwick Scotland

If you’re a fan of Outlander, you’ll be excited to hear that Preston Mill in East Lothian was used in one of the episodes. You may remember the show where Jamie had to hide in the water below the mill wheel at his home in Lallybroch — it was in that episode.

The exhibition room inside Preston Mill was used for another episode, too, when Claire and Geillis Duncan were accused of witchcraft.

There’s more to Preston Mill than just an Outlander filming location, though. You can also find loads of magical Scottish birdlife here, including kingfishers.

Address: Preston Road, East Linton EH40 3DS, United Kingdom
Distance from High Street: 7 miles (20-minute car journey or 2-hour walk)

Book your Outlander Tour here: From Edinburgh: Outlander Experience 2-Day Tour

Go shopping in North Berwick’s quaint town centre

North Berwick is a cute and charming seaside town filled with unique shops, cozy houses and wonderful places to buy gifts for friends and family back home. Even if you have no plans to buy anything, it’s worth taking a stroll down North Berwick’s Highstreet and at least do some window shopping.

Address: High Street

Where to stay in North Berwick

Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa – Spend your nights relaxing and living it up at this spa hotel in North Berwick with spectacular views over the Firth of Forth.

Address: Cromwell Rd
Distance from High Street: 0.8 miles (5-minute drive or a 15-minute walk)

Nether Abbey Hotel – An elegant hotel right next to the beach in North Berwick. It’s a marvellous place to spend the night cuddled up with a whisky next to the fireplace.

Address: 20 Dirleton Ave
Distance from High Street: 0.6 miles (3-minute drive or a 10-minute walk)

Golf Lodge Bed & Breakfast – For more of a homey feel, spend the night at the Golf Lodge Bed & Breakfast next to the harbour and high street. All guests have access to a shared kitchen, so you can prepare your own meals.

Address: 53 Dirleton Ave
Distance from High Street: 0.7 miles (4-minute drive or a 15-minute walk)

Northern Gannet seabirds sitting and relaxing on Bass Rock in North Berwick
Northern Gannets enjoying Bass Rock in North Berwick

How to get to North Berwick

North Berwick is very easy to get to from all over Scotland. The town has a train station with regular connections from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Getting from Edinburgh to North Berwick with a vehicle: Follow the A1 to A199 to B1347 into North Berwick

North Berwick is 19 miles from Edinburgh and the best way to get there is via a 30-minute train ride.

Check train times & purchase tickets here: The Train Line – Edinburgh to North Berwick

Getting from Glasgow to North Berwick with a vehicle: Follow the M8 to the Edinburgh Bypass (A720) and continue onto the A1 to A199 to B1347 into North Berwick

North Berwick is 77 miles from Glasgow and the best way to get there is via a 2-hour train ride.  

Check train times & purchase tickets here: The Train Line – Glasgow to North Berwick

More Information About Things to do in Scotland

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Comments 5

  1. I have always liked going here since I was a child with family and still today. When my parents moved from Edinburgh the first thing I bought them for Christmas was a Bass Rock picture (partly as a joke cause they always said you see so many for sale in North Berwick but also because it was one of their favourite places up here). As well as the food places you mentioned there’s a good chip shop and ice cream shop near the lodge grounds, a place called The Orangery that sells cakes and art, also the sea bird cente cafe is good for a quick cake and a drink.

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      Author

      Yes! It’s such a great trip. I kind of love that you sent your parents a picture of Bass Rock. I will have to try the chip shop near the aviary for sure! I think I ate at the cafe in the Seabird Centre but I can’t recall what I had. It was ages ago! probably chips knowing me.

  2. I would like to visit this place, sounds amazing!
    So did Catherine Watson manage to save the two boys before she died?
    Great post.

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      Author
  3. OMG PUFFIN FEST! This is amazing and I want to go now! I’m glad North Berwick is so keen on their bird population. I even enjoy the idea of the optical illusion behind what I am just going to call shit rock #sorrynotsorry.

    I love that they have their own mini-Fringe festival. And, honestly, if we’re ever in Scotland around then, I think I’d definitely prefer heading to North Berwick than wading through the tourists.

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