Gabriella Swerling

The best English border towns for Scots celebrating Hogmanay

The best English border towns for Scots celebrating Hogmanay
Berwick-upon-Tweed (photo: iStock)
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Scotland’s deputy first minister has been trying to discourage would-be New Year’s Eve revellers from travelling to England this week. Those planning to escape Scotland’s strict Covid rules with a Hogmanay trip south of the border are going against the ‘spirit’ of the restrictions, according to John Swinney.

As Chloe Smith, the UK work and pensions minister, has pointed out though, Scots are ‘more than free to move around’ the UK over the New Year – Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP are not yet able to impose a hard border along the 96-mile stretch between Bella Caledonia and contaminated England.

And for those Scots who do want to exercise their rights as British citizens and to see in the new year in style, The Spectator has put together a guide of the best English border towns in which to ‘tak a cup o’ kindness yet’ this Hogmanay.

Berwick-upon-Tweed

Located just two-and-a-half miles south of the Anglo-Scottish border, Berwick, as it is known by locals, is the northernmost town in England.

Just a 40 minute train from Edinburgh, there are plenty of B&Bs and boutique hotels to stay at, and a wide range of New Year’s events to choose from.

Before the celebrations begin, you can opt for fine dining at The Queen’s Head hotel or have a fish and chips from the string of local chippies. When evening comes, and if you’re up for a big night, the Radio Rooms event space on Main Street is hosting an electronic music party on New Year’s Eve featuring what it claims are ‘five amazing DJs’. The £11.50 tickets could see you dancing through to 3 a.m. thanks to the owners procuring a special licence. Meanwhile, The Plough on the Hill traditional country pub is hosting a live music night with The Beardy Busker — a local acoustic musician — playing a range of ‘the biggest hits on the biggest night of the year’.

Come New Year’s Day, if you fancy a stroll along the stunning Northumberland coastline, it’s easy to get there by car, foot or train. Cocklawburn Beach is just an hour-and-a-half walk or a ten-minute drive from the town. It features a lovely sandy beach with plenty of rock pools at each end that will entertain children and adults alike. For those keen on coastal scenery, there are also walks to nearby Seahouses and Lindisfarne.

Carlisle

If you want somewhere with a bit more pizazz and bustle than some of the sleeper English market towns, Carlisle is the place to go. With regular trains from Glasgow — which take around an hour and 15 minutes — it’s not too far away and has plenty to offer.

Like the Jacobites before them, the Aussie bar chain Walkabout has captured the 2,000-year-old city. They are hosting not one, but two New Year’s Eve parties. Its first countdown will be as Australia enters 2022 at 1 p.m. (GMT), followed by lunch, dinner, drinks and ‘our DJ banging out the best tunes’ until the next countdown on actual New Year’s Eve at midnight.

For something slightly more refined, the Halston hotel is planning a ‘fire and ice’ themed evening with canapes, champagne, and a dancefloor with live music from the wedding band Highly Strung — ‘Carlisle legends’, apparently — followed by ‘late-night snacks to keep you going until the wee hours’.

The hotel offers self-catering and onsite restaurants as well as a spa. And if you’re not too hungover and fancy a healthy dose of history on New Year’s Day, then a walk along Hadrian’s Wall or up to Carlisle Castle should clear the cobwebs.

Cockermouth

The bustling Georgian market town on the northwestern edge of the Lake District is a good place to visit at any time of year. It transforms from a holiday hotspot in the summer to a picture-perfect Christmas card come December.

But for New Year’s Eve the birthplace of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth has plenty to offer. The nearest railway stations are Penrith and Carlisle – both are on the West Coast Main Line, and both are easy to get to from Glasgow, but the train does take around two and half hours.

The town’s Main Street is the centre for shopping, eating and drinking and is full of boutiques and restaurants. Its top-rated restaurant is Aspava, offering a menu of Turkish and Mediterranean food. Quince and Medlar is the top choice for fine vegetarian dining, and if it’s a perfectly cooked steak you’re craving then Blocks Steakhouse is renowned for its Chateaubriand.

Embleton Spa Hotel is offering New Year’s Eve packages featuring a five-course dinner and a resident DJ. Meanwhile, guests staying at the Trout hotel can enjoy fine dining as well as a whisky tour, a trip to Muncaster Castle, and a mine tour at Honister Slate Mine.

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

For those keen on a quirkier New Year’s celebration, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne could yield a slightly more unique night.

The tidal island off the north east coast of England — which has a recorded history from the sixth century AD — may be an important centre of Celtic Christianity, but that doesn’t stop it from also being a New Year’s destination.

If you want to stay on the actual island, The Lindisfarne hotel family-run guest house has rooms from £100 while The Ship Inn traditional old sailors’ pub also offers quaint rooms (and lauded crab sandwiches). Meanwhile, if you want to stay along the beautiful Northumberland coastline, Budle Bay’s Waren House hotel is the area’s finest address.

Holy Island is just a 40 minute train or an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Edinburgh. If you’re driving from Scotland, take the A1 from Edinburgh to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Despite the entire island being only two square miles, there are plenty of sites and hikes as well as Lindisfarne Castle and the ruined priory. Try the crab or lobster at the local cafe 1st Class Food.

It may feel like you’re going back in time when you step foot on the island, which is cut off from the mainland twice a day by the tides, but if complete escapism from 2021 is what you’re looking for then Lindisfarne is the perfect destination.

A word of warning to intrepid Scots explorers: don’t try to beat the tide on the causeway. It comes quickly, and if you miss your chance, it’s a five-hour wait in a refuge box before the water recedes.

Written byGabriella Swerling

Gabriella Swerling is social and religious affairs editor of the Telegraph and former northern correspondent for the Times. .

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