…in which I recover from the Pennine Way via scotch pies, bus rides, footie dives and Gollum’s own hostel.
Kirk Yetholm to Berwick upon Tweed.
Overwhelmingly urban and to a shopshocked Wayfarer appearing virtually infinite.
At the time of writing the first bus left KY at 7.10, subsequent buses at 8.10 and 9.20. The journey to Kelso takes 25 minutes. At Kelso you may have to walk a short distance to a different bus stop for Berwick, take local advice. In June 2016 (update – and in September 2018) it was necessary to go down the street between Greggs and the big hotel then to turn right after the car parks, cross the road and walk past a large and mysteriously derelict church, immediately after which and on the same side of the road was the bus stop for Berwick. If you’re staying in Berwick get off just after the bridge, from where the bus will then continue left up to the railway station.
As the first bus pulled out of the misty village I realised I’d forgotten to leave the ugly Rohan hat on the gypsy stone. Consequently I still have the darned thing to this day. The gypsy stone, by the way, is a monument on KY village green to the travelling people and their role in Borders life and culture; all very interesting. At Kelso I explored the impressive multiple breakfast options. Sadly Foston Fine Meats (round the corner by the abbey) had not yet baked any of their award-winning steak, haggis and Drambuie pies. I had to be content with a warm and aromatic Granny Jean’s silver medal scotch pie followed by a top-notch macaroni pie, my standard and always anticipated Scottish treat, from the Rothbury Home Bakery. Several coffees and a few charity shops later I bussed on to Berwick.
Berwick upon Tweed has to be one of the dampest towns I’ve ever stayed in. You’d have to be Gollum to enjoy living there full-time but after camping on The Schil even the estuarine miasma of its riverside stonework felt somewhat arid. A curious patchwork of dereliction and restoration, one just about keeping ahead of the other, it has funky shops and a couple of even funkier pubs, notably The Curfew, a hip craft ale micro-pub, and of course The Barrels where I watched the eurofootieshambles over a couple of excellent pints of Workie Ticket, sometime Champion Best Bitter of Britain.
Berwick hostel is excellent and absurdly good value, although there’s nothing they can do about the general dampness of the town which seeps into the bedding and the very bones of the building (update – in September 2018 the hostel was bright and well-aired, no complaints at all). With extensive catering and engaging heritage there’s plenty in Berwick upon Tweed to fill an afternoon and evening if you’ve the luxury of spare time. Or of retirement.
It’s also a low impact sort of a town, its denizens gentle and largely undemonstrative. It’s an ideal place for contemplating your recent exploit, setting it into some sort of personal and cultural context and easing yourself back into so-called civilisation.
Good luck with that.