How to walk the Forth to Farne Way

Route overview

The Forth to Farne Way is a 72-mile (115 kilometres) walk that follows an ancient pilgrimage route starting in North Berwick in East Lothian (Scotland) and ending on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in Northumberland (England). This short guide provides basic information on each of the 5 recommended daily stages (each between 12 and 16 miles in length) of the walking route from north to south. It can be walked easily in 5 – 7 days, and you could, of course, walk it in reverse (‘Farne to Forth’, I suppose). The route has links to early Celtic saints, including Cuthbert, Aidan and Baldred, and follows the stunning Berwickshire coast and visits locations including Coldingham and St. Abbs, Dunbar and Berwick-upon-Tweed. Whether you start or finish on Holy Island, make sure you understand how to cross the causeway to Holy Island safely. Forth to Farne Way MapA more detailed interactive map for this walking route as well as other routes that visit Holy Island can be found here.

How to get to the start of the route

To get to the route by train, you’ll need to travel on the East Coast Main Line, which serves destinations between London and Inverness, including Edinburgh and Newcastle. The route can be accessed at North Berwick or Dunbar (northern end) and Berwick-upon-Tweed (southern end) railway stations, which are a 30 minute and 45 minute train ride from Edinburgh, respectively. If you start from the Farne end, read our articles about How to get to Holy Island. If heading south, The Forth and Farne Way starts in the seaside town of North Berwick, which can be easily accessed from Edinburgh. Before starting your walk, I would recommend staying in North Berwick the night before you start walking, allowing you to start your walk towards Dunbar, the following day. The town has numerous cafes and places to eat, as well as beaches and a harbour with great views over the Firth of Forth towards Fife. Places to visit include nearby Berwick Law, a hill that looms over the town as well as islands including Bass Rock with its famous gannet colony. In addition, the Scottish Seabird Centre is located in the town and is well worth a visit.

Stage 1 – North Berwick to Dunbar (16 miles)

This stage starts at St. Andrews Church in North Berwick, and ends in Dunbar, through the lovely, rolling East Lothian countryside. Toilets can be found in North Berwick, East Linton, John Muir Park and Dunbar. Locations that can be visited en-route are:
  • Whitekirk – a pretty village, with old church and the site of a lost holy well and shrine
  • East Linton – a big village, great as a rest spot, with cafes, pubs and a hotel
  • Prestonkirk – a pretty church close to East Linton dedicated to St. Baldred, one of the Celtic saints with links to Holy Island. The churchyard is the burial place of famous Scottish engineers Andrew Meikle and John Rennie
  • Preston Mill – a beautiful watermill, with exhibition, looked after by the National Trust for Scotland
  • John Muir Country Park – a gorgeous beach country park with views out to sea
  • Belhaven Brewery – located close to Dunbar with a visitor experience tour of the brewery
This stage finishes at Dunbar, a town with all amenities, as well as John Muir House, the birthplace of the ‘Father of National Parks’ in the USA. If the stage is too long for you, it can be split into North Berwick to East Linton (9 miles) and then East Linton to Dunbar (7 miles).

Stage 2 – Dunbar to Cockburnspath (12 miles)

This stage follows the East Lothian coast from Dunbar to Cockburnspath, sharing the route with the John Muir Way. Toilets can be found at Barns Ness, Whitesands, Skateraw and Dunglass (on A1). Locations that can be visited en-route are:
  • East Lothian Coast – stunning coastline with bays and views out to North Sea and lots of rock formations
  • Dunglass Collegiate Church – an impressive ruined church looked after by Historic Scotland
This stage finishes at the small village of Cockburnspath, which has a Public WC, but no other amenities. Accommodation closest to Cockburnspath can be found in Dunglass (B&B) and Cove (Airbnb).

Stage 3 – Cockburnspath to Coldingham (15 miles)

This stage follows the stunning Berwickshire Coastal Path to St. Abbs from Cockburnspath and ends at Coldingham Priory, traversing St. Abbs head. Toilet facilities can be found at St Abbs. Locations that can be visited en-route are:
  • Cove harbour – small harbour accessed through a tunnel, with great views across the sea
  • St Abbs Head – A nature reserve – great for watching seabirds
  • St Abbs village – A pretty village set around a harbour, with a café, visitor centre and accommodation
This stage finishes at Coldingham, a village with shops, pubs and accommodation, and an old priory, part of which is used as the local parish church. NB: If the stage is too long, accommodation can be found at St. Abbs (13 miles).

Stage 4 – Coldingham to Berwick (16 miles)

This stage continues along the beautiful Berwickshire Coast, sharing the route with the Coastal Path. The path visits Coldingham Bay, Eyemouth and Burnmouth before entering England and on to Berwick-upon-Tweed, a charming walled town with all amenities. Toilets can be found at Coldingham Bay, Eyemouth, Lower Burnmouth, and in Berwick upon Tweed. Locations that can be visited en-route are:
  • Coldingham Bay – beautiful bay location for surfers, with beach huts, a couple of cafes, as well as hotel accommodation
  • Eyemouth – a small town with award-winning ice cream (Giacopazzi’s) and a busy harbour. Hotel and B&B accommodation as well as pubs, cafes and restaurants.
  • Burnmouth – a small harbour and village, with a pub and accommodation, uphill on the close-by A1.
This stage finishes at Berwick-upon-Tweed, a historic and interesting walled town, with accommodation, high street and independent shops, bars, restaurants and pubs and a microbrewery. This town has swapped between Scotland and England numerous times, lastly in 1482, when it became England’s most northerly town. NB: If this stage is too long, there is accommodation in Coldingham Bay (1 mile), Eyemouth (4 miles), Burnmouth (on the A1) (8 miles), and Marshall Meadows (13 miles).

Stage 5 – Berwick to Holy Island (13 miles)

The final stage runs along the stunning North Northumberland coast from Berwick-upon-Tweed to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The path visits Cocklawburn Beach, as well as using the Pilgrim’s Path to cross the sands to Holy Island, which can only be reached on a decreasing tide. An alternative route across Holy Island causeway can be used, although this is shared with traffic. Make sure you read our instructions on how to cross to Holy Island safely on foot. If not, accommodation can be found at West Mains (10 miles), a 1 mile detour each way from this route, where the approach road to Holy Island meets the A1 main road. Toilets can be found at Berwick-upon-Tweed and Spittal. If unable to cross the Lindisfarne Causeway, toilets can be found at the petrol station at West Mains on the A1. Locations that can be visited en-route are:
  • Spittal – a suburb of Berwick-on-Tweed, with a promenade, arcades and a beach. A great place to spot dolphins swimming out to sea.
  • Cocklawburn – a stunning remote beach, often supplied by an ice-cream van
  • Goswick Sands – another remote beach, with a bar located at the Golf Club
  • Lindisfarne Causeway – the beautiful access to Holy Island, shared with car traffic. There is a café/bar located inland for views over Holy Island.
  • Pilgrim’s Way – a pedestrian-only path across the sands to Holy Island. This should only be crossed on a waning tide – please see this link for further information
This final stage finishes at Holy Island – a beautiful tidal island with a strong religious history and amazing wildlife and landscape. The village on Holy Island has amenities, including cafes, museums, a castle, tourist shops, pubs and accommodation for visitors, which we recommend you book in advance, as the island tends to sell out, especially in high season. Detailed Holy Island visitor information can be found here.

Where to stay on Holy Island?

With us, of course. We loved Holy Island so much, we moved here in 2017 and opened a guesthouse with three comfortable rooms. Details of our accommodation are here.

Other Long Distance walks to Holy Island

See our write-ups of other pilgrimages/long-distance routes to Holy Island.

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