Why we refer to North Berwick as the “Biarritz of the North”

Since the 19th century, when North Berwick initially took advantage of its two sandy bays and was transformed into an attractive holiday resort, the unique seaside town was often referred to as the “Biarritz of the North”.  In 1842, the first passenger line was constructed, running between Glasgow and Edinburgh, allowing the working class to make regular visits to the seaside for short breaks.  It wasn’t long before thousands of visitors were able to visit East Lothian in order to appreciate the seaside attractions.  On Easter Monday 1895, over 1500 visitors arrived in North Berwick on regular trains, proving to the locals its growing popularity.  As a result of the increasing appeal of the seaside town, in 1903 the Town Council began a joint advertising campaign with the North Eastern Railway Company in order to encourage visitors to the town.  It was during this period of time that the slogan “Biarritz of the North” was used by the Town Council, which was seen featuring in illustrated posters at railway stations around the country.
As well as the two charming sandy beaches, outdoor swimming pool and attractive fishing culture, since 1849, matches between the best golf professionals of the day too attracted large crowds to North Berwick.  In July the same year, over 9,000 spectators arrived by train to watch the tense match, which was said to have allowed local shopkeepers to close in the afternoon in order to follow the match.  Along with the North Berwick Golf Club, at the centre of the social activities which attracted so many to the small town was the Marine Hotel, established in 1875.  It was here that Field Marshall Roberts, one of the most successful commanders of the Victorian era, and Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar holidayed during the summer.  During the seasons of their visits, it was reported that they alone were responsible for the increasing popularity of North Berwick and ultimately setting the foundations for the town’s future prosperity.
(article supplied by Alison Wright, NBHS Pupil ©2011)