THERE is something intrinsically exciting about a hike that straddles two countries crossing a border. It gains added weight when they are two countries whose relationship is locked in constitutional flux and whose history is riven with tumult, intrigue and endless drama.

That I was walking home to Scotland added yet more spice. Berwick-upon-Tweed has always unsettled me. Even as a kid, I remember my parents telling me Scotland’s largest east coast port had been stolen. That seemed a great injustice, a feeling that strengthened into anger when I learned of Edward I’s massacre of innocent men and women in 1296.

Children too; thousands of Scots slain by the Tweed.

Times have changed and the bloodletting that blighted the Borders Badlands for centuries – Berwick changed hands between England and Scotland 13 times from 1296 until its final loss in 1482 – has mercifully ceased. But tension remains. I pop into a café where the Scottish woman behind the counter is keen to talk, complaining the “SNP have stolen billions from Westminster”.

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I gently probe and it turns out she is talking of the probe into £600,000 of donations (not UK funds) that some suggest may be at least in part politically motivated. My attempts at clarification fall on ears I suspect are deaf to all debate, so I retreat back north.

My journey home has a false start. I successfully breach the Scotsgate, designed, a sign tells me, to keep my likes out. But this small victory is short-lived as I end up stuck atop Europe’s most impressive Elizabethan-era walls. I’m still strangely proud that with French back-up, the threat from Scotland necessitated such monumental defences.

Finally clear of Berwick, I follow the Berwickshire Coastal Path, which according to Borders Council’s website goes all the way from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Cockburnspath. Except it doesn’t – well, at least not the signage. Instead, there are England Coast Path signs, with an occasional blue wave symbol I take to be the path of the unnamed.

The route clears a campsite and is instantly spectacular, with rugged bays, steep cliffs, sandy beaches and striking pinnacles shorn out of the soft sandstone by the might of the North Sea. This joy continues all the way to the Border. It takes an hour and a half, making me realise just how much land Scotland lost in a way a train journey never does.

The National:

The Scottish Border is unmissable – a striking massive Saltire sign welcomes in the cheery international equivalent of jazz hands. I stride through the gate and turn to see if England outdoes us for those heading south. There is nothing. Thinking I’m missing something, I root around. Still nothing. Make of that what you will.

I continue, spirits lifted by the welcome, and a sun finally trying to eke through the dreich. The scenery is, of course, similar – an unremittingly spectacular sweep of savage coastline, once alive with busy smugglers and equally busy excisemen. I spot the “Smugglers Bothy”, a wee stone building standing suspiciously alone on a deserted coast, bar the pod of dolphins I am lucky to see slaloming by. My lunch ends up as an attempt at culinary unity with a Cornish pasty and a Scotch egg from a Berwick baker.

Just as I am lulling into a rhythm on this 20km hike, Scotland interrupts, as it always does. First I chance upon a wee village I’ve never been to before – Burnmouth. A friendly chap and his dog insist on guiding me in down a zig-zag to this sleepy fishing village. It has everything I need – a bench, a pub and life-affirming big skies set against a harbour dotted with bobbing boats. The seals are a bonus.

Then Scotland really turns up the dial, the path testing me by bursting inland at a precipitous angle that has my heart pumping. Then it swings north again, showing off with Fancove Head. These are the sort of soaring sea cliffs that go scarcely noticed in the scenic overdrive of the Hebrides or the Highlands, but the sparkling rock walls are easily the most spectacular sight of my hike. I yomp up, within touching distance of the seabirds floating on the thermals.

I catch my first sight of journey’s end – Eyemouth. When Berwick was lost, the unlikely understudy Eyemouth stepped forth. The town has made a decent fist of being southeast Scotland’s largest port, even forcing England into those epic Berwick walls – the largest infrastructure project of Elizabeth I’s reign, built as Eyemouth garrisoned its fort with French troops.

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It is at Eyemouth Fort that my journey ends, high above the sort of remarkable coastal scenery north of St Abb’s Head that gets nature documentary-makers excited. I’m more interested in the groundworks of the vast forts. They are a microcosm for Scotland and England’s border disputes, with England building a fort, only for Scotland to knock it down again.

The last Scottish fortress here was scarcely finished before it was dismantled when Elizabeth I finally capitulated with the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1560 and promised to stop harassing England’s auld enemy. The Act Of Union – with its seismic changes for Berwick and Scotland’s Berwickshire – was just decades away.

For more information on the Berwickshire Coastal Path click here.