Eyemouth and the Smugglers Trail

Walking Route

Eyemouth and the Smugglers Trail

Walking

Eyemouth is a busy fishing port with a fascinating history that includes smuggling, shipwrecks and witch burning.

The aim of the trail is to show visitors how the town buildings are closely linked with its heritage and to provide a flavour of its development through time.

The trail is approximately 3km/ 2 miles long and takes about two hours to complete. If you would like to find out more about the history of Eyemouth and the surrounding area the museum shop carries a wide range of books maps and leaflets we hope you will enjoy walking around the town trail and trust that you will have a pleasant stay in Eyemouth. The town of Eyemouth was established as a port and fishing village to serve Coldingham Priory, which is some 8km/ 5 miles to the north.

The town is first documented in the late 12th century when two house-plots in Eyemouth, the port of Coldingham Priory, were given to the priory by Edward of Lastelrig. Around this date, there were only twenty-five houses with gardens in the village and nine of them were unoccupied. In the late 14th century, the Priory kept fishing lines, two large fishing boats, a small fishing boat, a skiff and a coble each with four oars at Eyemouth. The priory, whose remains are open to the public (access to the church during the summer only), also used the port to bring in building materials including timber and lead from Holy Island and levied tolls on the use of the port by others.

Eyemouth came to have strategic importance as the most southerly haven in Scotland after the loss of Berwick-upon-Tweed to the English in 1482. Because of this, Fort Point, the promontory above the town was fortified successively by English invaders and then by French forces acting on behalf of the Scottish crown in the mid-16th century. The town was chartered as a Burgh of Barony in 1597-8, which entitled the inhabitants to hold markets and to buy and sell merchandise subject to the tolls and customs exacted by the lord of the Barony of Coldingham.

It is likely that the town developed because of this change in status and the return of peace to the Border with the Union of Crowns in 1603, when, following the death of Queen Elizabeth I, King James VI of Scotland claimed the English throne. A Market place that was established at the east end of the high street most likely dates to this time.

In the early 17th century Eyemouth was elevated to the status of a parish, and by 1695 the population had risen to 304 persons, excluding the poor who were not counted. It was also a bleak time for Eyemouth as more than two dozen men, women and children were burnt as witches on the beach. In the following century, two factors helped the development of the town. Firstly, in 1763 the common fields of the parish were enclosed and divided which allowed the introduction of modern methods of farming and improved productivity. Secondly, the harbour was improved by the construction of stone piers on the west and east sides of the entrance in 1747 and 1769 respectively. These improvements led to increased trade, particularly in corn, and encouraged wholesale merchants in imported goods to set up in the town.

The fishing industry was still relatively undeveloped with only six working crews at the turn of the 19th century. Their chief concern was providing the hinterland with herring, although the surplus, as red or white herring (smoked or salted), was sent to London and abroad. Despite the new piers, the harbour was poorly protected from northerly gales, there being no inner harbour bar, so it had no secure harbour for a large fishing fleet. Further developments were made to the harbour during the first half of the 19th century which provided the basis for the subsequent dramatic development of the fishing industry.

However, disaster struck on Friday 14th October 1881, when 189 east coast fishermen perished, 129 of them from Eyemouth. The fleet had sailed to the fishing grounds in brilliant sunshine, but without warning, a violent storm broke and only a few made it back to safety, many perishing within sight of their families waiting anxiously on the shore. It took almost 100 years for the town’s population to return to the level it had been before Black Friday, and further improvements that had been planned for the harbour were cancelled.

Today, the town is the 7th largest in the Borders and the community is proud of its rich heritage. The Herring Queen Festival, which is held annually in July, is a week-long celebration of the fishing industry and the town's history. The festival started in 1936, celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2014 (it was suspended during the second world war and the Covid pandemic).

height
Distance:
2.5mi / 4km
trending_flat
Total climb:
361ft / 110m
trending_flat
Total descent:
394ft / 120m
Difficulty:
Easy
Our best efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of data, however the data and geographic information contained along route lines and on maps should be used for informational purposes only.

What you'll see

The Auld Kirk - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

The Auld Kirk is the start and finish point of the Town Trail. It was built by Alexander Gilkie in 1812 as Eyemouth Parish Church


The Ship's Quarters - Eyemouth

Accommodation

Buildings along the quayside date from the early 18th century with some later additions one of the earliest of these is the ship hotel with…


Marine Parade and the Seafront - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

Marine Parade has a fine example of a modern housing development that retains much of the scale and character of the local area. From the…


Eyemouth Beach - Eyemouth

Visitor Attractions

In the bay eider duck are often present and occasionally grey seals can be seen bobbing in the water when the tide is out rockpools…


Coastguards' Cottages - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

At the far end of the Bantry to the right of Eyemouth’s leisure centre is a row of houses these were the coastguards’ cottages until…


Fort Point - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

The fort was built in 1547 on the orders of the Duke of Somerset protector of the boy king Edward VI of England.


Old Cemetery - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

This is an extraordinary place that became full of cholera epidemic victims in 1849 when more than 100 people died in only six weeks.


The Memorial - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

The memorial in the centre of the cemetery depicting a broken mast is dedicated to the memory of the fishermen lost in the great disaster.


Smoke House - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

There are several Eyemouth smokehouses. Almost every evening in Masons Wynd fish is smoked, in the building which has been used by the same family…


Old Parish School and Schoolhouse - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

There are several examples of fine old buildings in High Street including the Old Parish school and schoolhouse on the corner of Armatage street. Built…


Willie Spears Statue - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

Willie Spears who led the local fishermen’s protests of 1855 - 1864


Council Offices - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

Market Place continues into Church Street in the corner opposite the Auld Kirk stands an imposing building erected in 1874 now houses the local council…


Chester House - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

Number 11 Church Street is also known as Chester House.


Dundee House - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

In Harbour Road is an 18th-century pantile roofed house called Dundee House.


New Quay - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

Walk along New Quay which was built in 1843 and separates the Main Harbour from the Eye Water.


Lifeboat Station - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

There has been a lifeboat station at Eyemouth since 1876 the first lifeboat being the rowing lifeboat ‘James and Rachel Grindlay’


Fiona Drane - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

Gunsgreen House itself is the most prominent building in Eyemouth and was designed by James Adam in about 1755.


Fishmarket - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

Built with financial assistance from Europe the building houses a sales area for fish landed in Eyemouth, an ice plant from which boats load up…


Harbour Road - Eyemouth

History & Heritage

There are many buildings associated with the fishing industry here.


Eyemouth Museum - Eyemouth

Visitor Attractions

Eyemouth Museum is the home of local stories and artefacts!