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Though small, Eyemouth is a town that offers something for everyone. Part seaside resort, part working fishing harbour, its attractions include an interesting layout, nice buildings and a fascinating history.
The Eye Water flows north into the North Sea here and the natural harbour formed by the river mouth has been used as far back as the 1200s, and probably much further. During Henry VIII's incursions into Scotland during the 1540s (see our Historical Timeline) the English used the port and built an artillery fort on the east side of the Eye Water. This occupied the area behind the site used in 1755 for one of Eyemouth's most distinctive buildings, Gunsgreen House.
Eyemouth's harbour stretches back along the Eye Water, effectively forming the eastern edge of the town. Fishing played a vital part in the local economy as early as 1298: but it has also been a source of tragedy. During the 1800s Eyemouth's harbour was not improved as quickly as many, and its entrance was very tricky in rough weather.
This meant that in 1881 when a sudden storm blew up while the fleet was out at sea, 189 fishermen, including 129 from Eyemouth itself, lost their lives. The harbour was later improved to provide a much safer entrance, but too late for many of its fishermen.
In earlier times Eyemouth was notorious as a centre for smuggling. As the Scottish port nearest the continent it became a natural place for the illicit import of spirits and other goods. One report suggested that the roof space of Gunsgreen House overlooking the harbour was regularly used as a store for smuggled tea.
Most of Eyemouth's current harbour dates back to a major rebuilding in 1965. At the south end of the harbour are the sheds used for boat repair and which as recently as 1989 were still being used to build wooden fishing boats. And set back from the quay on the town side of the harbour is the striking brick and glass Saltgreens old people's home.
In the part of the town nearest the harbour you find the Auld Kirk, now used as the Eyemouth Museum. The museum has on display a tapestry commemorating the 1881 fishing disaster. Opposite the Auld Kirk is the attractive Town Hall.
As you move west through this small town, the sense of a working fishing harbour is quickly replaced by that of a seaside resort. Eyemouth offers a sandy north-facing beach framed by the black rocks of the bay to the west and the harbour walls to the east.
This is backed by enough of the usual seaside attractions to give the area a little of that candy-floss atmosphere, without overpowering it. And linking the two sides of the town is an attractive shopping street.