THE best view of the “Biarritz of the North” is from its highest point. Standing atop North Berwick Law, the town spreads its urbane wings across a spectacular natural canvas.

The Firth of Forth sweeps across the horizon, Fife’s hills brood in the background. Westwards, Edinburgh is hazy. East Lothian is clearer: beaches sweep all around, hills relax to meet the water and then there is Bass Rock. No wonder Victorian tourists flocked here by train direct from London.

I’m in town to see how North Berwick shapes up for modern-day visitors looking to “take the waters”. The spa heritage is a rich one. I’ve seen old stylised railway posters showing the delights of this relaxed East Lothian oasis, an ideal tonic for stressed out Londoners looking for salvation down the line. Today you can still check into the Marine, an old spa hotel opened when Queen Victoria was on the throne.

The National: Bass RockBass Rock

While The Marine is very “old” North Berwick, I find a town alive with funky hipster cafes such Steampunk that wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch and style bars like Herringbone that would pass muster in Finnieston. They tempt alongside old-fashioned sweetie shops, proper butchers and cafes that look they’ve not had a makeover since Victoria ascended the throne. It’s a glorious collage of old and new, all the more appealing for the flowers that burst everywhere – North Berwick is a Britain in Bloom award winner.

That hike up “The Law” is quite the tonic. It may only be 187 metres high, but it’s a fair yomp up – markers lead the circuitous way to help ease erosion. The effort is well worth it for that view and to plan the rest of your sightseeing. I drop down and head straight for the town’s twin beaches, where I’m back with those spa days again.

East Beach is a lovely strip of sand, backed by lucky homeowners, that blinks out towards the gannets of Bass Rock. It’s also blessed with an outdoor pool that dates back to the seaside resort golden days. I can still take the east coast waters and do. The glory days may just be on their way back as I find at the Rocketeer restaurant where I meet waiter Bruce Lavender.

We talk about a recent Which? Magazine survey that has just named North Berwick among the finest seaside towns in the UK. “The weather is just glorious as you can see – mild and sunny for Scotland - and there is a special quality to the local light. We’ve everything you need here – beaches, great places to eat, walks and shops,” he beams, clearly proud.

At the Rocketeer, they do have everything I need after a hill walk: sweet North Berwick-landed lobster in garlic butter, with double cooked chips and the crisp East Lothian cider, Thistly Cross – an ideal accompaniment to the lobster.

During my weekend I dine twice on lobster, the other time at the posher Nether Abbey Hotel, where a lobster tank guards the entrance. I narrowly avoid a third feast at the famous wee shack down on the harbour.

It’s to that harbour I head to get out to Bass Rock with Sula Boat Trips ( I’m in good hands aboard the spacious and sturdy Sula III with guide Caroline. She shows us the puffins of Craigleith (they’re here until August), but the real star is Bass Rock, the world’s largest gannetry.

Caroline tells me the BBC’s Chris Packham rates it one of the wonders of the natural world. It’s a sublime experience easing towards the gannet-draped rock with these wide-winged birds soaring all around amidst an almost overwhelming din.

Caroline then surprises me by adding in a human dimension: “The waters here are inspirational, no wonder Robert Louis Stevenson based Treasure Island on Fidra over there. This is a world swimming with Viking and Jacobite ghosts; Cromwell too.” It seems a lot more than the Victorians were drawn to this special part of the world.

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The more people I chat to around town, the more I appreciate North Berwick’s universal appeal for humans. There is the family whose kids are yelping like happy seals on West Beach, the golfers waxing lyrical about the links right in town and the Swedish couple walking the coast-to-coast John Muir Way. The latter ripples through the town, celebrating the East Lothian lad made good who inspired America’s national parks.

On my second and last night I retire to my B&B, 6a North Berwick (, where the owner Alan – it’s always first name terms in North Berwick – is passionate about his town. “Part of the attraction is that North Berwick has never been overdeveloped,” he says. “It’s still got that old-fashioned vibe that ties back to its old spa town history. People come here, leave their car outside for the weekend and just relax.”

For Londoners it may no longer be the Biarritz of the North but for Scots today North Berwick is a shining star of Scotland’s east coast.