At the tail end of September, we ventured out to East Lothian. We’d eyed up North Berwick Law on a previous visit to North Berwick, and this time set out with the intention of making it to the top. North Berwick Law is a mile or so to the south of North Berwick, and the route to the top starts from a car park on the north-west side of the hill.
North Berwick Law, like Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth and Castle Hill in Edinburgh, is a volcanic plug. For those (like me) who can’t quite recall the nitty gritty of GCSE Geography, a volcanic plug is formed when magma solidifies in the feeder pipe on its way to the surface. Millions of years ago, North Berwick Law would have been a swirling mass of molten lava within a volcano. Glacial forces during the last ice age eroded the igneous rock, leaving behind a conical hill which on a clear day is visible for miles around. (If you’ve ever been up one of the many hills in and around Edinburgh, or pottered along the shoreline at Cramond, Newhaven or Portobello, and looked eastwards, you’ll have seen it.)
We followed the path towards the summit, stopping for a while to admire the ponies from afar (above). From the summit, we had a bird’s eye view of North Berwick and East Lothian, and across the Firth of Forth to Fife.
Between February and October, Bass Rock (above) is home to the world’s largest population of northern gannets – that’s an impressive 75,000 breeding pairs. For context, there are over ten times the number of gannets on Bass Rock than there are humans residing in North Berwick. Bass Rock appears white over the summer months thanks to the gannets’ white plumage… and their droppings.
We spent some time at the top exploring the various features and ruins. A whale bone arch has stood on the summit of North Berwick Law since 1709. What you see today is a fibreglass cast of the last whale bone arch (below).
We picked our way down the side of the hill towards the remains of the old telegraph station, which was built in the early 1800s to monitor sea lanes during the Napoleonic Wars (below). A crumbling observation post (not pictured) sat to the left of the telegraph station, and was used during World Wars I and II for similar purposes.
We rounded off our walk up North Berwick Law with a gelato from Alandas Gelato, which has fast become one of our favourite spots for an ice cream in Scotland, and a potter round the Lodge Grounds.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Getting there | If you drive, North Berwick is c. 1hr from Edinburgh via the A720 and A1, plus various minor roads towards the end. Alternatively, ScotRail runs a half-hourly service between Edinburgh Waverley and North Berwick; factor in a mile or so’s walk from the station to the foot of North Berwick Law.
- Parking | There’s a small amount of free car parking (c. 15 cars, if my memory serves me correctly) at the start of the trail, just off the B1347.
- Maps and guides | There’s a sign at the trailhead with a basic map of the route, and the path to the summit is well sign-posted.
- Distance | 2.3km/ 1.4miles; 130m of elevation gain. Provided you’re in reasonable shape, it’s manageable in an hour.
- Misc.| If you’re after some post-hike refreshments, I would recommend Alandas Gelateria (1 Quality Street) and Steampunk Coffee (49a Kirk Ports).