North Berwick Law may only be 187 metres tall but it dominates the surrounding landscape, rising out of flat farmland beside the sea at North Berwick. It is a volcanic plug formed around 340 million years ago.
A couple of thousand years ago a fort was built on the Law, taking advantage of the fantastic defensive situation created by the steep sides of the hill.
At several points on the Law there are flattish terraces, and these were used for occupation. Three walls were built from stone to enclose these areas, although they aren’t very obvious today as much of the stone has fallen down the steep slopes.
One wall enclosed an area of around 90 metres by 150 metres at the top, the wall being approximately 15 metres below the summit. While the central part of this area is rocky and uneven, there is a flatter terrace around it, with fantastic views out over North Berwick and beyond to the River Forth.
Further down there is a small terrace to the south west, overlooking the car park far below, and this was enclosed by a second wall.
A third wall surrounded the lower part of the Law, enclosing a wide terrace to the south and south-east upon which numerous circular huts would have stood.
As well as being affected by gravity over the years, the fort has probably been disturbed by several developments connected to its use as a lookout post down the centuries. In 1544 a lookout was kept during the approach of Henry VIII’s navy under the Earl of Hereford, on his way to do a bit of Rough Wooing.
In 1803 a watch house was built from stone to give advanced warning of a Napoleonic invasion, and during the Second World War a brick-built building was erected to watch for the Germans.
Also on the summit is a fibreglass replica of a whale’s jawbone, replacing an earlier real jawbone which had two further predecessors dating back to 1709.
Alternative names for North Berwick Law