This 600-foot high remnant of an ancient volcano is a favourite destination for walkers, dog owners, and families looking to get some fresh air. You’ll find Berwick Law on the outskirts of the coastal town of North Berwick in East Lothian.
Review of North Berwick Law
Standing 187m above sea level, North Berwick Law dominates the landscape around the popular town of North Berwick.
Finding the ancient landmark isn’t difficult as all you have to do is head towards North Berwick and as soon as the town is in view you simply head towards the gigantic mound that dominates this otherwise relatively flat part of East Lothian.
Access by car is from the B1347 and if you have a sat-nav tap in postcode EH39 5NX and you’ll get there no problem. North Berwick council have installed a car park at the foot of the hill and they also manage the gravel path that exits the car park, but note that the majority of the route to the summit is an unmanaged rough track.
It’s a nice walk to the top and the views there are lovely, especially on a bright summer day when the sun glints off the Firth of Forth below. It’s also a really good place to take the dog for a walk so if you’ve got a four-legged friend you could do a lot worse than take them for a wander to the top of North Berwick Law.
Find more places to visit with my Lothians articles.
Things to do at North Berwick Law
From the top of the hill you can take in some very nice views of the East Lothian countryside, with the town of North Berwick stretching out in front of you and rolling fields heading out in all other directions.
If you make the walk to the summit you should be aware that in wet weather the grassy trail can become slippery with mud, and when the North Sea winds blow it can make the ascent a little uncomfortable. But on a clear sunny day the route to the top is nothing short of spectacular.
It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to walk to the top and as it’s a fairly shallow slope pretty much everyone should be able to manage it, but be aware that as you get near the summit you’ll find the track suddenly turns into a bit of a rocky scramble so if you’ve got toddlers you’re going to have to carry them. But hey, at least its good exercise for you!
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The history of North Berwick Law
North Berwick Law is actually a volcanic plug that erupted from the landscape over 300 million years ago, and this weather-eroded rock is all that’s left to remind us that East Lothian was once an area of intense volcanic activity.
The hill has a long history as a naval lookout post and records indicate that it was used for that purpose as far back as 1544, when fires would have been lit to raise the alarm whenever French ships tried to enter the Firth of Forth.
At the summit you’ll find the remains of a stone building that was built around 1800 as a watch-house during the Napoleonic wars, while a much later World War II lookout post can also be seen near the top, forever scanning the horizon for German ships.
You’ll also likely be surprised by the white object sitting right at the very top of the law which looks a bit out of place until you work out what it is.
It’s actually a replica of the whale bones that were first placed there in 1709 when Scotland had an active whaling industry, although the current ones are of a much more modern (and ecologically friendly) fibreglass construction.
- The views from the top of Berwick Law are stunning. East Lothian’s coastline is certainly worthy of a selfie or two.
- It’s a lovely wee walk that’s quite easy and pretty much anyone with any fitness level should be able to make it. There are flat levels between the steep slopes so there are plenty of places to stop for a rest should you need one.
- Berwick law is easy to get to from North Berwick so you can combine a visit with the Scottish Seabird Centre or the town’s lovely beaches.
- You’ll get the most of out of a walk up Berwick Law by waiting for a clear day when the wind has dropped. Otherwise, you’ll find it very breezy at the top and if the haar (fog) rolls in you won’t be able to see a thing.
- If you go when the wind is blowing you’ll find it’s usually absolutely ripping at the top thanks to the law’s exposed location on the coast. Even in summer consider taking a windproof jacket or you’ll quickly get cold.
- Combine a visit with Yellowcraig beach and Tantallon Castle which you can see in the near distance from the top of Berwick Law.
Grid ref: NT 556 842
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Things to do near Berwick Law
- Yellowcraig Beach. Ware Rd, North Berwick EH39. 13-minute drive. One of the top beaches in East Lothian. This beach features clean golden sand and shallow water so is well suited to families with young children. The John Muir Way runs past the rear of the dunes. There is a large car park, children’s play area, toilets and a snack van on-site.
- The Scottish Seabird Centre. The Harbour, North Berwick EH39 4SS. 5-minute drive. An environmental visitor centre that aims to educate and entertain visitors with displays and exhibitions about Scotland’s coastal marine wildlife. The centre features a viewing platform that overlooks the Bass Rock and it is the departure point for pleasure cruises around the rock.
- Tantallon Castle. North Berwick EH39 5PN. 9-minute drive. A partially ruined curtain-wall fortress set on clifftops that overlook Seacliff Beach and Bass Rock. Visitors can climb to the top of the corner towers for uninterrupted views of the East Lothian coastline.
- Seacliff Beach. North Berwick EH39 5PP. 10-minute drive. A wide, golden sand beach that offers superb views of the North Sea and Tantallon Castle. A large area of raised rock bed creates large rock pools when the tide retreats. The beach is part of the Seacliff Estate who provide a paid parking area.
- Dirleton Castle. Dirleton, North Berwick EH39 5ER. 11-minute drive. A medieval fortress that is largely intact and has several interesting features like one of Scotland’s best-preserved dovecots, surprisingly big storage vaults and the world’s longest herbaceous border.
More places to visit in The Lothians
- Prestongrange Museum – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuidePrestongrange in the coastal village of Prestonpans is a free-to-visit outdoor museum that showcases East Lothian’s rich industrial heritage. The museum aims to educate visitors about the 800-years of industrial activity that left its mark on the area, from the almost-vanished harbour to the long-abandoned colliery.
- Dalkeith Country Park – Midlothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe historic county of Midlothian seems to be permanently out of favour with visiting tourists – mainly due to the fact that it borders Edinburgh and most sightseers have already got their hands full trying to fit in as many city attractions as possible before hopping on the coach to their next destination.
- Jupiter Artland – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideIt was with great pleasure that I happened to stumble upon Jupiter Artland recently, a contemporary sculpture park near Edinburgh that gave me one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in a long time.
- Dunbar Harbour – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe quaint coastal town of Dunbar is located just 30 miles east of Edinburgh on a stretch of coastline that’s famed for being one of the most scenic in Scotland.