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Traprain Law

Home > Edinburgh > Nature | Outdoor | Picnic Spots | Places of Interest | Walks
by Cressida Ryan (subscribe)
Classicist and traveller
Published August 28th 2015
The Traprain Law stands proudly tall in the lowlands of East Lothian, a site used for burials at least 3500 years ago, and fortified for at least 3000. Today it's a peaceful spot, providing good walks and great views. Regarded as one of the most important hill forts in Scotland, it was, of old, the capital of the Votadini, who were the East Lothian's dominant indigenous Iron Age tribe.

traprain law, haddington, scotland, edinburgh
The Traprain law from the car park

It is less of a climb than, for example, the North Berwick Law, which is just 8.5 miles north and easily visible on a clear day. It's technically higher at 221m to North Berwick's 187m, but feels more gentle, given its very different shape, and the height at which you can leave your car. It will still take you around 45 minutes to climb to the summit. There is even a race which takes in the hill and surrounding area over a 6.5 mile route. This annual event takes place in June every year. This would be a great way to see the area and boost fitness all at once!

north berwick, traprain, law, edinburgh, scotland
The North Berwick Law from the Traprain Law

A particular kind of volcanic development brought this Law about, giving it a flat top. This has, in time, been a settlement in its own right. Nowadays the only thing settled there are wild ponies. You're asked not to pet them, but they are impressive to watch, a herd on the hillside.

ponies, traprain law, edinburgh, scotland
Ponies on the Traprain Law

The large top takes almost as long to walk around as the Law does to ascend in the first place, if you want to explore properly. Some parts give way to steep cliffs, marked off by danger signs, but in general is isn't a strenuous walk.

traprain law, scotland, edinburgh
The top of the Traprain Law

At the far eastern side are two large stones, close together, known as the mother and maiden. If you squeeze yourself carefully, you can get through the whole gap between them, which folklore says will give you good fertility!

traprain law, scotland, edinburgh
Mother and Maiden stones

Round on the southern side, recent excavations have found prehistoric rock art, Iron Age houses and a large rectangular medieval house. This is an area steeped in local lore, offering not only wonderful walks, but also an atmosphere of enduring local presence.

hailes castle, traprain law, east lothian, scotland, edinburgh
Looking down the hill and Hailes Castle

Everyone knows about Hadrian's Wall, but fewer people know that the Romans did make progress further north, and even established another wall, the Antonine Wall. Around this time, the mid-2nd century AD, a Roman presence was established in the area, leading to one of the Law's most famous links. The Traprain treasure is one of Britain's greatest hoards, a huge collection of 53 pounds of silver. It consists mainly of table silver, and one of the most unusual aspects is that it's all been crushed, cut up. The beauty of the metalwork is lost to the idea that the metal has value in itself, leaving people to wonder what on earth the hoard was for. If you want to see the hoard, you'll have to go to the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, but that is under an hour away.

The name, Traprain, is relatively modern, only going back to the eighteenth century. Before then it was known as Dunpendyrlaw, and you might still see this on older maps.

picnic, parking, traprain law, edinburgh
Picnic and parking space at the Traprain Law

The Traprain Law is visible from the A1, and is easily accessible from places such as Haddington (3.5km away). You're best off driving there, and there are plenty of places to leave your car at the access points. Dogs are allowed, but should be kept under control as there is livestock in the area.

traprain law, scotland, edinburgh
The view from the Traprain Law
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Why? One of Scotland's oldest hill forts
When: Always open
Where: Traprain
Cost: Free
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