I Fought The Law And The Law Won – Traprain Law, East Lothian

Traprain Law has held a fascination for me for quite some time. I was fortunate enough to work out in beautiful East Lothian for a few years and one of the highlights was the commute itself. The winding country roads and chocolate box pretty surrounds included this mighty, 724 feet nubbin which dominated the horizon for miles around. One day I thought to myself … I’m going to climb that …

… and lo and behold, three years later I have and I hope that you will too as it’s a stunning walk which rewards you with an incredible vista of the coastline and Lammermuir Hills beyond.

My pals and the dog at Traprain Law car park.

My pals and I parked at the car park at the foot of the hill where there’s a small car park. When full, other motorists tend to park further down along the road, but it’s usually pretty empty. There are a few information signposts here which give you a bit of an overview of the history of this ex-volcanic hill and the wildlife you are likely to see here. It turns out that Traprain Law was a Bronze Age burial ground, Iron Age hill fort and during the period of Roman invasion, the Votadini tribe who ruled over South-East Scotland used Traprain as their capital.

As we began our ascent, my pal Donna who had been doing a bit of digging, regaled us with the tale of Thenaw who had disgraced her father, Loth (where we get Lothian from basically) by falling in love with a shepherd. Loth was pure ragin’ about this and decided to chuck his daughter off of the summit of the hill. As fate would have it however, she survived the fall (albeit with a bit of a gammy leg or two, eh?) and was rescued by the shepherds who spirited her o’er the River Forth to Culross. ‘Twas there she gave birth tae a bairn called Kentigern who was renamed Mungo by the monks who looked after him and so it came to pass that this is where the mighty city of Glesca’ gets its patron saint fae. St Mungo’s maw, Thenaw was also canonised for her efforts and for being brave ‘n’ that and she’s noo kent as St Enoch, namesake of a muckle big shopping centre. I’d be pure ragin’ if I were her.

* Actually, the legend of St Enoch aka Thenaw (or Teneu as she was also kent) is a deeply tragic one and she was considered Scotland’s first rape victim, battered woman and unmarried mother. Read more about it here.*

Traprain Law kissing gate

I love a good digression so anyhoo, back to the story of wur climb … a path takes you from the signposts and through a wee gate warning you no tae mess with the Exmoor Ponies who graze on the hill. The path is well-worn and you simply follow it as it gently (to begin with at least) starts to ascend the lower slopes of the hill which is filled with cocksfoot, meadow foxtail, primrose and tormentil to name but some of the wild plant life here. Skylarks and meadow pipits favour the lower slopes for ground-nesting too, so keep yer ornothological peepers peeled. The views from even the lower slopes start to get pretty braw, pretty quickly and you can see the coast, North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock in the distance.

View over East Lothian from Traprain Law

Now begins the hard work as you start to negotiate the steep slope which rises up and continues as a crude, rocky stairs section which can be slippy. so watch yer feet!

Traprain Law hilly section

At this point, we were all starting to get fair puggled as I kid you not, it’s all uphill in the strongest sense of the phrase here. My hamstrings were definitely twanging at this point and I was more than a wee bit oot o’ puff! Our wee doggy friends were loving life at this bit though and definitely helped pull a couple of us up the hill! Mind and keep your canine pals on the leash though as they can startle and stress out the ponies at the top. Keep going as the seemingly undulating summit with its trig point shall appear eventually … YALDI!

Summit of Traprain Law

Ponies atop Traprain Hill

Traprain Law Summit

There was a massive herd of Exmoor Ponies on the western end of the hill, but this was the closest I got to them without putting the equine fear intae them. The views atop in all directions truly are spectacular. Why, you can even throw some shapes atop the trig point if you’re feeling especially daring. My friend, Helen was.

Helen atop the trig point, Traprain Law Eastern summit of Traprain Law

Look skywards and you’ll typically see wrens, finches, jackdaws and green woodpeckers with seasonal visitors in snipe, wheatear, ringed ouzel and golden plover. Look around you and you might catch sight of foxes, voles and rabbits. Look south-east and you shall see a big, natural pond perfect for doggies and their humans to splash in!

Traprain Law doggy bath

The descent is most pleasurable thereafter, but do take care on the steep sections as mentioned. It can be slippy underfoot! All in all, if you’re looking for a fairly easy climb which combines some degree of challenge, Traprain Law is the hill for you. Go seek it out and revel in its beauty and history.

Squad goals atop Traprain Law #squadgoals

How to get there

Follow the A1 from Edinburgh and take the slip road at Haddington and follow the signs for the A199. As you are driving along the road, look out for your first exit on the right and the sign taking you in the direction of Hailes Castle. Follow the road signs to Traprain Law and bingo!

Here’s our route map here. Enjoy yer climb!

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