Evening Telegraph

‘The Law was here before Dundee itself’: talk to give fascinating insight into iconic city landmark

At 572 feet above sea level, it is the iconic natural landmark that dominates the Dundee skyline.

The Dundee Law war memorial opening in 1925

But while today it is a popular vantage point with spectacular views over the city and the Tay, the Law has played many roles throughout human history – including graveyard, quarry and home to a train tunnel.

Commonly believed to have been an extinct volcano, the Law is actually a magma sill – formed when magma intrudes between rock layers.

Colin Donald

Colin Donald, from the Dundee Law Heritage Project, discovered during research of the site that Bronze Age graves were dug beneath what is now allotments – and that the peak was previously home to a hill fort.

The structure, known in ancient and medieval times as as a “dun”, contributed half of the city of Dundee’s name.

More recently, during the industrial era, a 330-yard long train tunnel to Newtyle was created on the Law in 1829 in which carriages were originally pulled by horse.

The northern end of the tunnel was buried in the 1950s, with the southern end sealed in 1981.

Dundee Corporation bought the Law from Dudhope Estates for £4,500 in 1878, in response to public pressure for a recreational space as the population of Dundee grew.


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Colin will be exploring the Law’s fascinating history when he gives a talk at a meeting of Abertay Historical Society.

He said: “The talk will go back to the earliest human history of the Law.

“Starting from the Bronze Age, there were graves there but they were excavated long ago.

“There’s also evidence from the Iron Age.

“At some point, it may have been used for farming or settlements.

“I’ll be speaking about how the Law played a large part in the industrial history of Dundee with the train tunnel, the quarry and up to more modern uses.

“It’s bizarre to think that they used to have a train line running to Newtyle that used to go up rather than through.

“Most people seem to think of the Law simply as a viewing point but that is just one aspect of what it has to offer.”

Colin, 49, has worked closely with the Friends of Dundee Law and the Dundee Law Heritage Project to help improve the features surrounding the hill.

Funding has been put towards resurfacing the path to the summit and planting on its slopes.

And plans are being drawn up to attract more visitors.

Colin hopes that his talk will inspire more people to take an interest in the history of the impressive peak.

He added: “It has always been there – even before the city of Dundee itself.

“Whoever had settled there before I’m sure would have looked to it as a major focal point of their area.

“I do feel as though the Law is very much taken for granted.

“Dundee City Council uses the Law in its logo and it’s a huge feature in a lot of things connected to Dundee.

“I think that when people see the Law, especially people who are coming back to the city, they see home.

“I think it’s important and interesting for people to learn about the Law and its history because it is such an important part of Dundee.

“It is at the heart of the city and we want to preserve the Law for generations of Dundonians to come.”

Colin will be giving his talk at the University of Dundee’s Dalhousie Building on Wednesday, starting at 6.30pm.