North Berwick Law Formation, Historical use and why we have Whalebones

With its panoramic views of Edinburgh Castle, the Forth Road Bridge, and the beautiful Fife coastline, North Berwick law is one of the main tourist attractions in the quaint seaside town, bringing hundreds of tourists from all over the world every year.  While many walkers and hill climbers venture to the top of the ingenious rock every day, some are yet to be dazzled by the spectacular history of this igneous rock.  The North Berwick Law was formed during the Carboniferous era, at the time of glaciations, when the sea level was low and there were high extinction rates among animals and plants, evidently caused by climate change.  Ultimately, the Law is the formation of a plug, which proved as a mouth of the initial volcano, choking it with its own hot ash and molten lava.  During this period of time, North Berwick, along with the rest of Scotland, was covered in a frozen glacial blanket, which over time deteriorated the volcanic ash below, resulting in the visibility of the volcanic plug today.

While today the famous landmark is merely used as a location for hill walkers and sightseers, over 18 hut circles can be seen on the premises dating from over 2000 years ago, proving that in years gone by, local people lived and farmed on the Law.  Approaching the highest point of the volcanic rock stands the ruins of a stone building which served as a station during the Napoleonic Wars in the 1800s.  Standing at 187 metres, the North Berwick Law is distinctly famous for the pair of whale’s jaw bone placed at the summit of the Law.  It was in 1709 that the first Whale’s Jaw Bone was mounted upon the Law. It has been strongly believed that, in years past, North Berwick was a whaling port, however no official documentation exists to prove this.  The Whale’s Jaw Bone has been renewed a number of times since 1709, once in the 1850s by landowner Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple from an old Dunbar whale ship, again in 1936, and most recently replaced by an exact replica made of fibreglass on the 26th June 2008, due to safety concerns regarding the historical Whale Bone.  On the return of this historical element to the top of the North Berwick Law, the small seaside town once again felt complete.

(article supplied by Alison Wright, NBHS Pupil ©2011)