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10 cool facts that you may not know about the Dundee Law

The Dundee Law (Picture: Shahbaz Majeed)

Ever since Dundee was founded, there has been one constant presence in the place we call home - and that is the Dundee Law, which has sat at the centre of the city for millions of years. Today, Dundee Culture looks at ten cool facts that you may not know about the Dundee Law.

It's not a volcano - it's a volcanic sill

The Dundee Law is always referred to as "Dundee's Volcano", but actually, it isn't technically a volcano. In real terms, it is a volcanic sill. A volcanic sill is a flat layer of volcanic rock that forms when magma (molten rock) pushes its way between older layers of rock and then cools and hardens. Think of it like a thin sheet of magma that spreads out horizontally between layers of the Earth's crust.

The Ice Age sculpted the Law into the position it is in

It was during the Ice Age that prompted the Dundee Law to gain its shape. According to the Dundee Law Heritage Project, glaciers of Ice Ages sculpted the Law. This would eventually lead to trees and other plants to start being able to grow on the Law.

It was originally supposed to be home to Mills Observatory

Mills Observatory is one of the most beloved landmarks in Dundee, but did you know, it was supposed to actually be built on the Dundee Law? Unfortunately, due to setbacks in the construction process and the outbreak of war, plans for the observatory on the Law were scrapped and the war memorial was built in its place whilst Mills Observatory opened in 1935 on the city's Balgay Hill, ten years after the war memorial was built.

The war memorial had various designs

Speaking of the war memorial, the highest landmark in the city, it actually had various different designs, but it was agreed that a proposal from Thomas Braddock would become the winning design. The war memorial is due to commemorate its 100th anniversary next year after opening on 16 May 1925.

The beacon is lit four times a year

The Dundee Law war memorial beacon, which is the dark green component at the top of the memorial is lit only four times a year:

  1. Battle of Loos (25 September)

  2. United Nations Day (24 October)

  3. Remembrance Day (11 November)

  4. Remembrance Sunday (November)

Although it can also be lit for other national occasions, such as jubilees for instance, as was the case for Queen Elizabeth II during her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

The hill itself played a prominent role in the Second World War

During World War II, the Dundee Law served as a strategic lookout point. Anti-aircraft guns were said to have been installed on the summit to defend the city against potential air raids. It was also used as an air-raid shelter itself, more on that below!

There is a secret tunnel that runs underneath it

The Dundee and Newtyle Railway passed under a tunnel that went right through the Dundee Law. And yes, this tunnel was also used as an air-raid shelter during the wars, but by the 1960s, the tunnel was sealed up. Ever since, there have been campaigns launched to reopen it and turn it into a tourist attraction as a result of its fascinating history.

The communication tower is still used by emergency services

Installed in the 1950s to 60s, the communication tower that sits atop of the Dundee Law helped improve communications across the city. It is still used by the emergency services to this day.

It was used as an Iron Age hillfort

The Dundee Law once housed an Iron Age hillfort which was the location of a Pictish settlement. Roman pottery discovered on the Law suggests that the Romans may have used it as a lookout post in the first century. On April 13, 1689, the Law was the site of a significant event: Viscount Dundee raised the Stuart Royal Standard, marking the start of the first Jacobite rising.

It is regarded to have one of the best views in Scotland

Earlier this year, The Times cited that the Dundee Law had one of the best views in Scotland. This accolade isn't a surprise considering that there is no other place in Scotland that has a unique view of the city where it offers a 360 degree around the entirety of Dundee.

Headline photo by Shahbaz Majeed (

Social media header by Dundee in Pictures (


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