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Remembering the time Dundee had a trap street

Trap streets are a fascinating concept—deliberately designed to catch out anyone who copies map work without authorisation. They serve as a sort of watermark for cartographers, ensuring the originality and integrity of their maps.

It's now been four years since I posted a picture on Dundee Culture of the charming Windsor Street in the city’s West End.

I added that it was in the ‘Saint Cyrus area,’ which prompted a flurry of responses along the lines of, ‘What is Saint Cyrus?’

It turns out, the area in question was actually Sinderins, located off the side of Perth Road.

I took Saint Cyrus from Google Maps as it originally appeared on there, and was the trigger behind the search on whether it was a trap street or not.

What is a trap street?

As a big fan of Doctor Who, I remember watching "Face the Raven," where the Doctor and his companion Clara search for a trap street.

In the episode, Clara explains that a trap street is a fake street included by a cartographer in their map.

If this fictional street appears on someone else’s map, the cartographer knows their work has been copied. It’s a clever method to protect intellectual property.

Researching trap streets

One of the first trap streets I learned about was ‘Oxygen Street’ on a map of Edinburgh. It appears on Apple Maps but is absent on Google Maps and other printed maps.

Another example is ‘Argleton’ near the town of Aughton in Lancashire, England. Argleton was once visible on Google Maps but has since disappeared, likely a trap street as well.

London also has its share of trap streets, including Moat Lane, Torrington Place, and Whitfield Road.

So was there a trap street in Dundee's West End?

Back to Dundee and the mysterious Saint Cyrus. On Google Maps, areas like ‘Ninewells,’ ‘Lochee,’ ‘Hiltown,’ and ‘Broughty Ferry’ appear instantly. Curiously, ‘Saint Cyrus’ also showed up, although it was unfamiliar to most Dundonians.

Intrigued by the responses to my post, I delved deeper. The supposed location of Saint Cyrus was actually in an area known as Sinderins, near Perth Road in Dundee’s West End.

What’s peculiar is that if you clicked on Saint Cyrus in Google Street View, it directed you to a street called Stephen’s Yard, with no indication of an area named Saint Cyrus.

Many on Dundee Culture speculated that Saint Cyrus might be a ‘problem in the Google matrix’ or an ‘easter egg by Google.’

Dundee City Archives confirmed they had never seen ‘Saint Cyrus’ on any other maps, suggesting it could be a ‘hallucination’ or simple ‘mistake.’

It’s plausible that Saint Cyrus was a trap street created by Google to replace Sinderins, perhaps borrowing the name from St Cyrus, a village between Dundee and Aberdeen.

Exploring the mystery of Saint Cyrus back in 2020 was a fascinating journey.

Saint Cyrus has since been removed from Google Maps, in a similar vein to Argleton. But could there be more hidden trap streets in Dundee? That question is yet to be answered.

Whether it was a trap street or an error, it provided an intriguing glimpse into the world of cartography and the clever tricks used to protect mapmakers’ work.


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