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Dundee Law (174m) and Balgay Hill (143m), Dundee, Eastern Scotland

THE STORY

Introduction

SHORTER WALKS UP EACH HILL

ROUTE UP BALGAY HILL, ON TO THE LAW, AND BACK TO THE CENTRE OF DUNDEE

Panoramic view from the Law

< Back to the Dundee Intro page with list of other walks

 

Introduction

The Law and Balgay Hill overlook the housing of central Dundee, on either side of the A923 Lochee Road which winds its way from the city centre and through Lochee.  Although the lower slopes are built up with rows of housing, the steeper hilltops rise clearly, with woods cloaking the upper slopes.

"The Law" actually means "the hill" in Scots, so calling it "The Law Hill" as many do is incorrect.  It is surmounted by a war memorial, and an excellent viewing platform with viewpoint indicator.  You can drive up there if you prefer, to enjoy the unrivalled view over the city and across the Tay to Fife, but it makes for a good walk. 

So too does Balgay hill just to the south-west.  It has more woodland, parks on either side where you can enjoy a picnic, and a cemetery extending over the lower western hill.  The famous Mills Observatory commands the top of the main hill. 

The photos of Balgay were finally taken in April 2006 and added to this page to give an indication of the fine woodland and the impressive Observatory building.  It was one of those days when the sun and clouds seemed to be playing games - I'd been at the wrong side of the hilltop when the sun was out, and it refused to appear when I returned to the Observatory.  I had given up and descended with a friend I'd met on the way, then the sun reappeared.  I turned back uphill and just made it, breathless, in time to catch some sunlit photos of the building.

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SHORTER WALKS UP EACH HILL

There's a direct route up the Law from the gate on the north side of Dudhope Park, and another from a bend in Lochee Road opposite the junction with Tullidelph Road - each involving lots of steps!  This means it can be combined with the Central Dundee route described on another page, continuing on from Dudhope Park. 

Or you can restrict your walk to the routes up and around Balgay, parking in the roads near Victoria Park and spending just an hour or so there. The western hill (with the cemetery) provides a pleasant extension to the walk, with views through the trees across the Tay Estuary.

The route below, however, combines the two hills in one walk of around 5 miles, taking between two and three hours.

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ROUTE UP BALGAY HILL, ON TO THE LAW, AND BACK TO THE CENTRE OF DUNDEE

Starting from the Overgate Centre in Dundee, walk out along Hawkhill or Nethergate / Perth Road, which join at the foot of Blackness Avenue.  Turn up Blackness Avenue, which climbs gradually for half a mile to Blackness Road.  Cross here, entering Victoria Park on the other side.  This is a recreational area, with tennis courts and a wide grassy space fringed by trees.  The path skirts along on the right-hand side, towards Balgay Hill, and then runs alongside a surfaced park road along the foot of the hill. 

Alternative routes up - and around - Balgay Hill

Where the path around the park reaches the foot of the hill, you can cross directly over the park road and find the steps which lead up through the steep wooded slope.  This is the quickest way to the top (route 1), but you arrive at the opposite end to the Observatory.  

A gentler alternative (route 2) is to turn left along the Park Road for about 200 metres, until you reach a junction with another road turning sharply back uphill on the right.  This takes you up to join the top of the steps.

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The roads on Balgay are made up of ovals and circles.  One large oval-shaped road runs around the edge of the two hills of Balgay (the east hill with the observatory on it, and the west hill with the cemetery).  It is cut in half by a short road running between the two hills, and this gap is spanned by a footbridge linking paths higher up the slopes (recently closed, but under renovation).  Three small circular roads are linked together on the top of the main hill, and another encircles the top of the cemetery hill.  

The road described in "route 2" above, is part of this outer oval of the two hills, and you can simply continue down and round the other side of the hill, through the attractive mature woodland with the playing fields of Lochee Park below.  You can follow the road all the way round both hills, or take the shortcut along the link road between the two, back to Victoria Park.

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However, the recommended route (route 3) up to the Observatory is to continue along the park road, past the "gentler alternative" turning, to where the link road runs to the right between to the two hills.  On the far side of this is a stone or concrete structure that looks like it was used for performances in the past.  On the near side, immediately to your right, is the start of another line of steps leading up through the woods.  Take the steps to the right (another stairway leads left up to the end of the footbridge), climbing steadily but not too steeply, until you reach the roadway at the top.  This is the westernmost of the three small circular roads, linked together, on top of the hill, and it's the one with the Mills Observatory standing in the centre of it.

This is the route I take for my (now occasional) lunchtime runs up Balgay Hill and, like me, you'll probably welcome the relief of walking to the left, around the circular road to reach the driveway on the other side which leads up to the front of the Observatory.  It's Britain's only full-time public observatory, open every day (except Mondays from May-Sept).  The view from up here is limited by the tops of trees all around, and it is this encirclement by trees which helps the Observatory to provide good views of the night skies, without too much interference from the lights of the city.

From the Observatory there is a choice of routes along the top of the hill, or down through the woods.  You may have noticed two of these paths on the left, as you followed the circular road round to the front of the observatory - these both lead down a few steps to a delightful path which runs to the right, through the trees along the northern slope of the hill, before descending down more steps to join the main outer road.  If you follow it to the left, if leads back past the footbridge to the foot of the steps used at the start of Route 3.

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The recommended route from the Observatory is to leave the front of the building, walking across the grass just to the right of the driveway, where you should pick up the line of a path .  This continues on the other side of the circular road, along the grassy crest of the hill between mature trees (see the photo of the hilltop track through the trees).  You'll begin to spot a series of stones along the way, each with the sign and the story of one of the planets fixed on it.  The path reaches the next circular roadway, and continues as a wider pathway up the hill ahead, where the rest of the planet-stones are placed.  This takes you up to the highest point on Balgay Hill, at 143m.

Unfortunately on my latest visit (April 2006) most of the planet plaques had disappeared from the stones.

There are tracks leading down through the trees, but it is easiest to go back down to the circular road which you have just left, and follow this around to the outer east side of the hill.  This is where it joins the main outer oval road referred to earlier, close to the top of the steps described in route 1.  You could descend the steps or the road here, back to Victoria Park, if you do not want to continue on to the Law.

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Route to the Law

From this highest point at the eastern end of the oval outer road, you will see a short flight of steps up to a gate through the fence, which opens up onto grassland.  A path leads from here, down the slope, with views across the houses below towards your next objective: the Law (see panoramic view below).

This path leads down to the end of Sagger Street.  At the other end, thrn left onto City Road, and at the traffic lights turn right down Tullidelph Road.  This joins the main Lochee Road.  Cross this carefully, and over to the left you will see the start of a line of steps leading upwards.  This is the Law Steps.  Climb the steps up, cross Rankine Street and continue up the steps on the other side.  Cross Lawside Road onto Lawside Terrace, and at the end you can continue ahead to cross over Law Crescent and onto the wooded upper slopes of the hill.  Large areas of the southern side of the hill above the housing are taken up by allotments, but trees cloak the western and northern slopes.  It is noted as an area of urban nature conservation.

The path continues to climb steeply, with gentler alternatives off through the woods.  It meets the road which curves around the slopes of the Law to the top - you can follow this easier gradient, or cross over to the steps which zig-zag up the final steep slope to the top (see the photos).

At the top, if the skies are clear, you'll be greeted by the best views of a city anywhere in Britain.  There are several photos here of views in different directions, and a condensed panorama of the city below.  On a good day, you may catch a glimpse of the conical peak of Schiehallion about 50 miles away to the north-west, in the centre of Scotland.

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The way down

After making the most of the view, set out on the viewpoint indicator, you can set off down again, by the road or the steep flight of steps.  At the bend in the road below the steps, there is a direct descent down another set of steps after walking down through the woods due south of the hilltop - the Inverlaw Steps - which run down to the gate at the top of Dudhope Park, but this can be a bit hard to find, and hard on the knees.  From Dudhope Park, follow the route as below.

For a gentler descent you can follow the Law Road all the way to Law Crescent, then turn right and right again, then left down Upper Constitution Street.  Turn right onto Somerville Place, along to the corner of Dudhope Park.

Walk across Dudhope Park and down steps below Dudhope Castle onto Lochee Road.  Cross the road with care, onto Smellies Lane which becomes West Henderson Wynd, leading to Verdant Works and then up Horse Wynd to Hawkhill.  Turn left here, down to Marketgait and then right to the Overgate where you started.

See also the Central Dundee Route, for more details of attractions you can visit after completing the walk up the hills (you can link with it at Hawkhill or Dudhope Park).

 

< Back to the Dundee Intro page with list of other walks

 

Contributed by: Andrew Llanwarne

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The top of the Law can be seen above the Courthouse, from North Lindsay Street

The top of the Law can be seen above the Courthouse, from North Lindsay Street

Mills Observatory at the top of Balgay Hill

Mills Observatory at the top of Balgay Hill

Woodland trail on Balgay Hill

Woodland trail on Balgay Hill

Track through the trees from the Observatory

Track through the trees leading across the hilltop from the Observatory

One of the surviving planetary plaques

One of the surviving planetary plaques

The bridge linking Balgay Hill and the cemetery hill, currently (spring 2006) under repair

The bridge linking Balgay Hill (on the right) and the cemetery hill, currently (spring 2006) under repair

The steps leading up out of Balgay, to the grassy path to the Law, with the panoramic view below

Resting beside a path up the Law, with the Railway Bridge behind

Resting beside a path up the Law, with

the Railway Bridge behind

And the view up to the top, in the other direction

And the view up the steps to the top,

in the other direction

Walking at the top of the Law

Walking at the top of the Law

Looking south across the Road Bridge

Looking south across the Road Bridge to Newport and Wormit in Fife

And the railway bridge over the Tay

And the railway bridge over the Tay

The football grounds of Dundee and Dundee United

The football grounds of Dundee and Dundee United can be seen between the tower blocks

Seat with a view

Seat with a view, looking east towards Broughty Ferry

The view west towards Perthshire

The view west towards Perthshire

Treetops framing a view of some of Dundee's last remaining tower blocks

Treetops framing a view of some of Dundee's last remaining tower blocks

 

View along the track towards The Law from the top of the steps leaving Balgay

View along the track towards The Law from the top of the steps leaving Balgay

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Panoramic view of Dundee from the Law

Panoramic view of Dundee from the Law, with the two bridges, looking towards Fife

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