Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

First viewed from afar, then seen up close

26th September 2009

It may be prone to cloudiness around my way in recent days, yet dry weather has been much of our lot for the last few weeks. Some of that time has seen us visited by bright sunshine more in keeping with an Indian summer. Enjoying that sort of glory can cause the sort of posting hiatus that has visited this blog in recent weeks, but there can be other causes too. In my case, autumnal torpor following a bout of seasonal flu is as much to blame as was the diversion of my attention elsewhere. That’s not to say that I thoroughly ignored this website because other parts, such as the photo gallery saw a bit of work. Even so, I’d rather keep new adding things on here too and a few posting ideas are in mind, though there might be a gestation period before anything comes of them.

First on that ideas list is saying a little more on that day spent out among the Pentland Hills while up in Edinburgh a few weeks back. The Festival Fringe may have been coming to an end at the time, but the bank holiday weekend in England, Wales and Northern Ireland only can have helped to send in a few stragglers like myself to Scotland’s capital. On the evidence of where I was staying, coach parties were still coming to see the place too.

Pentland Hills from Salisbury Crags, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh

With a spot of sunshine forecast for the Saturday, I decided to fit in an amble in the midst of Edinburgh’s nearest belt of open hill country. However, that was preceded by a walk along Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park with plenty of camera action in the morning sunshine. From the park, I made my way towards Princes Street and the Royal Mile before rounding Castle Hill to drop onto Lothian Road. It was busy in the sort of way that would have made Chris Townsend yearn for the Cairngorms (I wonder if he considered the Pentland Hills for a breather?).

From Lothian Road, a bus (Lothian Buses’ service 10) whisked me off to Bonaly where the lack of people was striking after where I had been. Anyone wanting a respite from Edinburgh’s festival frenzy was sure to find it here. My first staging post was Bonaly Country Park where I picked up the old right of way to Glencorse Reservoir. Until I passed Bonaly Reservoir, I had a good track underfoot all the way and all I needed to do was look behind me to see that civilisation was not at all far away. After the reservoir, conditions underfoot became boggy in places and the immersion in hill country became more and more complete as I passed through a section of MOD land. Capelaw Hill was left after me with Castlelaw Hill replacing it for accompaniment. Other folk may have had the idea as me but it was no throng.

Glencorse Reservoir and Castlelaw Hill, Pentland Hills Regional Park, Edinburgh, Scotland

On the way down to Glencorse, the shapely hills behind the reservoir loomed larger than their 400-600 metre high tops might suggest. While the sun was to become obscured by clouds at times, these hills were to tower above me as I headed west along the shores of both Glencorse Reservoir and Loganlea Reservoir. Tarmac reigned supreme underfoot on this part of my reservoir round, but various escapes by the sun were sufficient to stop me and set a camera into action, totally removing any opportunity for onward progress to become a slog.

Loganlea Reservoir and Turnhouse Hill, Pentlands Regional Park, Edinburgh, Scotland

The tarmac ran out after Loganlea and it was back to having solid earth underfoot as I began the stage of the walk that was to round Black Hill. On my way up Green Cleugh, the intoxicating mix of sun, blue skies and shapely hills was so complete that it looked as if it was about to last all day. When it came to choice of route from Green Cleugh, I stuck with a hillier approach to Threipmuir Reservoir. As I gained more height, I began to observe that the earlier pleasantness was but a brief mirage with surrounding hills beginning to accumulate shower activity. In fact, one shower was to find me as I crossed over a narrow neck of Threipmuir Reservoir to pick up a path that was to take me near Harlaw Reservoir without following its shoreline so closely as to add to my mileage for the day. The only tricky side to this, apart from the light rain, was that my Explorer map made no real attempt to show the path that I was following; its Landranger and Harvey counterparts do better on this point and I can put things together using later Explorer data in Quo. While that left me with a bit of thinking to do, it proved to be no trouble at all as I had a copy of Cicerone’s guide to the Pentlands in my pocket anyway. It was that which gave me the idea for the walk even if I deviated from the suggested route from time to time.

Craigentarrie with Harbour Hill and Bell's Hill, Pentlands Regional Park, Edinburgh, Scotland

The rain died out as I began to leave Harlaw Reservoir after me to shorten the way to Wester Kinleith. Along the way, I encountered equestrians who took longer to overtake me than I expected. A short stretch of tarmac was to take me past Middle Kinleith on the way to Easter Kinleith where a little more head scratching ensued before I made out the switchback that I need to escape tarmac again. From this point forward, I largely had things to myself and I only miles away from many pondering what festival show they wanted to see that evening. Clubbidean Reservoir and Torduff Reservoir were to be passed before my Pentlands meander was to complete.

You’d think that I had enough walking done by this time but I truncated my return bus journey to pass on foot old haunts like Bruntsfield Links and the Meadows. After all this, I was more in need of a restful easy evening than one packed with festival action, so those shows were left to others. It had been excellent use of what turned out to have been the best day of the weekend.

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