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!

Easter wandering around the Pentland Hills

15th May 2024

Easter 2017 was supposed to be spent in Edinburgh. However, life matters and the fact that I had been in the Isle of Man not so long beforehand stymied things for me then. The weather was not so inviting either, as I found when I went there for a shorter stay. A damp afternoon was spent around Glen Sax near Peebles, while the John Buchan Way occupied me the next day in better weather.

The prospect returned in 2019 after cost-consciousness in 2018 curtailed my travels while on a career break. My arrival was on Holy Thursday and the departure on Easter Tuesday. In between, there was some time for catharsis, particularly the letting go of old hurtful memories from when I lived in the city while at university there.

That was while I pottered about the city, visiting old haunts like Calton Hill, Dean Village, Holyrood Park, Bruntsfield Links, The Meadows and Craigmillar Castle. There was also a crossing to Cramond Island, as well as two visits to Linlithgow. It was not all about rethreading old steps and exorcising old wounds, as healing as that was.

As if to prove that, I spent Holy Saturday around the Pentland Hills. My hill wandering only started once I was in England, so these were not frequented while I lived in Edinburgh. It feels like an oversight now, but computing and science were more attractive to me back then. If I ever thought of scenic delights, my mind ventured towards the Highlands instead.

Even so, I had traipsed parts of these before. There was a short sortie in 2008 that took in Caerketton Hill and Allermuir Hill. More recently, this was reversed on a Boxing Day (also known as St. Stephen’s Day after the early Christian martyr) in brighter weather near the end of last year. In between those, there was a return in 2009 that took in Capelaw Hill, Castlelaw Hill, Glencorse Reservoir, Loganlea Reservoir, Black Hill, Green Cleugh, Threipmuir Reservoir, Harlaw Reservoir, Wester Kinleith, Middle Kinleith, Easter Kinleith, Clubbidean Reservoir and Torduff Reservoir. Looking back on all of these, it appears that I had traipsed a good deal of the place.

That was not how it felt before revisiting these accounts, and 2019 felt no different. That Holy Saturday hike started from Penicuik. Handily, I found a local path that took me away from tarmac tramping for a while. Sadly, these are not marked on maps like their counterparts in the south, a travesty in my opinion. Even GPX tracks are not something that I have encountered yet; someone else can put me right there.

Proceeding along the A702 got me the rest of the way to Flotterstone. While traffic may not have been that heavy, I was happy to swap tarmac for a trail. Continuing straight ahead would have taken me by Glencorse Reservoir, rethreading steps taken in 2009. Wanting something different, I turned off to the left to begin an ascent of Turnhouse Hill. This was to be a day full of ups and downs on going from one hill to another.

Looking through my photos from the day in advance of writing these words, I notice just how hazy and clouded the morning was at the start of the ramble. The photos you find accompanying this piece may tell another story, since the skies cleared as the day wore along. Conditions were not so accommodating for photography at the outset.

Easter wandering around the Pentland Hills

After the descent from Turnhouse Hill, there was an ascent to a higher eminence, Carenethy Hill. If not following the map closely, it was all too easy to err regarding the identity of the hill you were frequenting. That really applied to Crooked Rig on the long descent to where the ascent of Scald Law started. Patience has its uses in these circumstances, especially when you have a false summit to fool you.

Easter wandering around the Pentland Hills

Easter wandering around the Pentland Hills

Easter wandering around the Pentland Hills

Scald Law marked the highest that I was above sea level for the whole day. It might have been near there that I took a call from a relative wishing me a Happy Easter and telling me of overseas travels in the Middle East and Asia. When I got to take them in, the views were wide and included Loganlea Reservoir too. The location also was where I had another decision to make: do I go out to the top of South Black Hill? In the event, I did and it at least marked the southeastern if not the southern extremity of my wandering.

Easter wandering around the Pentland Hills

Easter wandering around the Pentland Hills

Mor tops were to follow, the last pair of the day: East Kip and West Kip. More descending and ascending was in order, yet complaints for surely tiring limbs are lost to the mists of time. Some of these certainly were steep enough for that, with the top of West Kip being rocky enough to cause a momentary pause of thought. All passed without incident to allow gentler gradients to be reached.

Easter wandering around the Pentland Hills

The descent from West Kip dropped me onto Red Road, the track that would convey me by Bavelaw Marsh and Threipmuir Reservoir to reach tarmac again for the final approach to Balerno. Before all that, there were enticing views leading the eye back along the chain of hills that had been followed while allowing for the undulations. These were momentarily interrupted by walkers looking for the way to Nine Mile Burn. Once they were pointed in the right direction, I could return to relishing the views and any available quietude, not being disturbed by any sense of intrusion.

The warmth of the day was to be felt and perhaps deflected me from including the top of Black Hill on my perambulations. While this had me torn at the time, looking back on the 2009 hike now absolves me of any regrets. In any case, it might be the only remaining sign of increasing physical fatigue that resides in my memory.

Easter wandering around the Pentland Hills

Speaking of Black Hill, I found myself looking back in its direction across Threipmuir Reservoir on a momentary pause. After that, progress towards Balerno was to be continuous. Once there, I partook of some refreshments before catching a bus back into the city centre. Even so, my rambling was not over for the day. The added height of the sun in the sky, because of the time of year, allowed me a spot of photography by the banks of the Water of Leith with Dean Village providing an appealing subject for such efforts. This was a day laden with all sorts of pleasing gifts.

Travel Arrangements

Outbound bus from Edinburgh city centre to Penicuik. Return bus from Balerno to Edinburgh city centre.

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