Edinburgh Outdoors: The Pentlands
Edinburgh’s Pentland Hills are just on the outskirts of the city, and are the perfect place for visitors who want to stretch their legs and get some quality hiking in without having to travel long distances. They’re particularly well placed for visitors who don’t have a car as well, and with a number of trails, you can visit a number of times and not cross the same tracks twice – the range is about 20 miles long and the park itself covers about 55 square miles. From city water reservoirs to a military rifle range (don’t worry – it’s well marked), horseriding, and walking, it’s the perfect place to spend a sunny day. Let’s explore further, shall we?
Getting to the Pentlands couldn’t be easier – Lothian Buses provides you with several easy access points, all about 30-45 minutes from the city centre. It’s best to plan your visit in advances, you know where you want to be starting from. Here are some of the more common routes:
- Balerno (map): Route 44 takes you here, the furthest stop out from the city. The hills are a bit of a walk through a residential district, so a map is advised.
- Hunter’s Tryst (map): Route 27 will take you this quite little town with great hill access.
- Hillend (map): Route 4 or 15 will drop you off by this spot. It’s recognisable because it’s the dry ski slop – that’s the white streak you can see on the left side of the hills looking at them from Edinburgh.
- Flotterstone (map): MacEwans bus 100 [departs from the bus station in St Andrews Square] drops you off, and just behind the pub you’ll find the trails up into the hills
Don’t forget to consider starting and finishing in a different spot, which is entirely possible and people do it all the time. Just be sure to consider bus schedules and what not; the nice thing is that there’s always a pub nearby while you wait for your ride back into town.
More bus information: www.lothianbuses.com
There are endless combinations of walks and routes you can do, but here are a few popular suggestions. For more inspiration, I suggest you visit the official Pentlands site, where you can find maps and other important info.
- Ski Hill Circle: From Hillend, you can actually just walk up around the top of the ski centre, across the crest that is behind it, and then back down. This is a short walk if you’re looking to come check out the view and get some fresh air, but be forewarned it is quite a steep one (short, but steep). It’s also easy because you always have visual sight of the ski area, so you won’t get lost.
- Glencourse View Walk: From Flotterstone, this trail is one of the most scenic of the routes that go through the pentlands, with reservoirs and other natural features.
- Harlow Woodland Walk: From Balerno, this is one of my personal favourites because it’s usually quite quiet. This is a circular walk and just spectacular, but if you take the bus, you have about a mile walk to the start of the walk.
As I mentioned earlier, you can start in one village and end in another, or do a circular route. You can also combine routes – the last two walks are ‘official’ Pentland walks, but the thing about the Pentlands is that there are lots of combinations you can make up on your own. For example, there’s the 3-mile burn or the 5-mile burn – and believe me, once you’ve gone up and down these hills, you’ll know why they call it a burn!
I’d be remiss not to suggest you visit the Pentlands without leaving you with a few safety notes regarding your trip:
- Pack a light rucksack with emergency items – mobile phone, water, snacks, waterproof gear. No matter how nice the weather in Edinburgh, it can be chilly/inclement up here and the weather can totally change within half an hour, which isn’t enough time to get off the mountains.
- Have a plan – Because there are few landmarks inside the park, it’s easy to get off course, so be sure to have a plan; print out a map or speak to someone at a ranger’s office, so you know where you’re going. This is not a place to spend the night.
- Good footwear is a must - even in the height of summer you’ll encounter boggy patches of land and rough terrain. Sandals are not appropriate footwear up here!
Photos by Chris Fleming
ABalerno, Midlothian EH14Balerno, Midlothian EH14, UKView Details and Book
BThe Hunters Tryst97 Oxgangs Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH13 9NG, United KingdomView Details and Book
CMidlothian Snowsports CentreHillend, Biggar Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH10 7DU, United KingdomView Details and Book
DFlotterstone InnUnited Kingdom, undefinedView Details and Book