Scottish walks: Foothills of the Pentlands

Pentlands Walk. Picture: Nick Drainey
Pentlands Walk. Picture: Nick Drainey
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IT WAS meant to be different, a long day’s tramp in the Pentlands. But as is so often the case in winter, the weather intervened.

Part of the way up the steep east slopes of Caerketton Hill the wind was nearly blowing me off my feet and the rain was blasting my face like a power washer. Some would have carried on, but even though I wasn’t in any danger, the discomfort meant this was simply not fun.

Instead, a retreat to the top of the Hillend ski slopes meant a little shelter and the chance to enjoy a great panorama of Scotland’s capital city, proving that it is always a good idea to have a Plan B.

This walk follows part of the waymarked Capital View route. It is fairly steep at the start so it can be used as a quick jaunt to get your “hill legs” back after the Christmas and Hogmanay revelry or as a great taste of the glorious Pentland Hills.

DISTANCE 1∫ miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED 650ft.

TIME 1 to 1∫ hours.

MAP OS Landranger 66.

PARK Turn off the A702 a quarter of a mile south of the junction with the Edinburgh city bypass, at the entrance to the Hillend ski slopes. There is a car park on the left almost immediately after leaving the main road.

IN SUMMARY Go to the top of the car park and follow a path which starts near an information board. This bears away from the ski centre access road up to a sign post, where you go left.

Keep next to a fence on the left as you go uphill then, when the gradient levels off, turn up a path on the right. This leads to the top of a bank, where you go right, along a path.

After about 150 yards the path bears left to pass through gorse. Look for a marker post with a castle symbol at a junction of paths and follow it, up to the left. Go right after about 100 yards, on a path which starts off in the direction of the top of the ski slopes. Cross another grass path before bearing left and going uphill. After crossing yet another path, keep going up to the top of a grassy hillock, where you bear right to drop down to a gate. Go through this and turn right to follow a path over the top of the ski slopes and past a view indicator.

Look for a gap in the fence to the right and follow a steep path downhill, between fences. At the bottom go through a gate on the right and follow a grass path down. This joins a track and drops past the ski centre. Follow the path next to the access road back down to the start.

REFRESH There is a café at the ski centre – and there is always the wide choice down the road in Edinburgh.

WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA As well as Edinburgh and its many attractions you could head south down the A702 for a couple of miles to the Castlelaw Hill Fort, which is remarkably good to explore, especially with children. www.historic-scotland.gov.uk n