THE Pentland Hills offer excellent walking right on the edge of Scotland’s capital city. Around their base is a series of reservoirs, which – although built to supply water – are great places to head for a low-level stroll below the summits.
A place that serves as a good introduction to the area is Harlaw Reservoir, near Balerno. The path round it is virtually level and the views extend towards the hills and glens. Take note that, although fairly flat, this route can be muddy – so make sure to wear appropriate footwear.
The start of the walk takes you through a pleasant wood – don’t worry, you are not hemmed in by trees for the duration of the walk – and emerges next to the entrance to Harlaw Wildlife Garden. Well maintained by the Rotary Club of Currie and Balerno and the ranger service, it is worth a visit. This is actually the garden of Harlaw House, formerly a waterkeeper’s cottage built in the mid-19th century – the same time as the reservoir – but now a visitor centre.
After the visitor centre, head for the southern edge of the reservoir, where you get views across farmland to the large, heather-clad Black Hill. The more pointed hill further away and to the right is West Kip. Together, the peaks give the feel of being on the edge of wilderness.
As you make your way along a well-built path, look out for smaller tracks through the grass to the water’s edge. These are mainly used by fishermen but can lead to excellent spots to enjoy a picnic. Take care near the water – this is a reservoir, and so swimming is not sensible.
At the end of this path, the dam wall for Threipmuir Reservoir is reached. Grassed over on this side, you can walk along its top to gain views across the water to the high hills beyond.
The return is through well-spaced trees, and at this time of year is an ideal area for mushroom-hunters. But don’t pick them unless you are an expert – the consequences can be fatal.
Finally, as you return to the Harlaw Reservoir dam, you get a last chance to look over the water and trees to the wonderful Pentland Hills.
DISTANCE 2 miles. HEIGHT CLIMBED Negligible. TIME 1 hour. MAP OS Landranger 66. PARKING Turn off the A70 at Balerno and go down Bridge Road for about 300 yards before turning left, down Bavelaw Green. After about a third of a mile, as the road goes uphill, turn left down Harlaw Road, following a brown sign. Just over a mile further on, go right at a farm (again following a brown sign) to reach a car park that is about 300 yards down a tarred track.
IN SUMMARY: Follow a path next to some disabled parking bays, into trees, following a sign for Harlaw Woodland Walk. After about 200 yards, the path reaches a road – go right here and through a wooden gate to reach the Harlaw House visitor centre.
Go past this and ignore a green sign pointing right. Instead, go straight on and follow another sign for Harlaw Woodland Walk. This goes along a stone wall by a field before dropping down, crossing a burn and bearing right.
The path runs the length of the reservoir and reaches a track, where you go right to walk along the length of the grass-covered Threipmuir Reservoir dam – you can walk along the top to gain views of the hills across the water. At the end of the dam, follow another woodland walk sign, right and across a small bridge over the dam’s spillway.
On the other side, follow a path into trees, to the right of a track. The path joins the track at times, but for most of the way back you can walk through trees next to Harlaw Reservoir, until you reach its dam.
Cross a green metal bridge, go up some steps and follow a wall to the visitor centre, where you must go left to retrace your steps to the car park.
REFRESHMENTS: There is nothing at the start of the walk, so the best bet is to head for Balerno. Better still, bring a picnic.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA: Edinburgh isn’t far away, and has enough to occupy you for weeks. Otherwise, try Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (0131-333 6333, www.eica-ratho.com), at nearby Ratho. It is the largest indoor climbing wall in the world, offering taster sessions and full lessons for all ages – just remember to book ahead. It’s signposted from the A8/M9 Newbridge roundabout
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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