A walk away from it all

Article in the Konect Directory, Balerno edition, February 2011

by Karen Murray 

When you want to get away from it all, there is nothing better than to head for the hills and the glorious thing about living in this area is that the hills are on your doorstep. A city surrounded by hills has to offer the best of both worlds so you need travel no distance (in fact you could just about walk directly from your doorstep) and you will very soon reach the Pentland Hills.

The question then is which of the many walks to take. I have done a fair few of them since living here, from easy walks with a buggy to something a little tougher but still suitable for children and when I am escaping the children, something really energetic. 

An added advantage to hills so close to home is that during the shorter winter months a fairly long and challenging walk can be managed without a long car journey using up the precious daylight. So if you are feeling the need for some peace and quiet, some energetic walking and some fabulous views, why not try the Flotterstone circular walk. This does mean getting in the car and driving across to Flotterstone on the A702 to start the walk.  It's a pretty challenging route encompassing the highest and finest of the Pentland hills including Turnhouse Hill, Carnethy Hill, Scald Law, East Kip and West Kip. 

The walk begins at the Pentland Hills Regional Park visitor centre at Flotterstone (just off the A702) where you will also notice the Flotterstone Inn, to which of course you will return! The Visitor Centre is great place to start this and other shorter walks as there is plenty of information available as well as some interactive exhibits to engage the younger members of your party. Spot the many birds from their window, pick up a map to help you on your way and then you are off. 

Follow the path from the centre to the tarmac road for around 500m until you see the green signpost to Scald Law on the left. Follow the track past the trees and Glencorse burn on the left until you come to a wooden gate and then a bridge. Crossing the bridge you are straight onto the path that accesses the hills. The climb to the top of Turnhouse Hill is well marked and fairly steep.  The views back from here are superb and to the right you get a glimpse of Glencorse Reservoir is backed by Castlelaw.  At the summit there are incredible 360 degree views - to the north Fife and the Forth Bridges, to the west the view is over the wilder and more remote parts of the Pentland Hills Regional Park and to the south towards Penicuik you can see the site of the Battle of Rullion Green where General Thomas Dalziel defeated 900 Covenanters on 28 November 1666. You are now on the ridge and a grand traverse stretches ahead with superb views off to either side.

The path then descends, losing around 80m down to a bealach (the gaelic word for a mountain pass) where the ridge is crossed by a fence. Pass through a gate to begin the ascent to Carnethy Hill - the second highest of the Pentlands. The summit is marked by a cairn and is a wonderful viewpoint for all directions, both ahead to Scald Law with the Kips to its right and back towards Edinburgh. From here you can also see the narrow valley track that leads north west towards Bavelaw and Balerno.
Once you have rested and enjoyed the views, continue on the ridge path, thankfully downhill, towards another bealach. An old right of way crosses the ridge here, known as the Kirk Road.  If you were to go left you would come down to a layby on the A702, but the route to the right  will take you to the top end of Loganlea Reservoir. If you have the energy, however, you'll want to continue along the ridge first to take in Scald Law , the highest of the Pentlands, before coming back to the Kirk Road. The top is marked by a trig point and the views fantastic once more.  At this point you could extend your walk further by heading over what are known as the Kips and following the track to the Thriepmuir Reservoir and into Balerno itself!
If that really does seem a step too far (and it certainly was for me), then you can make your way back to the Kirk Road and follow the track down to the Loganlea Reservoir  - one of several in the Pentlands that supplies Edinburgh with drinking water. You pass through a gap in the fence and pick up the track that runs along by the reservoir, which soon becomes a tarred road running alongside the Logan burn. Next you reach the Glencorse Reservoir where the road passes a line of Scots pines. It then leads all the way back to the start at Flotterstone, al though an alternative is to take a signed path and track on the right after the reservoir that leads back via the old filter beds.
Back where you started you can now enter the Flotterstone Inn where you can enjoy the refreshments it has to offer, safe in the knowledge that you have earned it.

Walk Distance: 18 kms
Length of time: around 6 hours 

© Lothian Publications Ltd 2014