The Pentland Hills Coast

The Pentland Hills, which rise to nearly 600m on the outskirts of Edinburgh, dominate the landscape of the Lothians. Set within the Pentland Hills Regional Park, this rolling range of peaks offers superb walking and there is a real sense of wildness only a few miles from Scotland’s capital city.

The history of this magnificent range goes back some 420 million years to when the Pentland Fault pushed parts of the landscape upwards before the ice rounded the tops and meltwater eroded the glens. During the 1800s many of these glens were deliberately flooded to create a number of reservoirs – including Glencorse, Threipmuir, Harlaw and North Esk - which then provided Edinburgh with clean drinking water. Today these reservoirs and glens grant fine walking and are home to a vast array of wildlife including buzzard, kestrel, mute swan, redshank, black-headed gull, tufted duck, cormorant, common sandpiper, oyster-catcher, golden-eye, heron and migrating goose.

Of all the reservoirs North Esk has perhaps the most interesting history. Sitting at over 300m above sea-level, and fed by the likes of Gutterford Burn and Henshaw Burn, the reservoir was completed in 1850 at a cost of £15093 (this equates to around £900,000 today). It was constructed to provide a constant water source for several local paper mills during the 19th/early 20th centuries, including Bank Mill, which produced paper for bank notes.

The Pentland Hills are thought to have been inhabited since the Iron Age, with the Votadini, the controlling Celtic tribe, farming this upland territory. Agriculture has always been the dominant industry within the hills and the area used to be an important drove route to the great trysts at Falkirk, Stenhousemuir and beyond. This ancient thoroughfare also includes the Kirk Road, which runs beneath the slopes of Scald Law and Carnethy Hill.

It provided easier access for the residents of Bavelaw and Loganlea who wanted to attend church in Penicuik. Furthermore, to the west of the range, on Monks Rig, is the Font Stone. It is thought that, rather than being a font, the deep indentation in the stone held the base of a cross and may have been on the route of a pilgrim’s path.

Yet it is the high tops that continue to draw thousands of walkers every year. For instance the windswept summits of Caerketton Hill and Allermuir Hill are hugely popular with locals and visitors alike, and both offer incredible panoramas that extend to the bigger, more muscular mountains of the Southern Highlands. The Ochil Hills are visible to the northwest while, on a clear day, the conspicuous profile of Ben Lomond rises on the edge of the Highlands. Castlelaw Hill, which commands a more central position within the Regional Park, presents fabulous views across the Pentlands while the flatter plains of Midlothian and the gorgeous coastlines of Lothian and East Lothian extend from the summits of both Carnethy Hill and Turnhouse Hill.

The highest point of the Pentland Hills, at 579m above sea level, is Scald Law. Translating from Scots as the scabbed hill it offers yet another breathtaking panorama, one that extends into the Scottish Borders and out to the Southern Highlands.

Good paths climb to all of these summits while the glens are also linked with clear paths, underlining the sheer wealth and diversity of walking to be found in the Pentland Hills. There really is something for everyone. TC
Published: October 2018