Fresh Countryside air, peace and quiet, spectacular views and if you choose, a serious day of hiking.
Take a short thirty-minute trip south-west of Edinburgh and you will be rewarded with all of these and more, in the Pentland Hills Regional Park.
For my day of hiking adventures I had set off on an early flight from Dublin.
It had been a few weeks since I had done a lengthy hike and I was full of anticipation with the whole day to explore.
My objective for the day was a relaxing day in the great outdoors combined with a challenging hike exploring somewhere new.
The Pentlands covers over 10,000 hectares of countryside and within there are over 100km of paths and trails to explore.
Perfect for hiking, trail running, mountain biking, horse riding, fishing, or just a leisurely stroll in the great outdoors.
There are walks for all fitness levels winding through a variety of terrain, this means you can take a leisurely stroll on the flat in just a couple of hours, or spend the whole day exploring the peaks on the more testing trails.
The trails take you in and out of incredible landscape, around reservoirs, through glens and to the top of breathtaking peaks.
Map in hand and with a loaded packed lunch of 2 chicken rolls,1 steak bake, 1 caramel custard donut, raspberry and almond bakes, 1apple, mixed nuts, super seeds, sliced beef, 1 protein shake,1 ginger beer, and 2 litres of water I set off from the Flotterstone entrance.
For the first part of the hike you follow a wide paved path around the Glencorse reservoir.
A super relaxing start to my hike, the sun was shining down with spring in the air, as I walked along the path I was surrounded by the hills on either side and the sound of the running streams and birds singing, feeling blissful in the great outdoors.
The walk is very easy going around the reservoir, it’s paved and has no steep parts, you can take a leisurely stroll or really stretch out the legs and get trekking.
I had initially planned to walk the reservoir route and go back in a loop, but once I had started it was much shorter than I had anticipated.
The weather was super, I was down to T’shirt and shorts and I felt amazing, so powered on by half of my highly nutritious Greggs packed lunch I picked up the pace and stretched out for the summits!
The path continued on a gradual incline as I passed Longanlea reservoir and had a brief chat with one of the fisherman.
A quick tip here:- you can fish for trout from the bank or in small boats if you’re interested, it’s £15 for four hours but the price goes up if your fishing skills are good enough and you want to keep the fish.
Continuing on from the reservoir I turned left and began my route towards Scald law.
From here you are proper hiking, the first incline is super steep and it felt great to get the heart pumping and the legs burning, a very challenging incline, taking short stops to enjoy the view of the valley behind you is highly recommended.
After the steep hiking and some rough sections the path becomes flatter with less incline.
This was my favourite part of the hike, I stopped several times to take in the incredible surroundings as the trail took me past small pockets of snow to the summit.
At 579 metres (1900ft) Scald law is the highest of the Pentland hills, it’s a steep hike from the reservoirs and the terrain can be rough at times but you can tell this place is popular by the well-trodden trail.
The donut was definitely burnt off, and the chicken roll instantly turned to muscle!
Panoramic views from the top are outstanding, stretching long distance over Edinburgh City all the way to the forth bridge on the horizon.
My route is very easy to follow with the map, it took me 3 hours from Flotterstone to the top with several stops along the way.
Once at the summit I took around 20 minutes to have a good look around in all directions, I celebrated my success in the battle to reach the peak, then re-charged to move back down the hills.
I also reluctantly rationed the remainder of the packed lunch in case I got lost, as I estimated I still had about 2-3 hours of hiking to go.
Throughout the whole day I didn’t see many fellow hikers, on Scald Law a single photographer had prime position at the top, and a Scotsman in his kilt passed by, but I didn’t see anybody else in the space of 3 hours, it was very peaceful on this particular day, the sun was beaming down all day, great conditions for late March.
Rambling back down Scald Law I couldn’t resist the opportunity to attack a few hill sprint intervals on my descent, there is a trail down to the right before the climb up Carnethy hill, it was perfect for a few hill sprints taking up the heart rate and adding in some extra fitness work.
8 approx 20-second sprints with a steady walk back down.
If you can, my recommendation would be to mix up the hike with some hill shuttles to really get the heart pumping, there is also a narrow road between the reservoirs which is perfect for shuttle runs and a stretch, mix up the hike with some trail running for a great day of training.
I still had the descent of the other hills to go, but my route along Carnethy Hill and Turnhouse hill had been very clear to see from above, they were the hills towering above the reservoirs I had just walked along.
I took my time walking back along these hills savouring the day, a leisurely pace to the entrance where I started the hike at Flotterstone.
All in all I spent 7-8 hours wandering and taking in the Scottish scenery, being outside felt amazing after a tough week of training and 4am rise for the early flight.
It was such an incredible day I stretched out the hike a little longer walking back along the road from Flotterstone to the bus stop whilst listening to a few tunes, by the time I got back to the hotel my adventure measured 30km or 18.6 miles.
The day finished with a full body stretch and light yoga in the hotel, my objective of a relaxing day in the great outdoors combined with a challenging hike exploring somewhere new was accomplished.
Getting to Pentland Hills Regional Park
Very easy, from the Airport I took the Airlink bus and got off at Waverley Bridge, from here it was a short walk to Edinburgh bus station and jump on the 101 to Flotterstone.
The journey takes approx 30 minutes from the city centre depending on traffic.
£2.40 return ticket.
There are good car parking facilities from the various start points around the Pentland Hills National Park so it’s easy enough to drive to if you have a car.
I only visited for 2 days so had planned all of my exploring on public transport, it’s very easy.
Stay warm and waterproof as always, when your out for a hike layering with multiple thinner layers is key.
As you scale the peaks of the hills and stop moving even the lightest breeze will leave you cold.
There are no Mountains here, so you won’t need your Ice axe to reach the summit but there were still dustings of snow at the top on the day I visited.
They are challenging hills and you will certainly feel it after.
Hiking boots – these peaks are not mountains but the inclines of walking up and between several will make for a tough day hiking if you choose.
Sunglasses- (forgot mine)
Camera of course -I hope you have a clear day on your visit so that you can enjoy the long distance view.
Visiting the Pentland Hills in winter, will require greater preparation, this area is frequently hit with heavy snow.
Pack your lunch -Fuel up
Take supplies if you’re doing this particular walk, as I have already mentioned I stocked up on plenty of food in Greggs when I passed through Edinburgh City.
You may have noticed I made reference to my Greggs packed lunch, this blog post has no association with Greggs and I can confirm I am not sponsored by them, but I do on rare occasion enjoy their cakes.
Moderation not deprivation is key and if you’re restricting yourself so much that you can’t enjoy a few high calorie snacks on an 18-mile hike you may need to review your relationship with food.
I also had a healthy breakfast to start the day and enjoyed fish and vegetables in the evening. Make sure the foundations of your food are nourishing, you will need to fuel the high levels of prolonged activity and recovery.
On my next visit, I may take a flask of Coffee.
Go and Explore
The Pentland Hills Regional park had been recommended to me as a great hiking destination by one of my clients, he had recently visited for a couple of days intense trail running and was delighted with the place.
I’m now recommending it to you, get yourself to Edinburgh and explore.
I’ll be back myself, now that I know the area a little better I plan to do some trail runs and more hiking in the future.
If you love exploring the great outdoors the Pentland Hills Regional Park is definitely for you, it’s an incredible place.
With so many recommendations on hikes and places to explore in Scotland,
I’m just deciding where the next Scottish adventure will be.
Give it a hike and let me know how it goes.