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Walk Scotland's Pentland Hills with a Cicerone guidebook - Introduction

Cover of Walking in the Pentland Hills
7 Oct 2016
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.1cm
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Walking in the Pentland Hills

30 walks in Edinburgh's local hills

by Susan Falconer
Book published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook featuring 30 circular walks on Scotland's Pentland Hills, easily accessible from Edinburgh and home to peaks such as Scald Law and Carnethy Hill. Ranging from 2 to 17 miles, the routes are suitable for all abilities. Written by a local Countryside Ranger, the routes offer interesting and varied walking through diverse landscapes.

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Size: 17.2 x 11.6 x 1.1cm
Weight: 200g

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This guidebook details 30 circular walks in Scotland's Pentland Hills, a range of low summits which extends between Edinburgh and Biggar in South Lanarkshire. Ranging from 3 to 27km (2-17 miles), there is something to suit all abilities from the novice to the experienced hill-walker, with each route showcasing a different aspect of the area's unique character. 

Step-by-step route description is accompanied by 1:50,000 OS mapping and a wealth of interesting information on the region's rich natural and cultural heritage: its geology, history, wildlife and connections with literary greats such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. Local place names are explained, local folklore explored and there is a helpful glossary of dialect terms.  

The Pentland Hills can be enjoyed in all seasons. Although the highest summit, Scald Law, stands at 579m, stunning vistas belie their modest elevation: this is a region of grass and heather-clad slopes which rise above picturesque valleys hiding streams and reservoirs. Walking in the Pentland Hills is an ideal companion to discovering great walking on Scotland's most accessible hills. 

  • Activities
  • Seasons
    All seasons - a mild climate with little snow
  • Centres
    Edinburgh, Penicuik, West Linton, Lanark
  • Difficulty
    A basic level of navigational skills is required, but the routes should not cause any wayfinding difficulties. Height mainly 400-550m.
  • Must See
    Archaeological remains, historical and folkloric associations, castles, literary connections (Scott and RL Stevenson), views from the tops, wildlife
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We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our Feedback form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).


Approaches and accommodation
Choosing a walk
Access rights and responsibilities
Following a route
Geology and landscape
Cultural heritage
Place names and dialect Words
Old maps
Previous Pentlands guidebooks
Literary Connections with the Pentland Hills
Protecting and enjoying the hills
The Walks
Walk 1 A capital view
Walk 2 In Stevenson’s footsteps
Walk 3 Hill, moor and wood
Walk 4 Three reservoirs
Walk 5 A phantom walk
Walk 6 Harlaw Reservoir circuit
Walk 7 Black Hill, Green Cleuch and Red Moss
Walk 8 Carnethy and Turnhouse
Walk 9 Three peaks
Walk 10 Pentland classic
Walk 11 Thieves’ Road
Walk 12 West Linton and Siller Holes
Walk 13 Roman road
Walk 14 Covenanters and cairns
Walk 15 Walking with wolves
Walk 16 Poets and witches
Walk 17 North Esk Valley
Walk 18 The Monks’ Road
Walk 19 The four tops
Walk 20 The Carnethy 5
Walk 21 Carnethy canter
Walk 22 History in the hills
Walk 23 Flotterstone and Fala Knowe
Walk 24 Two cleuchs
Walk 25 Pentland tops
Walk 26 Historical hike
Walk 27 Exploring Caerketton
Walk 28 Find your way
Walk 29 Reservoir round
Walk 30 Robin’s round
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Bibliography
Appendix C Glossary


‘The Pentland Hills are homely and friendly hills; they lie near the bounds of our city habitation, and frequent visiting begets an intimacy and friendship that is real and lasting. The most outlying parts may be reached in the course of a day’s walk, and places of silence, where none will intrude, are easily accessible.’ Will Grant’s words from his 1927 book The Call of the Pentlands are as relevant today as when they were first written. The Pentland Hills comprise a rich tapestry of landscapes and landforms, all neatly packaged within an area easily accessible from Scotland’s majestic capital city. Although principally a grass-and heather-clad, softly rounded hill range, the hills reward further exploration by revealing stunning summit vistas, quiet waterside strolls, deeply incised rocky valleys and wooded walks, as well as a fascinating natural and cultural heritage.

The Pentlands are well known to the people of Edinburgh; even for those who have not actually visited them, they form a familiar backdrop to city life. This hill range – Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘hills of home’ – arouses strong feelings, and on their return to Edinburgh, either by road, rail or air, many people regard their first glimpse of the Pentlands as confirmation of finally arriving home.

The Pentland Hills run southwest from Edinburgh towards Biggar, covering an area of 210 sq km, and their generally rounded appearance is the result of sculpting by glaciers and meltwater, They reach a maximum height of 579m at Scald Law, although most lie between 400m and 550m in height.

Approximately 90 sq km in the northern sector of the Pentlands was designated a regional park (the Pentland Hills Regional Park) in 1986, with the aim of acknowledging and safeguarding the landscape, wildlife and recreational value of this important location. The regional park benefits from a ranger service (now called the Natural Heritage Service), which assists land managers and visitors by maintaining the path infrastructure, providing waymarking and interpretation, and giving advice on responsible access. The path network is well signposted, and a diverse range of cultural and natural heritage adds interest to the scenery.

The Pentlands offer good variety for the walker, with the excellent path system, interesting but not too rugged terrain, and proximity to civilisation adding up to a superb introduction to hill walking in Scotland. These hills are especially suitable for beginners (Walks 1 to 7), although the longer and more remote routes (Walks 11, 13, 14 and 15) in the southern end, which is a more open, exposed and remote landscape, with less obvious waymarking and more challenging navigation on some routes, should satisfy the more seasoned hiker. Walks 19, 20, 24 and 25 should also appeal to more experienced walkers. A basic level of navigational skills is required, but none of the routes should cause any wayfinding difficulties.

My approach to writing this guidebook is to imagine that I, as a countryside ranger, am taking the reader on a walk. It reflects what I would point out and note as a ranger on patrol, with the addition of snippets of research that I have found interesting along the way.

The Pentlands are included in many walking guides about the Lothians and Scotland, but to my knowledge there has, so far, been no walking guide dedicated solely to the Pentland Hills. This shortage of comprehensive walking guides led to the writing of this book.

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