Edinburgh is brimming with green spaces and hills, and the Pentland Hills Regional Park to the south of the city has quickly become one of my favourite places for a walk. Whether you fancy a short stroll or a longer hike that strings a few peaks together, you’ll find it here. With sunshine on the forecast for (some of) the Easter weekend, we opted for the latter. Scald Law, East Kip and West Kip (together, The Kips) can be done in one fell swoop, by tracing the ridge on the eastern edge of the park.
We followed the path for a short distance along the edge of Harlaw Reservoir, which is flanked by conifers, before turning right onto a dirt track at the point where Harlaw Reservoir meets Threipmuir Reservoir. When we’d hiked up Black Hill a couple of weeks’ prior, repairs were taking place on the footbridge crossing the reservoir. The result? The dirt path with its crater-like potholes now resembled a muddy bath. We decided to walk along the gravelly reservoir shore instead, since the water level was low.
Once over the footbridge, we picked up a path that skirts the foot of Black Hill. On a clear day, you can see the Forth Bridge and the peaks beyond Stirling; on this day, the horizon was a wee bit hazy, and the Forth Bridge was little more than a white smudge in the distance.
A little further on, we dropped down into Green Cleugh, a gorge fringed by heather-clad slopes and a narrow waterway. Ahead, spanning the gap in the gorge, was Scald Law. Just as the path begins to open out into the Logan Valley, we spotted a waterfall spilling over the edge of a cliff; a barely discernible, silvery sliver against the heather. Green Cleugh is a particularly pretty stretch, and one that is easily incorporated into a number of other walks in the area.
When the path forked, we turned left and followed the path as it meandered along Logan Burn for a couple of hundred metres. Sitting in splendid isolation in the middle of the valley is a stone farmhouse. Go past it, and you’ve gone too far (the walk along the edge of Loganlea Reservoir is very pleasant, but more on that another day). We took the steep dirt trail to the right of the house, signposted Penicuik and the Kirk Road. On that note, signposts are few and far between in the Pentland Hills Regional Park, making a map an essential companion.
Up, up, up. And then up some more. It was a sharp, steep ascent to the col between Carnethy Hill and Scald Law, but we were quickly rewarded with expansive views over the Logan Valley. At the col, we veered off to the right; go straight, and you’ll end up in Penicuik. We stopped to put our coats on, as there was a chilly breeze, and then followed the rise to the summit of Scald Law (579m).
We lingered a while at the top, munching bagels and caramel wafers (I’ve recently rediscovered Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer biscuits, and the new dark chocolate variety is particularly moreish) and taking in the views. Beyond the northernmost peaks, Edinburgh; beyond it, the Forth of Firth, a ribbon of blue separating the Lothians from Fife.
We left Scald Law’s trig point behind, and headed south towards East Kip. Here, the path narrowed considerably – it was about a sheep’s width across – making it rather challenging to maintain any distance from walkers coming in the other direction.
East Kip’s grassy track is pock-marked with walkers’ footholds and mountain bikers’ tracks. It was a short, steep ascent to the summit of East Kip (534m), and while the views from the top were beautiful, the cloud of flies was anything but. We moved briskly on towards West Kip (551m).
From West Kip, we could see most of the route we’d taken thus far: the glossy, pale blue surface of Threipmuir Reservoir (first photo, left); the flanks of Hare Hill and Black Hill disappearing into Green Cleugh (first photo, centre); the tip of Loganlea Reservoir (first photo, far right); and the undulating path from the summit of Scald Law (second photo).
A rough grassy path took us down the south side of West Kip, and onto the Red Road (which is neither red nor a road). We turned right, and continued along the Red Road through open moorland for a few kilometres.
When the path met the road at Bavelaw, we turned right, then took a left immediately after to descend towards Threipmuir Reservoir by an avenue of beech trees. For any keen birdwatchers, there’s a bird hide off to the left overlooking Bavelaw Marsh. We crossed the bridge, and picked up a path to our right which led us through Redford Wood and back to Harlaw Reservoir.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Parking | If you want to get a spot in Harlaw or Bavelaw car park, you’ll need to be up early; on weekends, both are usually full by 8.30am. The suggested donation for these car parks is £2. If you’re a late riser and/or willing to add a kilometre or so to your hike, you’ll find ample on-street parking in nearby Malleny Mills and Balerno.
- Facilities | There are toilets near Harlaw Reservoir, but at the time of our hike (early April) these were closed. Check the Pentland Hills Regional Park website (www.pentlandhills.org) for up-to-date information.
- Maps and guides | OS Explorer 344 covers the Pentland Hills Regional Park. We adapted route 56 from Rab Anderson’s The Pentland Hills.
- Distance | 18.85km/11.7 miles; 600m of elevation gain.