If you’re looking for a shorter hike with views on a par with those from Scald Law and the Kips, but without the crowds, Turnhouse Hill and Carnethy Hill should fit the bill. We made an early start, and for the second weekend on the trot the sun was shining. We followed a single track road beyond the car park for a short distance, and then veered off to the left to join the footpath (signposted Scald Law) which leads to Turnhouse Hill.
The first kilometre or so is a slow, steady incline through farmland and open pasture, with sheep scattered across the hillside. If you’re walking with a four-legged friend, keep it under close control or on a short lead. Farmers are within their rights to shoot a dog which poses a threat to their livestock, and we’ve spotted a few warning notices to that effect across the Pentland Hills Regional Park.
We passed through a small copse, and from there it was a short, sharp ascent to the top of Turnhouse Hill (506m). Rewind a few centuries, and the eastern flank of Turnhouse Hill was at the centre of the so-called Pentland Rising. In a nutshell, the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 created a rift within the Church of Scotland. The Recissory Act 1661 required ministers to renounce the National Covenant; many did, but around a third refused to do so and consequently lost their positions. In the years that followed, these Covenanter dissidents came to be viewed as a threat to the government’s regime.
In November 1666, Covenanters, led by James Wallace, set off for Glasgow. When they found their route blocked by a government army, they marched on to Edinburgh to petition the Privy Council of Scotland. For one reason or another, they were unable to enter the city. Wallace was forced to lead the Covenanters south to Rullion Green, in the Pentland Hills. Here, on 28th November 1666, the Battle of Rullion Green took place: the Covenanters, simply put, were outnumbered and outmanoeuvred by government troops. Casualties vary depending on the source, but it’s thought that between 50 and 400 Covenanters were killed and a further 80 to 120 taken prisoner and later sentenced to death.
After pausing to admire the view from Turnhouse Hill, we followed the ridgeline to Carnethy Hill, the second-highest peak in the Pentland Hills Regional Park. Ahead, we could see the rounded top of Scald Law and, beyond it, the pointed tops of The Kips.
The grassy track morphed into a gravelly path which wound its way to the top of Carnethy Hill (573m), marked by a sprawling cairn.
We dropped down the southern slope of Carnethy Hill, and turned right to descend to the valley floor. From there, it was a relaxing stroll along the edge of Loganlea Reservoir and Glencorse Reservoir, both popular spots with anglers, back to Flotterstone. Glencorse Reservoir was built in 1822 to provide water to the mills on the River Esk and supply additional drinking water to Edinburgh. Beneath the reservoir, in the corner where the Kirk Burn flows into it, lie the ruins of St. Catherine’s Chapel.
This last section of the route is a tarmac road, and is much more accessible to outdoor enthusiasts with reduced mobility than other stretches within the Pentland Hills. We followed the road as far as Glen Cottage, and then turned right to return to the car park via the path alongside the now-disused filter beds; if you continue along the road, you’ll end up in the same place. We refuelled with a hot chocolate (and, in Laurence’s case, a sausage bap) from the café before heading home.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Parking | Flotterstone car park (behind the Flotterstone Inn on the A702) fills up early; on weekends, it’s usually full by 08.30. The suggested donation is £2. There’s also a limited amount of verge parking between the main road and the pub. From one walker to another: please park responsibly and don’t be that twerp that blocks others in.
- Facilities | There’s a café (outdoor seating only) and a toilet block to the rear of the car park. The café serves a range of hot drinks and light refreshments; check the Pentland Hills Regional Park website (www.pentlandhills.org) for current opening hours.
- Maps and guides | OS Explorer 344 covers the Pentland Hills Regional Park. We adapted route 20 from Rab Anderson’s The Pentland Hills.
- Distance | 12.27km/7.6 miles; 504m of elevation gain.