Pentland Hills Regional Park: Caerketton Hill and Allermuir Hill

Whoops. This blog post has been lingering in my drafts folder for a solid couple of months. Truth be told, it slipped down the to-do list (and then off it altogether) as soon as my final placement came around. After an evening spent typing up lesson plans and creating resources, the last thing I fancied doing was spending yet more time in front of a screen sifting through photos and writing blog posts. I finished my PGDE last week – and naturally, as soon as the last assignment was complete, Covid struck. (Cue: the weirdest sleep patterns I’ve ever experienced and a cough that is in no hurry to leave.) On the upside, I’ve got a whole summer to unwind and catch up on the blog posts that fell by the wayside over the past few months.

When I’m after a short hike, the loop from Swanston up to Caerketton Hill and Allermuir Hill is my go-to. Why? There’s a decent path (we’ll put the large bog between the two hills to one side for now; it’s not an issue in winter). From the top, there are expansive views across Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. Plus, the slopes are home to some adorable Highland coos.

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North Berwick Law

At the tail end of September, we ventured out to East Lothian. We’d eyed up North Berwick Law on a previous visit to North Berwick, and this time set out with the intention of making it to the top. North Berwick Law is a mile or so to the south of North Berwick, and the route to the top starts from a car park on the north-west side of the hill.

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Water of Leith Walkway: Balerno to Leith

Stretching from Balerno to Leith, the Water of Leith Walkway seamlessly transports walkers from the rural fringes of the Pentland Hills Regional Park to the urban buzz of the city centre and the banks of the Firth of Forth. I’d had my eye on walking the full length of the Water of Leith Walkway for a while, so when I had a bit of time on my hands between leaving my job and starting the PGDE I pulled on my walking boots… and the rest, as they say, is history. I should probably note that walking boots aren’t strictly necessary for this route; I just find them more comfortable than trainers for long walks. Here’s a wee photo tour of the Water of Leith Walkway:

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2021 in Numbers

Normally, I round off the year with a month-by-month breakdown of memorable moments. But, much like last year, by the time December rolled round, I couldn’t remember for the life of me what I’d done in January. Or February, for that matter. (Other than pack our life in Cambridge into boxes and move it 300+ miles up the A1, that is. More on that below.) So I decided to take a slightly different approach. I’ve broken the year up by numbers – some big, some small – which together paint a picture of 2021.

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Cairngorms National Park: Carn Aosta, The Cairnwell and Carn a Gheòidh

When I say this trio of Munros is the [easiest / quickest / insert superlative of your choice here] to bag, I mean it. They’re a hop, skip and a jump from the car park at Glenshee Ski Centre – which is only three hundred metres below the first two summits.

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Cairngorms National Park: Carn an Tuirc, Cairn of Claise, Glas Maol and Creag Leacach

Usually, I sleep like a log when we’re camping. Not so on this occasion, as we had the misfortune to be pitched next to a couple who gossiped loudly into the wee hours on one night and a tentful of snorers on the second. When we surfaced, the campsite was enveloped in mist and the midges were ready and waiting for their breakfast (aka us). We pulled on our midge nets, scarfed down our breakfast (eating a scone with jam whilst wearing a midge net isn’t the easiest of tasks), and then hopped in the car.

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Cairngorms National Park: Loch Callater, Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr, Carn a’ Choire Bhaidheach and Lochnagar

After pottering round Aviemore and stocking up on supplies, we headed east towards Braemar. I can’t remember exactly how Loch Callater came onto our radar, but it didn’t take long for us to find a way to fit it into our itinerary. Of all the lochs I’ve seen in Scotland so far, this is a strong contender for being my favourite. We parked the car at Auchallater, fed coins into the machine, and changed into our hiking clothes. (As it turned out, it was a popular spot for wild swimming so no one bats an eye when they see people changing between car doors.)

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Highland Wildlife Park

When we mapped out our trip to the Cairngorms National Park, we knew we’d spend the bulk of our time there Munro-bagging. But there was another spot I was keen to visit while we were in the area: Highland Wildlife Park. And so, after four days of Munro-bagging (and with four more to come afterwards), it was time for a rest day – in the form of a pootle around Highland Wildlife Park.

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Cairngorms National Park: Bynack More

Bynack More is one of those Munros that’s a bit out on a limb, and as such it’s best done as an out-and-back from Glenmore Forest Park. We had breakfast on the beach (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done that!) at Loch Morlich, and then took down the tent and tootled up the road to Allt Mor car park. We stuffed snacks, sunblock and waterproofs (best to be prepared for all eventualities) into our day rucksacks, and set off. After three days of hauling all our kit around, it was nice to have a day with a lighter load.

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Cairngorms National Park: Beinn Mheadhoin, Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm

With its craggy peaks (including enough Munros to keep the avid Munro-bagger busy for a very long time*) and arctic-alpine lakes, the Cairngorms National Park is the gift that keeps on giving. Our multi-day loop concluded with a string of peaks in the vicinity of Loch Avon: Beinn Mheadhoin, Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm.

*Unless you’re the guy we bumped into up Beinn Mheadoin and Cairn Gorm who’d packed eighteen into a single weekend, that is.

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