First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
The Pentland Hills are to Edinburgh what the Chilterns are to London or the Wicklow Mountains to Dublin – a green open space on the doorstep of the capital city, hilly country that’s easily accessible and threaded with excellent paths. Setting out from West Linton, just to the south of Edinburgh, on a cold damp winter morning, we were looking forward to getting city air out of our lungs and a little red into our cheeks.
The stony lane called The Loan ran straight between mossy banks towards hillsides paled by a dusting of snow. Beech trees formed a guard of honour on either hand. Sleety rain came in short sharp flurries, pocking the puddles in the old droving track that soon joined a Roman road. Agricola’s soldiers built it in about 80 AD, a straight highway heading for the Firth of Forth.
A hillside of coarse grass rose alongside, lumpy and dimpled with ancient lead workings. Locals name this piece of ground the ‘siller holes,’ after the tradition that it also yielded silver to the miners.
Soon we turned aside on a rutted and grassy track heading purposefully into the hills. A couple of hundred years ago sheep were drive in great multitudes along these Pentland tracks down to West Linton market, a huge bustling affair where up to 30,000 sheep might be sold.
Below the track the Lyne Water went hurrying round the intricate bends it had carved for itself in its steep-sided green valley. Shooters walked its banks, pop-popping away at pheasants, each discharging gun betraying its position with a sudden spurt of grey smoke.
Beyond the shooting party we descended to cross the river, icy and black as it raced below the footbridge. Then it was back along a moorland road in spatters of snow which cleared in an instant to beautiful sunshine spreading across the hills.
Near West Linton we recrossed the river and follow a teetering woodland path known with good reason as the Catwalk. High on the lip of the Lyne Water’s gorge we threaded the beeches, watching our step and admiring the races of the river far below. Sleet gave way once more to sun, and every beech twig sported a row of raindrops as bright as brilliants.
How hard is it? 5½ miles; easy; good tracks and paths. Catwalk path is narrow above steep slopes.
Please only walk within your Tier area, or enjoy this as an armchair walk till restrictions lift. And please consider others when you park.
Start: Gordon Arms Hotel, Dophinton Rd, West Linton, EH46 7DR (OS ref NT 149520)
Getting there: Bus 93 (Peebles – West Linton), 101 (Dumfries-Edinburgh)
Road: West Linton is on A702 between Edinburgh and Biggar
Walk (OS Explorer 344): Up lane opposite Gordon Arms (‘Carlops via the Loan’). In ¾ mile, right along the Roman Road (143530, ‘Carlops’). In 500m, sharp left (145535, ‘Little Vantage’). Follow arrows through farmyard and on. In 1¼ miles, at angle of drystone wall, left through gate (131546, arrow). Descend to river; right to cross footbridge (128546); up bank to road (127545); left. In 1¾ miles, left (140523; ‘Carlops’ on reverse of sign). Cross river above Lynedale House (141523); in 200m at top of rise, just before sheds on left, turn right (142527), up bank and through kissing gate. Follow narrow Catwalk path through woodland at edge of ravine for ¾ mile to return to West Linton.