A Pentland Ramble: Lightweight to Balerno

Having moved through to Edinburgh last year it’s taken to get started, but I’m certainly taking advantage of the fact the Pentland Hills are virtually on my doorstep. They’ve become much more familiar to me and I’ve slowly learned to ditch the heavy gear and travel light. That allows me pack more in to a shorter time. That came in handy a few days ago when my early morning walk was pushed back through a combination of factors and I didn’t manage to get off the bus at Bush Campus near Roslin until half past two in the afternoon.  It’s a short walk through the Bush estate, past the Scottish agricultural College buildings and out on to the busy A702 near Crosshouse Farm. It’s a bad bend here and traffic does come at speed, and you have to take care crossing here. From there onwards to Flotterstone Inn, following the route up Turnouse Hill and along the ridge line which I wrote about in 2013: Munro Bagging in the Pentlands.

Harvey’s Pentland Hills Ultramap

For this walk I’ve ditched my heavy equipment, my camera, spare clothing, in fact everything that I’d usually take carry; instead I’m using an old Lowe Alpine bumbag, containing a Harvey’s 1:40,000 scale Ultramap. Measuring around 7cm x 15cm folded and printed on waterproof paper it’s ideal for these walks as it not only reduces bulk, but removes the need for a map case too. Water and a few energy gels are the only food I’m carrying today, with the last of my load consisting of my smaller Silva classic compass, GPS and mobile phone. I’m also using my lightweight poles, but as far as equipment goes, that’s it. Boots have been replaced by trail running shoes and my protection from the weather was a Paramo Fuera smock. The lightness in weight was immediately noticeable and I barely paused on the steep ascent up Turnhouse Hill, where normally I’d plod and sweat my way up. That’s not to say I didn’t stop though, the view of a rainbow below me was too good to ignore and the phone camera was used a couple of times.

Rainbow over Castlelaw

I was joined by a fell runner for a few minutes and the lack of heavy equipment allowed us to chat as we climbed, passing a large herd of cows as we went. It’s always unnerving when there’s no fence between you and the beasts, luckily they weren’t interested in us and we passed without incident. Soon I was looking at the soles of his shoes as he powered ahead, although I wasn’t overly slacking myself.

Castlelaw and Glencorse

The weather took a decidedly nasty turn as I hit the ridge and by the time I was atop Carnethy Hill I was on the receiving end of a strong wind which made standing difficult, and driving rain. Luckily the rain passed almost as quickly as it arrived and my smock did it’s job well, keeping me warm enough and drying out quickly afterwards. Another descent and reascent followed and I was on top of Scald Law only an hour and forty minutes after getting off the bus. With bags of energy left I dropped off the summit towards the final two hills of the day, East and West Kip. I was aghast at the mess which had been created in the “improvements”carried out to an existing track there, reminding me of the mess I saw some time back on the West Highland Way.

Looking back along the ridge, West Kip, East Kip

With East and West Kip behind me I followed the public right of way north towards Balerno. I’d walked this route a few weeks back with my usual hillwalking buddy Jim, so there was no need  for navigation stops and although my legs were starting to feel the pace I was able to keep it up, passing Bavelaw estate and Threipmuir Reservoir before arriving in Balerno. my timing was slightly off though, as I crested the hill there I saw the bus pull away. Checking my phone I saw that my walk was just shy of 10 miles, and with a bit of time to spare I decided to tidy it up a bit…

10 miles over Turnhouse Hill, Carnethy Hill, Scald Law, East Kip and West Kip in 3 and a half hours? I’m happy with that. Cutting out the excess weight was a huge help though. It’s not always practical, but when it is, it’s more than worth it!

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The West Highland Way near Crianlarich


Ben More Panorama -For Web

Last weekend saw me walking from Tyndrum to Crianlarich with Glasgow HF Outdoor Club on the clubs annual “Christmas at Crianlarich” weekend. I’ll do a walk report soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d post this picture taken while on the walk, the view towards Ben More, Cruach Ardrain and An Caisteall from the West Highland Way above Crianlarich. This photo was published in “The National” newspaper a few days later.

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A Wee Bit Of Scotland

Some years back while making my way off Beinn na Lap I came across a rather fine antler, and took it home to give to my daughter as a wee present. Earlier this year while packing to move to a smaller house it became apparent that not everything could come with us.

I knew that a former member of Glasgow HF Outdoor Club, Stephen Softley, had been making Sgian Dubh’s and selling them online, so I contacted him to see if he could perhaps do something with it.

Fast forward a few months and Stephen had created a wonderful Sgian Dubh, backed with ancient bog-oak from Culloden, with a Damascus steel blade, a Celtic decal and a hand made leather sheath. Not only that but he had created a matching kilt pin to accompany it.

Custom made Sgian Dubh

It really is a stunning piece of work and I’m over the moon with it. It’s nice to have something with a bit of history attached to it rather than the generic items that can be bought on the high street.

If you are looking to have something made, or whether you’d like to buy one of Stephen’s other hand-crafted and distinctive pieces, you can find his online shop at A Wee Bit Of Scotland. You won’t be disappointed.

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East and West Lomond – Permagrips Time!

DSC_0144 (2)East and West Lomond are ideally situated for a late summer evening walk or a short winters day ramble when light and time is short. Apparently they get really busy at weekends, so if you want the feeling of getting away from it all without travelling for four hours to get it, these are the ideal hills to head for.

Full trip report: East and West Lomond- Permagrips Time!

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North Lanarkshire Outdoor Access Forum AGM 2017

The Annual General Meeting of the North Lanarkshire Outdoor Access Forum (NLOAF) takes place on Thursday 30th November at 1330hrs, in The Calder Room, Strathclyde Park Watersports Centre, ML1 3ED.

As the outgoing Chair of the forum I hope that if you are interested in attending, or even better joining, I will see you there. The agenda for the meeting is below.

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Save Faskine Woodland- Update

In a previous post I mentioned how I felt that campaigners to save Faskine Woodland were being led up the garden path by politicians seeking to raise their profile in the local community. That post was published in this weeks Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser.

In my letter I mentioned how Labour would also be happy with an outcome which saw the application go ahead. I didn’t expect North Lanarkshire Labour Leader Jim Logue to confirm it in the same issue…

Like Alex Neil a few weeks back, Mr Logue doesn’t refer to the Faskine campaign directly. He does say loud and clear that “North Lanarkshire is open for business and our attitude to  business and economic growth is one of our biggest priorities”.

Like I said before, this development is wanted by all the parties in the area. What is about to commence is, from a political viewpoint, an interesting exercise in campaigning against something that everyone wants but no one wants to take the rap for.


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East & West Lomond


Winter has arrived

I haven’t managed many walks this year, but yesterday saw me stretching my legs on East and West Lomond in Fife. We were met with the first snows of the winter season, and while only a dusting here, the views of snow plastered mountains on the horizon showed that winter has gained a firm foothold from the Ochills to the Cairngorms.

I’ll post a full review shortly. In the meantime, where’s my thermals…

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