Friday, January 13, 2012

Hiking in the Pentland Hills

Edinburgh is a city of hills.  The most famous are postcard staples Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat (so far neglected in this blog- I’ll get to them soon), and while they offer stunning iconic views, I prefer less well-known climbs that attract more dog walkers than tourists.  As a runner, I’ve become well acquainted with the hilly parks near my flat, and Napier’s Craighouse Campus hill Blackford Hill have become both a joy and a muscle-burning curse in my life.  After a booze and dessert filled holiday season, however, I recently craved an even more challenging hike than these, and decided it was high time for me to venture just beyond the city limits (check this fact) to explore the Pentland Hills.

A massive park just to the South of Edinburgh, the Pentlands are regular stomping ground for hikers, but not many tourists.  Because I visited in the middle of winter, there were even fewer people than usual on the trails, but the cold, wind, and mud I experienced on my 3-hour walk did little to diminish my experience.  I chose to follow a trail aptly named the Capital View, a loop starting and ending at Hillend Country park, winding alongside Midlothian Snowsports Centre’s ski range.

Even though the trail began just outside of the city, I was able to get to it via Lothian Buses, the city’s service, without any trouble.  This is one of the things I love about Edinburgh.  While it’s a buzzing cultural center that offers me such a new experience from my rural upbringing, I can step onto a number 15, and within 15 minutes be hiking through the wilderness. 

My ramble up and down the hills was exactly what the doctor ordered to burn off some holiday indulgences.  Challenging but not dangerously so, the path was reasonably well maintained with only a few muddy patches (and I can’t complain about those; it is January, after all.  And the views?  Well I’m not sure words can describe them, and I know that the photos simply don’t do them justice.  From the highest point the city seemed quite small, the Castle only a small rise in the skyline.  In the distance, the Firth of Forth and Dunfermline Blended into the sky in moody purple gradient layers.

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