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So close to Edinburgh’s lovely city centre you can almost hear the castle’s bagpipers from its highest summits, the Pentland Hills are delightful. Walks in the Pentland Hills place you amongst a thriving patchwork of noble hills, heather moorland, sheep-grazed pastures, pretty reservoirs and glorious woodland.
Experience the sight of the Scottish capital and the Firth of Forth stretching away below as you soak up the scenery from the range’s northern outposts. Venture further into this gorgeous landscape to ridges that are inspiring but never overly strenuous. These are the ideal hills for bracing rambles that clear the head and have the soul soaring.Due to their modest elevation, hikes in the Pentland Hills are perfect for the whole family, including the pooch. There are plenty of hidden, quiet corners of woodland, heather moorland and farmland ripe for exploration. Scenic reservoirs dot the landscape, providing habitats for a variety of bird and mammal species.
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The Pentland Hills are the closest area of upland to Edinburgh and stretch for twenty glorious miles (32 km). Established in 1986, the Pentland Hills Regional Park ensures conservation and access to this lovely landscape, offering the discerning hiker over 62 miles (100 km) of routes across the hills. Gradients are easier on the knees than those found in the Highlands, perfect for a family adventure.
Perhaps the finest place to start your walks in the Pentland Hills is Hillend Country Park. Popular with dog walkers, it is not long before the trails ascend to magnificent viewpoints overlooking Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth with its iconic bridges. Flocks of sheep roam the upland pastures, so it’s crucial to keep your dog on a lead at all times.
For many, the best hiking trails in the Pentland Hills traverse the delightful ridge that connects pretty Carnethy Hill to the domed summit of Scald Law which, at 1,900 feet (579 metres), is the range’s highest point. Such is the scenic value of this walk that Sir Walter Scott extolled that he ‘never saw anything more beautiful then the ridge of Carnethy against a clear frosty sky.’
Hikes in the Pentland Hills reward with repeat visits at different times of the year. Their location in the east means that they avoid the worst of the Atlantic fronts, leading to a colder, more stable climate in winter. This allows for stunning frosts and, despite their moderate height, dustings of snow are not uncommon. Winter walking here is marvellous, without some of the dangers associated with snow in the Highlands.
Spring brings greenery back to the hills, warmth to the air and those Edinburgh views are clearer than later in the year. Summer sees long daylight hours and hazy days. This is when the heather moorland is at its most spectacular, a dazzling display of bright purple. For evocative red and gold hues spreading across the hillside and transforming the pockets of woodland, autumn is always a superb time to don those hiking boots.