The Best Walks in the Pentland Hills Near Edinburgh

A rambling club enjoys a walk in the Pentland Hills near Bonaly Country Park
A rambling club enjoys a walk in the Pentland Hills near Bonaly Country Park | © Phil Seale / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Tamarin Fountain
31 August 2020

The Pentland Hills are a stunning rural landmark next to Edinburgh, meeting the city at its most southerly point. Although the hills are conveniently close to the Scottish capital and visible far across the region, they feel peacefully remote. From Bonaly to Baddinsgill, here are the best walks and hikes in the Pentlands, with trails suitable for all levels of fitness and time constraints.

Swanston Farm

Hiking Trail, Hill Station
Map View

If you prefer the countryside to be within easy reach of civilisation, this one’s for you. Swanston Farm is just seconds from the city bypass, on the edge of Edinburgh’s burbs. Look out for the Pentland Hills car park just past the golf club and farm cottages. From here you’ll walk over a stream to reach the beginning of the far-reaching range of hills. Take a 30-minute stroll along the low path to see free-range chickens mingling in a field with shire horses and an adorable hamlet of pristine white-thatched cottages. Or follow the pony trekkers straight up the hill for great city views.

The Flotterstone Inn

Natural Feature
Map View
The Flotterstone Inn, Milton Bridge, Penicuik, Edinburgh, Scotland
© PictureScotland / Alamy Stock Photo

This is the most popular starting point for townies heading to the hills, due to its convenient location right on a Lothian bus route and because it’s a charming country pub. But that doesn’t mean you have to make your walk easy. Climb over 600m (1,969ft) to the highest of the Pentlands, Scald Law. The walk will take around five hours round trip, but you can reward yourself with a drink and a hearty meal at the Flotterstone Inn afterwards.

Harlaw House

Hiking Trail, Hill Station, Park
Map View

Families and those preferring a more leisurely expedition can hop on a bus to Harlaw House visitor centre. Follow the Squirrel Way markers through the pretty woodland, catching glimpses of the reservoir as you pass. The flat path is suitable for wheelchairs, with the looped route covering less than 2mi (3km). There’s also a biodiversity wildlife garden just beside the main house.

Threipmuir Reservoir

Hiking Trail
Map View
Threipmuir reservoir, Pentland Hills, Edinburgh
© Bill Miller / Alamy Stock Photo

Finding a parking space can be a challenge on a sunny day, but go at an off-peak time and you’ll only encounter walkers, fishers and wild swimmers on the banks of Threipmuir. Forge a path southeast, and you can cross the hill range, landing close to the small town of Penicuik. Alternatively, take a 3.5mi (6km) waterside wander to Harlaw reservoir and then Glencorse reservoir. The latter contains a submerged chapel that can occasionally be seen when it’s drained for works.

Bonaly Country Park

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature, Park
Map View

A moorland and woodland path through this country park takes walkers from the leafy commuter village of Bonaly to the elongated valley of Torduff Water. Ramble past flowing burns and lush green trees, to reach the far end of the deep 19th-century reservoir. There’s a bench to rest, spot wildlife and drink in the serenity, before the hour-long stride back to base.

Castlelaw Hill

Natural Feature
Map View
Walkers passing Glencorse Reservoir in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh The hill is Castlelaw Hill
© Phil Seale / Alamy Stock Photo

For an edgy and vigorous route, head to Castlelaw Hill. This rugged terrain is home to an Iron-Age fortress (passersby can go all the way inside) and an army training ground. If you’re feeling energetic, scale the stony hill path – there’s every chance you’ll be passed by a rucksack-wearing soldier, along with some keen runners. From around halfway up, you’ll be able to see the army shooting range too. But don’t worry, there are flags and signs to keep you from getting anywhere near the firing line.

Baddinsgill

Hiking Trail
Map View

If you really want to get away from it all, make your way to the more secluded western hills. For a tough hike, follow the colourfully named Thieves’ Road from Baddinsgill up to East Cairn Hill and back around to Mount Maw (this will take you around six hours). Or take a steady 3mi (5km) climb straight to the top of the Mount and back again, to enjoy spectacular, far-reaching vistas.

These recommendations were updated on August 31, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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