Flotterstone in the Pentland Hills, Edinburgh: The Complete Visitor Guide

Created by Craig Smith. Last updated on February 25th, 2021

The Pentland Hills national park covers 35 square miles and is located to the south-west of Edinburgh. The parkland is clearly visible across the city and is a favourite place for locals to enjoy long hillside walks.

Craig Smith

Review of the Pentland Hills

The Pentland Hills enclose Scotland’s capital city to the south-west, running around 20 miles towards the town of Biggar in the south and covering a total area of just over 35 square miles.

The hills are clearly visible from almost anywhere in the city and they make a great destination for a relaxing walk if you want to get away from the busy urban noise of Edinburgh.

Although the hills are frequently used by locals there seem to be few tourists who take the time to explore this regional park which is a shame as it has a lot to offer with areas of woodland, lochs, and wild, hilly expanses of heather and gorse to explore.

Much of the land is upland pasture but there are a few forestry plantations and several reservoirs that supply the city of Edinburgh and the surrounding Lothians with fresh water, and you’ll find walking trails running throughout these diverse landscapes.

This walk from Flotterstone to Turnhouse Hill is fairly easy apart from a steep scramble at the beginning and it offers spectacular views across the Midlothian countryside.

It’s also a perfect way to spend an afternoon if you’re after a brisk walk and some fresh air. In fact, it’s so nice I guarantee you’ll be back again in the near future.

Pentland Hills

Things to do at the Pentland Hills

Much of the area that encompasses the Pentland Hills is used for recreational activities, with hill walking, mountain biking, and horse riding among the most popular.

There are also fishing locations at the Glencorse, Harlow and Threipmuir reservoirs and there’s an artificial ski slope at the Midlothian Snowsports Centre which is accessible year-round.

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If you feel like getting a bit more active you can climb the peaks of the Pentland Hills to find the best views in the Lothians, with many of the peaks reaching around 1800 feet at the summit, including:

  • Scald Law (579 m) (1,900 ft)
  • Carnethy Hill (573 m) (1,880 ft)
  • East Cairn Hill (567 m) (1,860 ft)
  • West Cairn Hill (562 m) (1,844 ft)
  • West Kip (551 m) (1,808 ft)
  • Byrehope Mount (536 m) (1,759 ft)
  • East Kip (534 m) (1,752 ft)
  • Turnhouse Hill (506 m) (1,660 ft)

While it might seem like a walk there is hard work you’ll be pleased to know there are over 60 miles of paths through the Pentland Hills that are easily accessible on foot and it won’t take you long to find an area high enough to give you a stunning panoramic view without having to go hiking through rough terrain.

Pentland Hills

While some of these hills are only suitable for walkers with above-average fitness, if you’re in the mood for a moderate amount of legwork I think there’s no better hike than the one to Turnhouse Hill.

The visitor centre at Flotterstone is the starting point for many walkers as they venture into the hills with an easily accessible car park on-site along with toilets and a small cafe, with the route to Turnhouse Hill clearly marked on information panels if you want to get your bearings first.

Leaving the car park takes you on a short section of road before turning onto the trail which heads up towards the hill, and the well-worn path is easy to follow.

The ascent is quite steep though at around 500m above sea level but it does at least offer some glorious views across East Lothian, with Fife clearly visible in the opposite direction.

The route to the summit takes around an hour for someone of reasonable fitness and the path continues further into the Pentlands if you want to explore Carnethy Hill and Scald Law beyond.

This walk is easy to follow so directions aren’t really needed (just point yourself in the right direction and follow the path), but if you want to explore the rest of the range it would be a good idea to invest in a good map, and the ones made by Ordnance Survey are (in my humble opinion) the best available. Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

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Find other attractions in the area with my Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.

The highlights

  • The views across the Pentlands are fantastic and the walk from Flotterstone is easy-going (apart from an initial steep climb).
  • There’s a nice café in the Flotterstone car park but there are no other facilities in the rest of the Pentlands. But who wants a burger van in the middle of a national park anyway?

Visiting tips

  • Don’t attempt this climb if you’ve got any mobility issues. The first hill-climb is steeper than it looks from the car park.
  • An alternative walk starts from Castlelaw Hill Fort which can be reached from the A702 heading south from Edinburgh.
  • If the weather is too rough for a walk in the Pentlands (check my Weather Map before you leave home) you could always visit the nearby Midlothian Snowsports Centre or Rosslyn Chapel.

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Things to do near Flotterstone, Pentland Hills

  • Castlelaw Hill Fort. Penicuik EH26 0PB. 4-minute drive. A raised earthwork that is believed to have been used for storage by the tribes that lived around the area 2,000 years ago. There is a car park nearby and a footpath that continues past the fort in the direction of the City of Edinburgh bypass.
  • Glencorse Reservoir. Penicuik EH26 0PP. 27-minute walk. Tranquil reservoir set within the Pentland Hills. The reservoir can be reached on foot from Flotterstone car park by a path that continues past it to Loganlea Reservoir. Trout fishing permits are available on request.
  • Midlothian Snowsports Centre. Biggar Rd, Edinburgh EH10 7DU. 8-minute drive. A large dry slope centre on the edge of the Pentland Hills overlooking the city of Edinburgh. In addition to the downhill snowboard and ski runs there are children’s tubing runs and zorb ball runs. The centre has a café and a ski coaching school on-site.
  • Roslin Glen. 78 Crusader Dr, Roslin EH25 9PX. 8-minute drive. Riverside walk with rough paths that follow the River North Esk. The country park is a short walk from Rosslyn Chapel and there is a car parking area with nearby seating and picnic benches.
  • Rosslyn Chapel. Chapel Loan, Roslin EH25 9PU. 8-minute drive. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful buildings in Scotland. Rosslyn Chapel was founded in 1446 and is covered with intricate stone carvings. The chapel features a visitor centre with a shop, toilets and a café with outdoor seating.
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Address and map

From Edinburgh take the A702 towards Penicuik. The road to Flotterstone is signposted close to the Flotterstone Inn.

Penicuik,
Midlothian,
EH26 0PP

Click map for directionsGoogle Map of pentland hills flotterstone


Walking Map

This is an easy walk and relatively straightforward. There are route maps at the car park of Flotterstone and it’s really just a case of walking up the nearest hill and following the flat summit until you come to the next peak.


Tickets and opening times

Pre-book your Edinburgh tour tickets here.

The Pentland Hills are accessible at all times of the year. There is no fee to enter the hills but car parking charges may apply at some locations. As of 2018, there is no charge to use the Flotterstone car park.


Contact details


Virtual Tour


Photos and video

Photo Gallery
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More places to visit in The Lothians


SEE ALSO:  The Birks of Aberfeldy in Central Scotland: The Complete Visitor Guide

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Craig Smith

I'm the founder of Out About Scotland. I live in Edinburgh and I love visiting Scotland's tourist attractions... Read more. Follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.