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 it’s a favourite place for locals to enjoy long hillside walks.
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 the area.
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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 future.
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.
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 1,800 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.
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 café, and the route to Turnhouse Hill is clearly marked on information panels if you want to get your bearings before setting off.
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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. The ones made by Ordnance Survey are (in my humble opinion) the best available. Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Find other attractions in the area with my Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.
- 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?
- There are lots of paths throughout the Pentlands and you have the option of either going up and over the hills or keep to the lower areas where the reservoirs are. The route to Glencorse reservoir is highly recommended.
- 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.
From Edinburgh take the A702 towards Penicuik. The road to Flotterstone is signposted close to the Flotterstone Inn.
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.
Click the map for details
Photo gallery and video
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.
More places to visit in The Lothians
- Preston Mill – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuidePreston Mill is located next to the River Tyne in picturesque farming country in the heart of East Lothian. The mill dates from the 18th-century and was used commercially until the 1950s but is now open as a tourist attraction managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Discover this unique historic attraction with this guide which includes a 360° virtual tour.
- 360° Virtual Tours of Attractions in East LothianEast Lothian is an often-overlooked county in Scotland that offers visitors a combination of open countryside, golden beaches, dense woodlands and some of the best nature reserves in the country. Discover East Lothian in this article which gives an overview of several top attractions with interactive 360° virtual tours.
- Prestongrange Museum – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuidePrestongrange in the coastal village of Prestonpans is a free-to-visit outdoor museum that showcases East Lothian’s rich industrial heritage. The museum aims to educate visitors about the 800-years of industrial activity that left its mark on the area, from the almost-vanished harbour to the long-abandoned colliery.
- Dalkeith Country Park – Midlothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe historic county of Midlothian seems to be permanently out of favour with visiting tourists – mainly due to the fact that it borders Edinburgh and most sightseers have already got their hands full trying to fit in as many city attractions as possible before hopping on the coach to their next destination.