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The Out About Scotland complete guide to the Pentland Hills from Flotterstone to Turnhouse Hill
Category: Landscape, Mountain, Walk or cycle route
Suitable for ages: 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 8 out of 10
About 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.
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 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 here 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 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 and Mid 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.
What I liked about this attraction
- The views across the Pentlands are fantastic
- There’s a nice café in the car park
My top tips
- Don’t attempt this climb if you’ve got any mobility issues. It’s steeper than it looks from the car park
- In winter the path gets really muddy and slippery so wear good quality walking boots
Photos and video
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Address and directions map
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.
Prices and opening times
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.
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Uneven paths
On-site conveniences: Hot drinks, Snacks, Toilets (all in Flotterstone car park)