Friday afternoon, work or play? If the weather looks good then I’d go for play all the time. It especially helps that, for me, Fridays are days spent working from home on personal projects rather than at the office.
This Friday I had a long drive planned down South, so decided to have a short stint out in the hills before packing the car and heading off. What I love about the Pentland Hills is it’s accessibility from Edinburgh. Granted I live to the South of this great city, so 15 minutes by car is maybe a little optimistic for many, but even so, we are truly spoiled by having this great landscape on our doorstep. Had this landscape been elsewhere in the UK it might be more savoured, as compared to the hills of the highlands, some might say these pale in comparison.
And yet 15 minutes from my door and I’m standing in the carpark at Hillend Ski Centre, about to ascend the well-trodden track past the ski centre, and onwards to the summit of Caerketton Crags above. As I pass the ski slope, I hear the whoops and cheers from those attending sessions, and can just make out their rosy cheeks below their hard-case helmets.
As the ski-centre disappears behind me, taking with it some of the hustle and bustle of life, I come across some of the infamous Highland Cows (or “Coo’s” if you’re local). Having lived in Edinburgh for over 6 years, this is the first time I’ve ever come across these animals in the flesh, hearing only rumours and seeing only pictures before. They stand, thick, shaggy coats sheltering from the winter cold, eyes partly covered by hair, and horns spiraling majestically into the darkening sky. They do not seem fearful, only inquisitive as to this intrusion on their meal-time by a two-legged creature in bright yellow trousers.
After a moment I head on, continuing to follow the zig-zag of the path to the summit of Caerketton Crags. From here the view back over Edinburgh is fantastic, towering over the buildings and roads. On a clear day, the view continues North over to Fife, past the Lomond Hills, and onwards to the Southern Cairngorms. To the East, North Berwick and out into the North Sea. South you start to look across the expanse of summits that make up the Pentland Hills… Turnhouse Hill… Carnethy…. East Kip. And to the West is Allermuir Summit and, in the distance, the silhouettes of the Forth Bridges, new and old, standing tall in the fading light.
The route from here takes in the ridge, dropping down before ascending the final section to Allermuir summit. The 360 degree view is complimented by a display board, listing off the hills and major features seen in the distance. Used as a useful guide on a good day. Used as a reminder of what might have been on a bad one.
The descent from Allermuir is gradual, circling the base of Caerketton Crags back to the ski centre, as the sun dips below the horizon, and the temperature starts to drop further still.
In my experience, Friday afternoons on the hills are quiet, solemn affairs. It gives time to think, to reflect, to slow down and absorb a little more. I would highly recommend it.
Watch the walk here
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