Hills: Black Hill (Pentlands)
Classification: Sub 2000 Scottish Marilyn
When: Tuesday 5 February
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Distance: About 7 ½ miles
Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Weather: Started cold and clear but clouded over
Post walk drink: Tempest pale ale
Post walk watering hole: The Hanging Bat craft beer bar
Tuesday 5th February 2019: the sky was blue, the birds were singing, and I was sat at Edinburgh bus station at the unearthly (for me) hour of 8am waiting for a bus to Flotterstone. 8am is not an hour that I often see when not at work unless I am planning a walk that for whatever reason requires an early start – or I have insomnia. This one was, I guess, a bit of both.
My regular readers will probably already be wondering where the mishaps are. Well I guess there were 2, although neither of them on the day of the actual walk. We were up in Edinburgh for a week mainly so Stuart could attend the rugby at Murrayfield and had rented a town house very close to the city centre; we had decided not to bring the car as my only real hill walking plans involved the Pentlands and were therefore easily doable by bus. The flipside to this is it required lugging a ridiculous amount of stuff across London on Friday 1st February and onto the train. Oh yes, the train! Mishap 1…
We were meant to be on the 18.30 out of Kings Cross, though had a flexible ticket. However, Stuart got stuck at work with the result that we missed the train and ended up on the 19.30… which promptly broke down about 15 minutes after leaving the station. There was no power, minimal lighting, little food and worst of all they had run out of red wine! The train eventually got going again but steadily lost time as we got further North and by the time we eventually ended up at Waverley it was well after 1.30am, to find they had closed most of the doors to the station and we had to walk about 15 minutes with all our stuff to the hotel we had booked (not being able to get into the townhouse till the Saturday) which was about 3 minutes away normally. The hotel had then already allocated our room despite me having phoned from the train to say we were going to be very late. By this stage I was reaching boiling point but fortunately they did have another room, albeit a smaller one. By this point I was past caring about the size of the room and was just delighted to be able to collapse into a heap and not surface until the following morning! We shifted our stuff to the town house at 1, which was very nice, but I was totally knackered.
The other mishap (if it can be described as one) was self-inflicted in that on Monday, which had a good forecast, I woke up with a slightly sore head thanks to going to a live music session the previous day and canned any idea of a walk that day as the forecast was still decent for Tuesday. To be honest I was still utterly knackered as well as a bit fuzzy around the edges and probably needed the extra day. I had a relatively early night with the plan being to get the 9.20 bus to Flotterstone, but as it turned out I didn’t sleep that well and was awake at 6.30. I tried and failed to get back to sleep then decided to give up and get the earlier bus, as the weather was now forecast to turn later in the day; it was a cold and clear morning with quite a bit of frost around so I chucked my microspikes in the rucksack and set off. The bus was slightly delayed and I was ready to start walking (after the inevitable faffing) at about 9.15 – there was quite a bit of ice and with the frost quite slippery underfoot in places, although I was confident the sun would burn it off.
The walk in is straightforward, following the metalled road that goes to and around Glencorse and Loganlea reservoirs and gives some nice views over to the hills. A good bit of the reservoir was frozen which the resident bird life didn’t seem too happy about! Once past the first reservoir it is time to take to the hill… which is usually the bit at which things go pear shaped. I’d been advised to head up the field between Logan Cottage and Logan House, which sounded straightforward – except there was a big wall… I doubled back and cut through the fields Logan Cottage is in, then picking up the correct track which heads up the hill (and irritatingly noting there had been a gate in the wall if I had gone all of 100 yards further on).
Once the start has been located the route is pretty straightforward – head up the field on a faint track and through a gate, after which the track turns into a proper all singing all dancing landrover track which takes you all the way to the summit. The angle of ascent was pretty gentle but for whatever reason I was making heavy weather of it and had to stop for frequent breaks (having dashed out without any breakfast probably hadn’t helped). The views however were very good and got better as I climbed, and I had the hill all to myself, which is always a bonus. The Pentlands always seem to look like much bigger hills than they are and it was great to finally do another new Scottish hill, my last one having been Scald Law nearly two years previously, which I could look across to from the ascent.
I hit the top at about 10.45 in a biting wind – the track takes you all the way to the tiny cairn. This is one of those hills where the views are probably better on the way up as the top is very flat, but never mind! I wandered over to a marker post to get a slightly different view and was suddenly even more grateful for the track as the ground away from it consisted of partly frozen bog. Frozen bog is fine but partly frozen you never know whether you are going to drop into a hole or not which is not ideal! It was too cold to hang about and I actually totally forgot to take the inevitable summit selfie until I was on the way down and not actually on the summit…but at least I wasn’t too far off!
It had also become clear the weather was turning a bit earlier than it was supposed to so I decided not to think about going on to any other hills. I thought I would probably miss the 12.37 bus back to Edinburgh but I made decent time (for me) on the descent – I’m not quick going downhill but the gradient was gentle which always helps and once I was back on the tarmacked road I got the hammer down and made the bus with 5 minutes to spare. Back in Edinburgh shortly after 1 and a quick change at the house before meeting Stuart in the Hanging Bat where the inevitable post walk drink was waiting (and later a wine flight in an Italian wine bar, which was rather short of wine due to visiting Italian rugby supporters!)
All in all not a classic but a very decent leg stretch with some nice views even though I wasn’t at my best, and it was nice to be back on the Scottish hills again after a rather long lay off. Hopefully back on the Wainwrights soon!