Adventures in the Pentlands

Normally on a Sunday morning I can be found pounding round the streets (dry weather only, obviously, I’m not that dedicated), but not this weekend. No, I was pouring over the street map working out how best to get from a friend’s house to Hill End. Why? Because today was the day for an adventure in the Pentlands, the hills behind Edinburgh.

Friend A (for Anonymous, as I forgot to ask if I could name them), who will be doing the 3 Peaks Challenge this summer, and I realised that apart from a weekend at the Wriggly Tin, in the Peak District, neither of us had been near a hill this year – not including the bajillion hills in central Edinburgh – and this needed to be rectified.Pentlands, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Hills, Hill walking Dog walking

Obviously doing something like fell running or serious hill walking was a bit rash, so we decided upon a corner of the Pentland Hills. These hills, which come under the ‘Regional Park’ banner (not to be mistaken with National Park), will be known to anyone who has every been to Edinburgh and looked south as they ring the southern edge of the city, helpfully sheltering us all from the worst of many a weather front.

Using the ‘nothing too rash’ approach we set off half an hour late, parked the car in the Hill End (literally where the hills end, they’re very imaginative in this neck of the proverbial woods) car park and decided that we’d start with a short intermission for lunch in the nearby pub. After a little beer (Copper Cascade, from Stewart Brewing; and don’t worry, I wasn’t going to be driving for hours after having it) and sandwiches (mature cheddar and sun-dried tomato in warm ciabatta) in The Steading we went back to the car, picked up the dog and started out.Pentlands, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Hills, Hill walking Dog walking

Armed with our guide to the Pentlands (more aptly described as a glossy leaflet) we marched off with a very excitable dog. Being the sensible people that we are we’d obviously not checked the ‘route’ (totally not made up at random from a variety of existing paths) on a proper OS map and so were subsequently quite surprised by the steepness, and how quickly it began after the car park. Following the start of the ‘Capital View‘ trail we tramped up the hill pausing every so often to look back and comment on how quickly we’d got so far up before turning round again and commenting on the incline. Obviously these two things are in no way connected.

Pentlands, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Hills, Hill walking Dog walking

When we hit the level of the top of the dry ski slope we were faced with an option, go along the top of the ‘Capital View’ route or make a proper walk out of it and clamber right up to the summit of the hills above (an extra couple of hundred meters). Well, the defined route was only 2.5 miles, so we decided that we’d get the best view and go right to the top, bringing the total distance to about 4/4.5 miles. This was all well and good, but it meant passing some rather bored looking highland cows. At this point the dog (who I hasten to add was on the lead, it’s the end of lambing season and the start of ground-nesting season after all) would be found skulking behind a mount of grass, hoping that these big scary creatures wouldn’t see her. Highland cows (or any cows, for that matter) would appear to come in the same bracket as horses, sheep and pigs – the terrifying monster category. Our dog is such a townie. It’s hilarious.

Taking a protracted route around the shaggy monsters we reached the top and stopped to admire the view. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t that great. At this height you are quite far above and away from the city centre, so whilst it’s a lovely vista it’s literally just that. Arthur’s seat, which is such a dominant feature of Edinburgh, looks rather small and pathetic; and Carlton hill is little more than a mole hill. The canopy of dark, ominous clouds also didn’t add to the ocassion, and nor did the fairly high winds that accompanied them (I think the view would have been better in the sun). From here we decided we might as well go to the summit of the second hill as there was very little difference in height and rather that climbing two hills it was effectively a short gradient to the second.Pentlands, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Hills, Hill walking Dog walking

The view from the second was pretty much identical to the first and as we could now lean into the wind without falling over it was time to seek lower ground. Winding our way down the hillside we established that we’d clearly picked the steepest part to climb up, but this Pentlands, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Hills, Hill walking Dog walkingallowed for more conversation (about how weird the names of BBC3 TV shows are, if you’re interested). Once you’re halfway down the path really just curls around the side of Lothianburn golf course and through the old stone cottages of Swanston, and is for the most part quite dull (but substantially less windy), so the rest of the walk was fairly gentle, without a rabbit hole for the dog to stick her nose down and very few puddles to splash in.

Once back in the car the dog decided that enough was enough and slept the entire way back into town. This gave us the perfect opportunity to end the adventure where we’d begun and stop off at a little cafe on the way home for a warming hot chocolate and a scone and jam. Pretty much the perfect day out really. Except for the wind and a few hills that got in the way.Pentlands, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Hills, Hill walking Dog walking


Instagramers Anonymous: A Week in the Life

Not sure if I mentioned it, but I got a new phone last weekend. One of the first apps I downloaded was Instagram and I have been addicted ever since. So here are three photos to describe the week and highlight that I now have a serious Instagram-ing problem (as anyone who follows me either on Instagram or Twitter will no doubt testify).

The Scott Monument in Silhouette

Intagram, Edinburgh, Scott Monument, Silhouette

The *insert multiple expletives here* tram works on Princes Street

Intagram, Edinburgh, Trams

A cheeky lunchtime milkshake to perk up Friday afternoon
(oh, and some landmark I’ve never taken a photo of before in the background)

Intagram, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle, Milkshake, Shakeaway, Princes Street Gardens

This Was Going To Be About Cherry Blossom

Today’s post was originally going to be all about the blanket of cherry blossom that has covered Edinburgh for the last few weeks. However, over the space of 24 hours the wind and rain has transformed the blooming trees into soggy piles of mushy petals. Lovely.

Below, was my daily Instagram fix (side note: is it too much of an addiction to have a ‘the week in Instagram’ post each week?) from the other day, when the city was looking very spring-like. Below is yesterday’s slightly less appealing vista.

Cherry Blossom, Instagram, Edinburgh

And then yesterday when I went out at lunchtime for a quick stroll, it poured with rain. And then for good measure, it rained some more.

Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle, Rain

I ended up taking shelter in one of the overhangs, down in Princes Street Gardens (which were quite possibly built for this exact purpose). The Gardens themselves were actually pretty deserted; can’t imagine why, it was such a lovely day… unless you’re a bit of cherry blossom…

Edinburgh, Princes Street Gardens, Rain


My New Addiction – This Weekend in Photos

I got a new toy at the weekend. Or to be a little more specific, I spent over two hours in the shop getting increasingly bored before their computer allowed them to give me my new phone.

Back at the start of March my much-bemoaned Blackberry decided that working was no longer something it was willing to do. Since then I’ve been using an old Samsung (circa 2006, at a push), but by the end of last week my patience had worn a little too thin and I admitted that I was just going to have to start my new contract a little earlier than intended.

So despite the credit check taking about a bajillion times longer than it should have, I got my shiny iPhone on Saturday afternoon. Obviously, I spent the rest of the weekend playing about with it and developing an addiction to Instagram. Oh, and making lemonade scones (but that’s for another day).

Instagram, iPhone 4S, Mac, Macbook Pro, iPod touch

Instagram, iPhone 4S, lemonade scones

Instagram, iPhone 4S, Keira

Instagram, iPhone 4S, tulips


Who’s For Gin?

“Well then, who’s for gin?” I think I can say with some confidence, that this is one of my favourite questions of all time. Let’s be honest, who’s not for gin? The particular utterance of this question that I have in mind was a few nights ago, when the subject was raised and a round of Brodie’s Bombay Coolers was created.

Rewind back to that morning whilst everyone was sitting eating breakfast and the post Gin, Bombay Sapphire, Brodie's Bombay Cooler, gin, Cocktailarrived. In it was P&O Cruises next brochure. ‘Oh, I wish, but alas no’ would be the approximate summary of everyone’s feelings, but whilst we were perusing what holidays we weren’t going on one of our number struck upon their other magazine and announced “There’s one for you in here, Craig. They’ve created a gin cocktail to mark their 175th anniversary.” Now there’s my kind of company. Glossing over the fact that my love of gin is now even prevalent (in conversation, at least) at breakfast time, I think it’s fair to say that I was quite intrigued. We all were.

Back to the evening and the kitchen, and we were lovingly crafting our drinks in preparation for the bloody battle scenes that were about to happen in the film we were watching. They were simple to make (no cocktail shaker in sight – these are stirred, not shaken) and were cool and refreshing, but with just enough bite to remind you of all the flavours you were drinking. So cheers, P&O, and many happy returns.

Brodie’s Bombay Cooler:
50ml Bombay Sapphire
15ml Elderflower cordial
50ml Cranberry juice
2 Lemon wedges
Ice cubes

Combine the gin, elderflower and cranberry in a highball glass with one wedge of lemon. Top up the glass with ice and tonic, an another squeeze of lemon and drop the wedge in on top. Stir well. Sit back (gory fight scenes optional) and enjoy liberally.