Autumn Colours in the Pentland Woods

Sunday was an exceptionally clear, bright autumn day and the Pentland Hills beckoned. We packed a picnic and took off to catch a bus on Princes Street with plans to enjoy a bracing walk along the hill tops. However, it soon became clear that while the clarity of the air was exceptional, the westerly wind was extremely strong, and a high level walk began to look less appealing.

We decided it was instead a day to explore the many wooded areas on the north-east end of the Pentlands, an area I hadn’t really visited before. We still got amazing views over the city and across to Fife – and we even got a glimpse of the snowy bulk of the Cairngorms in the distance – but the trees sheltered us from the worst of the wind and we were able to fully enjoy the autumn colours without being buffeted.

This route is around 4 miles and runs from Colinton to Lothianburn where you can take a bus back to Princes Street. It’s muddy at times and there is one very steep section, but it is mainly on paths.

Dreghorn groundsTake the Lothian bus 16 from the city centre and get off at the bus stop after Dreghorn barracks, on Redford Road. Walk back the way you came to a path entrance on the right but ignore the main path and go through a wooden gate on your right to take a rather muddy path running alongside the Braid Burn through the grounds of the former Dreghorn Castle. There are still a number of specimen trees, such as giant redwoods, amongst the brambles and rhododendrons on this secretive route. Continue along the burn, ignoring a bridge on your left, until you cross a footbridge and emerge on to a tarmac path. Turn right and then immediately left to take a rough path along the edge of grassland, heading towards the Pentlands.

This path bears right through a gap and leads under the bypass where you follow signs for Bonaly through trees along the Bonaly Burn. As you gain height, the views open up, and you pass through a gate near a line of pylons. This path continues to Bonaly, but before you get there, at a junction of paths, take a very steep, faint path up grassland to your left.

Height is gained quickly and you soon enter trees to find a network of paths. Turn left and follow the ridge of the hill – there are numerous paths all heading the same way. Finally emerge from the trees to a path where you turn right then bear off to pass a small plantation on your left before turning left and continuing to a well-built track which heads up into the hills. Turn right for a short distance to a small hut, then turn left and take this path which skirts underneath the hills through various patches of woodland, bearing right until you reach the edge of Swanston golf course.

The path then turns right through a gate and climbs up and around the golf course. When you finally reach a sign for Swanston, turn left down the hill to this picturesque village nestling under the Pentlands. After passing through the houses, follow a sign for Lothianburn on your right which leads you right past the golf course to the main road and you can catch the 4 or 15 bus back to the city centre.

There is a lot more information about local walks here: LOTHIAN AND BORDERS RAMBLERS ASSOCIATION


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