Friday, 11 January 2013

In the Pentlands Again: Cauldstane Slap

I mentioned Jim Crumley's book, Discovering the Pentland Hills, in my last post. This book is a little gem, full of the joys of nature and solitude and dripping with the misanthropic scorn of a genuine naturalist for the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

After reading the book, I fancied going somewhere different to my usual walk up busy Allermuir Hill or Turnhouse from Flotterstone. Perhaps a through walk from Balerno to Logan Burn? No, something wilder. The southern half of the Pentlands lack the distinctive outline of the northern half, is a few miles further from Edinburgh, and probably gets five percent of the visitors. This is real connoisseur country, country where you can stride out and not see anybody. We headed up the Thieves Road from West Linton, aiming for the pass of Cauldstane Slap, an old drove road: cattle in the 18th century would have been brought this way by drovers heading for the English markets. A herd of Highland cows stood on either side of the track, shaggy beasts more similar to the hardy drove herds of the 18th century than today's larger, more ponderous animals.

We walked higher, bright sun and cold wind scouring our faces, filling our lungs, the surroundings acres heather moor rather than the northern Pentland's grazed grass, a cheerful gurgling of burns draining the moss, occasional small outcrops bursting out the heather, crowned with the droppings of predators. At the top of the pass a view opens up to West Lothian, the Ochils and Highlands - but we had an appointment to keep, and no time for a wander up either of the Cairn Hills. Instead, on the way back down, we made a detour for a particular spot. This is mentioned in Crumley's book as his favourite place in the entire Pentlands to stop for contemplation, a small outcrop with a wide view of nothing but rolling moorland, and not another person in sight. A delightful spot to wedge yourself in a nook out of the wind, look out over the landscape, and just sit, and think, and say nothing at all.

Looking down on the Thieves Road from Crumley's seat:

This wide and desolate land is the antithesis of the shaplier northern Pentlands and their weekend crowds.


Chris said...

definitely an area for the connoisseur

It is a while since I was there

Dave said...

It's a great area right enough. I did (more or less) the reverse of your walk a few weeks back. Try finishing at the Allan Ramsay in Carlops sometime.

Kellan MacInnes said...

Hi Robert
Saw on Cairn in the Mist blog you were asking about a keeper of the records for climbing the Arthurs. Guess that's me! Chris H and one other hillwalker have contacted me so far to say they've done The Arthurs. I'm going to put them them on my blog

Kellan MacInnes

Robert Craig said...

Thanks Kellan. I enjoyed your talk at Blackwells (though was feeling tight so didn't buy the book)!

Robert Craig said...

Weird, seem to have lost a comment from Dave. I fancy investigating the area around Carlops, the unusual landforms like Windy Gowl, Habbies Howe, and the little glen and outcrop to the south of that.

blueskyscotland said...

Was back up on the Pentlands a few days ago. Regional park or not there is something about them that is magical and keeps drawing me back. Carlops is a strange village down in its sunken bowl of rock. Cant think of another place quite like it.
Do you prefer Robert or Craig by the way as I see people on here sometimes calling you by both?

Robert Craig said...

Don't mind either, but ma mammy calls me Craig and that is what I usually answer to.