A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Hooptedoodle #60 - Walking in the Pentlands, and Hadrian's Wall

I'm in training, you see. Yesterday I spent the day walking in the Pentland Hills, south of Edinburgh, with my friend Chester, who is a veteran of the Appalachian Way and various other Very Serious Walks. It was a terrific day out anyway, but it was all in aid of getting my general fitness up in preparation for a walk along the length of Hadrian's Wall next month, of which more later. Yesterday we started our walk at Flotterstone, and then walked along the switchback of hills which forms the eastern end of the Pentlands.

We went up Turnhouse Hill, Carnethy Hill and Scald Law. There is a single track which goes right over the top of each in turn (which must be a modern phenomenon - Ancient Man would have been sensible enough to walk around the hills, you would think, unless he was looking out for someone). The individual hills are not very high, but they are steep, and the cumulative effect of coming down one and then up the next is interesting, shall we say. Originally we had thought of continuing the chain to East Kip and West Kip, but in the event we decided to head back after Scald Law. My recent experience of walking in the Alps has definitely helped in the heart-&-lungs department, and I have to point out that it wasn't me that wanted to miss the last two hills, though I'm probably glad that we did! The hills are all around the same height - I think the top of Carnethy is 573 metres - but the dips between them are around 200 metres, so it gets your attention when it goes up again.

After Scald Law we cut north, down into the valley, and walked past Loganlea and Glencorse Reservoirs back to our starting point. Probably 9 miles all told. The photos are by Dave Henniker, who does some lovely work in this area.

Looking back from Carnethy Hill towards Turnhouse - gives a good idea
of the surrounding landscape.

Scald Law

As Chester said yesterday, it really is very easy to forget the lovely places we have almost on our doorstep. I worked it out - last time I did this particular walk was 13 years ago. Hmmm.

I'm sure I'll say more about Hadrian's Wall on another occasion. I shall be doing that walk with a couple of other friends. We are attacking it West-to-East, which is not the "normal" direction, but we chose to do it that way because it puts the prevailing wind (and rain) at our backs, and it is far easier to get transport home from Newcastle than it would be from Bowness-on-Solway at the other end. No, they probably aren't very good reasons, but that's how we are doing it. We are also doing it the softies' way, arranging for a courier to handle our main bags from base to base, and carrying only a light day pack, and we are pacing it pretty gently - about 12-15 miles a day. It will not be anything like as strenuous as what I did yesterday, but walking 12 miles in an exposed situation and then getting up the next morning to do it again brings challenges of its own. We will have 6 days of walking, and we're planning to have time to see a few sites on the way.

Another faint disadvantage of doing the wall the "wrong" way is that we can't find any guidebooks which do it in this direction. You would think that it would be easy to reverse-engineer a walk from a guidebook, but I've tried, and it isn't. The maps work OK, but looking out for landmarks doesn't work very well in reverse at all. If I disappear without trace, you will be able to guess what happened.

Hadrian's Wall is not very far from where I live, but I don't often go there, and find some bits of it quite affecting. If you stand at the north edge of Housesteads Fort, actually on the wall, and you face north, then that was the end of the civilised world. Behind you, the Roman Empire stretched to the Black Sea - in front of you were the barbarians. For some reason I find that very moving, and remember that the poor sods who were stationed there included the SAGITARII HAMIORUM, who were Syrians and must have found it a bit chilly.


  1. Sounds like a brilliant walk ahead. I admit to being slightly envious. I'd pack the guide book along anway, if you get lost you could always turn around and start doing walking in the "proper" direction so the land marks make sense, or just walk backwards the whole way?

  2. It is mad that you never go and see the places close to you. I live around 8 miles from Chatham dockyard and have never been there, its stupid really!!
    Some great pics, I need to see Hadrian's wall bigtime!

    1. Hi Ray - yes - it's a waste, and it's the same for everyone, I think.

      When I was with my first family in Edinburgh, for a few years we used to provide accommodation for foreign students who came for Summer courses to study English. The idea was that these kids were to be looked after as though they were your own family. We got two big things out of it - firstly it was great to have our kids meet young people from France and Germany and learn that they were just like us, and - even better - it encouraged us to take them to the Castle, and for picnics in the Borders hills, and to enjoy the undoubted attractions of Edinburgh which, left alone, we would never have raised the energy to go and visit!

      Cheers - Tony

  3. Make sure you make a slight diversion to visit Vindolanda fort , brilliant museum and site .