Pentland Hills Regional Park

colinton community compost

Pentland Hills Regional Park is less than an hour’s bus ride outside Edinburgh city centre. Indeed, all you need to do is hop on Lothian bus number 10, grab the top floor front seat and enjoy the journey to Torphin, the final stop on the route, just outside Colinton Community Compost centre. This’ll set you back a mere £1.40 – the price of a single ticket. Car owners can park at Bonaly Car Park which is signposted from Colinton. Then you are free to roam the hills or play a round of golf on the scenic course which boasts views across the city of Edinburgh.

pentland hills regional park

Paths criss cross the hills with some routes leading through woods, others passing Scottish Water reservoirs and almost all letting you greet some sheep along the way. Watch out for the droppings…
Weather permitting, it’s pleasantly relaxing to lie down in the heather and take in the incredible views of Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth and Fife far away in the distance. Definitely worth bringing a picnic.

pentlands edinburgh bypass

Bear in mind that you shouldn’t expect total seclusion. The Pentlands’ proximity to Edinburgh means the park can get overrun by keen ramblers at weekends, many of whom bring dogs.

Depending on how far in the hills you venture, you can also almost constantly hear the distant drone of traffic whizzing along the Edinburgh City Bypass.

pentlands stone walls

Spring is a lovely time to visit Pentland Hills Regional Park for the flowers. What route would you recommend to best admire the flora and views?

pentlands view towards edinburgh

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Arthur’s Seat in the Wind and Rain

You haven’t experienced the “real” Scotland until you’ve found yourself completely drenched to the core and on the verge of being swept over by the wind. Fortunately, the weatherman makes this a very achievable goal.

Arthur's Seat Edinburgh

Throughout the year, he has a nasty way of tricking people into believing the day will be drenched in sunshine rather than rain. Alas, then he changes his mind and you find yourself teetering on the edge of a mountain (or a less extreme location if you’re lucky!) as the raindrops/hail stones slap your face and the wind howls eerily around you.

Yesterday I found myself perched precariously on the summit of Arthur’s Seat in the wind and rain which is such a usual occurrence in Edinburgh. At least I wore wellies in preparation for a muddy hike. I’d recommend you follow suit or wear hiking boots on any given day.

And by all means don’t attempt to reach Edinburgh’s highest peak whilst wearing a white coat and pretty city boots. This is just one of the numerous inappropriate outfits spotted on the mountain trails that day.

I admit to wearing a very silly hat which I almost sacrificed to the wind gods, as well as bringing a hand bag which really should have been a practical rucksack. Ok, so the coat wasn’t ideal either… You should really only venture up there in a wind and rainproof jacket.

arthur's seat wind rain

A word of caution overheard on Arthur’s Seat: In the stormiest of weather, some hikers have had to be plucked to safety by Mountain Rescue having climbed only halfway up the mountain! So, sometimes the “real” Scotland is best experienced from the comfort of a local pub, cradling a glass of whisky.

Isle of Skye by Public Transport

Sligachan Skye

Having spoken to many people about their trips to the famous Scottish island, no one bar myself and Miss Canada has been brave enough to travel to and around the Isle of Skye by public transport. Cool points to us!

It was the end of April when I came across a train ticket deal that seemed too good to be true: a mere £20 for return tickets from Edinburgh to Kyle of Lochalsh that’s just across the water from Skye (with our Young Person’s Railcard discount). Frantically, I got in touch with all my friends to see who was free to go in the middle of June.

And so it was that Miss Canada and I found ourselves boarding the 6:30 am train to Stirling, the 7:30 am connection to Inverness and later train to Kyle of Lochalsh. On the last leg of our journey, we were joined by a group of teenage girls who asked us if we’d mind if they played some music. Expecting them to whip out their iPods I wasn’t best pleased but grunted “OK” nonetheless, only to be surprised when they started playing live Scottish folk music instead. As it turned out they were on their way to the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton. It was the highlight of our journey that day as we sped through the Highlands to the sounds of violins and a flute.

Kyle of Lochalsh Station

Once we’d arrived safely at our destination, we had a few hours to kill until our bus so we stopped off for a snack at Kyle of Lochalsh’s surprisingly international deli: Buth Bheag. This gave us the energy for the next leg of the journey which was crossing the bridge to the island. It’s a beautiful walk and, fortunately, at this point it was sunny and clear so we had fine views across the water.

Kyleakin is the village closest to the bridge on the other side, and from there we caught the Citylink bus to Sligachan, our final destination for the day. A tiny settlement at the foot of the Cuillin mountains, it is home to an old inn, and Sligachan Bunkhouse, our dwelling for the night.

After an evening walk along the local mountain trail and a very good night’s sleep, we set off on the 8 mile walk to Carbost, the home of Talisker Distillery. We managed the hike and arrived on time for a delicious seafood lunch at The Old Inn right on the very shore of Loch Harport where we were served by a lovely Hungarian who liked Skye so much it was his second season working there.

We’d heard the Talisker Distillery tour is a must so we sauntered along after lunch and sipped on our complimentary wee drams which were much appreciated after a few hours hiking in the wind. The guide took us through the whole process of making the renowned whiskey that has seen a drop in production this season due to the lack of rain needed to feed the local springs! Fortunately, they have quite a few casks of 50 year old Talisker to crack open to make up for the loss if need be…

Our bus (one of two a day) to Portree, the island’s “capital” arrived right on time. Unsurprisingly, we were the only passengers. Once there we checked into Bayfield Bacpackers, our home for the night where we got chatting to our roommates from Canada and Switzerland. Most people staying at the hostel had arrived with tour groups organised by Rabbie’s and Haggis Adventures, both very well known tour operators who run near-daily trips from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Everyone recommended eating at Cafe Arriba so we went there for afternoon tea and weren’t disappointed. They have a fantastic, international menu that changes every day.

Quirang Skye

Day 3 of our adventure led us to Quirang which some people might recognise as the setting for the opening scenes of Prometheus. It’s a stunning rock formation near the island’s northernmost tip where you can get to by bus from Portree’s central square. We got to know our bus driver well as he circles the Trotternish part of the island three times a day, all three of which we joined him for that day.

After our windy walk across Quirang, we decided to head over to Uig, Skye’s port that connects it to places like Talbert and Lochmaddy on the Outer Hebrides. Uig isn’t the most hopping of places but it is home to a lovely cafe where we whiled away the hours drinking mugs of extremely cheap hot drinks.

Back in Portree we headed out for a long walk along the bay, and had a seafood dinner in one of the many harbour-side restaurants. We were upset our trip had almost come to an end. That night we had new roommates from the US and Germany. In general, the island was flooded with Dutch and German tourists, most travelling by camper van and all willing to share their stories and recommendations.

Isle of Skye Bridge

On Sunday morning it was time to leave, and we hopped on the morning Citylink to Glasgow but got off in Kyleakin to walk across the bridge again. It was a lovely way to bid farewell to the Isle of Skye but I know I’ll be back.

Don’t hesitate to visit the island even if you don’t have access to a car. As long as you’re a keen hiker (which you should be if you want to visit Skye), you’ll be fine with public transport.  Long live the Traveline Scotland website for providing up-to-date information!

– Red

(P.S. I do realise I’ve committed a terrible blogger crime by neglecting my blog for over a month. Life just got in the way this time.)