Whenever I come back to Edinburgh, one of the things I look forward to, apart from my Mum’s beef curry and my Dad’s clever rhymes, is walking over the Pentland hills. From my parents’ house in Currie, it is a quick sprint up the hill, across the Lanark Road and then down and up to Currie Kirk. Just five more minutes and you turn left and right and you are off road and in the wild.
It’s riding country and there are always some friendly, hairy horses poking their noses over the fence and looking at you hopeful of a polomint. Sheep munch happily on their hay bales and sometimes there is a murmuration of starlings, sitting on the farm fence at the top of the hill, who take flight and swirl dramatically through the air.
A lovely short walk is from Thriepmuir reservoir, towards the back of Black Hill, back down to the reservoir and then back up through the forest and down across the wall to Harlaw, circling back to the start. It’s about 10km and it gives you a few nice ascents and some glorious views.
This day, I was meeting up with Natalie and Delta the dog. Natalie and I met first in Morocco where she was one of the doctors supporting the Trans Atlas (ultra) Marathon, which I was running. I had remembered her as funny, clever and someone with sparkle. We kept in touch and then kept each other company in lots of walks across the Pentlands during last year’s miserable winter lockdown.
That’s when I got to know Delta, who loves bananas and frolics like a puppy thanks to her joint pills. ‘Can I take some of those,’ I asked Natalie, who is a doctor. ‘Not really. You’d be better off with the human version!’ she chortled.
Even though the temperature is -3C• in the wind, there is a group of brave folk out swimming in Threipmuir. We shout greetings and congratulations to two women who are emerging from the deep like bright red mermaids. Delta goes over to investigate the snack situation but no luck, nothing is hidden in the swimming costumes.
Our first challenge is B***** Off Hill, so-named by Natalie, who sometimes runs up it for training. I’m still feeling strong from my Jordan Trail epic so I stride up and then turn back for a clear view of the Forth Road Bridges.
Rohan have given me some kit to try out which, for a kit monster like me, adds extra pleasure to the day. Wherever I walk, whether it’s the Pentlands or the Atlas, I know that my body temperature is going to swing wildly from hot and sweaty, when I am putting in the effort, to cold when I’m on a break or a descent. I want my kit to work hard for me.
Today, I have on the Merino Cool T long-sleeved baselayer, the Mistral Jacket, which is an insulated jacket that is lightweight and a small pack size, and the stretchy Fjell jacket as my final layer. I am a fan of merino as it wicks but smells less than the synthetic equivalents. I also like the combination of the Mistral and Fjell mid and outer layers, both of which have full zipped pockets, because they do exactly what I need and keep the wind and spitting rain out. The Mistral is cosy with its fleece and together they keep me warm on the down. On the up I can take off the Fjell jacket and unzip the Mistral. The Fjell has good movement round the arms and shoulders and it keeps out the cutting wind. Edinburgh weather can be tricky! It also has great chest pockets where I can stash my iphone within easy reach for pictures. My hero item is my trousers, the Troggings. They are water resistant, have a drawstring waist and are soft inside. I think they look great and they are supremely comfortable to walk in with loads of stretch but no riding down or sagging.
We have come across the gentle green drag and Delta is on the lead as we are in sheep territory.
A nice sharp climb brings us above the reservoirs and they lie below us blue and glittering. It is a typical Edinburgh day with the weather changing from sun to light snow and back to sun. The path down is a total bog. On a previous jaunt, I left Natalie helpless with laughter as I slid and plopped backside first into a big puddle of mud and sheep poo – Delta thought it was a great new game and frolicked madly around me. I had to complete the walk with a shamefully muddy bottom.
Nat and I are excellent at snacks and hot drinks for our walks. I think we eat and drink more calories than we actually burn off. It is definitely time for refreshment but the wind has turned Edinburgh bitter and we don’t want to stop. Both of my jackets are zipped up, with my Mistral hood up and snugly tightened round my chin. I am toasty and I want to stay that way. We have a secret weapon…. Nat is the proud owner of a camper van, so the three of us, in true British-style, head for the car park and leap in. Delta gets her banana while we luxuriate with a hot juice and a big bar of chocolate, basking in the glow of a walk well done.
Do also have a look at my Instagram. I post pictures of adventures in the mountains, desert and the winding streets of the medina