Through the Hills

One of the first things you notice about Brits when you move to the UK is that they like to walk. I mean, if you’ve tried to navigate the Edinburgh bus system and noted how far the bus stops are apart, you can get an idea of how much the average Scottish person walks on a daily basis. If that wasn’t enough, take a look at all the green space in the city – places like the Meadows, Holyrood Park, and the Princes Street Gardens always have people around, taking a turn about the park.

I had the chance to get up-close and personal with another green space, but not in Edinburgh. Just outside the city there’s a regional park called Pentland Hills. Don’t let the name fool you – it’s not a range of hills so much as a range of very small mountains (that’s right – the Great Lakes girl still has a problem with walking uphill). It’s a great place for a day out, a picnic, or to graze your herd of coos.

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Pentland Hills was named a regional park in 1986, but there’s evidence of people trekking through this part of Scotland long before that. In some areas of the park, there are remains of settlements that pre-date the Roman occupation of Britain. Archaeologists think that a group of people called the Votadini – a Celtic group known to the Romans as being a friendly buffer state between them and the really mean Celts to the north – lived and farmed there.

In more recent history, the Pentland Hills park has a connection to one of Scotland’s great national heroes, Robert the Bruce. The story goes that Robert the Bruce bet Sir William St. Clair his life over a stag hunt. The stakes: If Sir William St. Clair brought down a stag, he got the Pentland Hills Estate. If he didn’t – well, let’s just say he didn’t want to lose that bet. Luckily for him, he hunting dogs were on point that day, and he caught himself a deer. Overcome with gratitude, he had a chapel built and dedicated to St. Katherine in the Hope. The chapel is in the middle of the reservoir now.

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The afternoon I went out there with a group of people, it was sunny, but boy was it windy and cold. We hiked over hill and over dale – some of those hills being about 1,900 feet high – and had a picnic lunch in the shelter of a stone wall. We also had a run-in with an angry coo. Popular opinion was that he was agitated because of the cold wind barreling through the hills, as he was not interested in carrots. Or letting us pass by on the path.

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Despite the angry coo (the rest of the herd couldn’t have been less interested in what was going on), it was a great day out. It certainly made for some good pictures.

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