A mountain bike ride past four reservoirs in Scotland's Pentland Hills.
Click on thumbnail to enlarge.  Copyright Ó Malcolm Sharp 2004.  All rights reserved.  [Home]
Distance: 19 km
Time: 1.5 hours but allow time to stop for the views.
Difficulty: Easy mixture of tarmac, hill track, and made up paths.  Good fitness required due to a couple of steep hills.
Bikes: Mountain bikes best.
Map: Ordnance Survey Landranger sheets 65 and 66
Route summary:
Flotterstane b Glencorse reservoir b Harlaw reservoir b Threipmuir reservoir b Bavelaw Castle b The Howe b Loganlea reservoir b Glencorse reservoir b Flotterstane.

This route is set in the beautiful Pentland Hills and offers great views at all points but particularly over the Forth bridges and beyond to the Lomond and Ochil hills in the north.  The start point is Flotterstane Ranger Centre where there is also the Flotterstane Inn ready to serve cool beer and excellent food on your return.  The start point at Flotterstane is about 5 km south of the Edinburgh City by-pass on the A702 road (NT234631) and only 30 minutes drive from Princes Street in the centre of Edinburgh.  However you will soon be in a different world from the hustle and bustle of vibrant Edinburgh.  Because it is so near the city, the route can be busy with walkers and care is required on the tarmac sections; signs saying ‘cyclists slow down’ and ‘accident black spot’ are there for a purpose.  The best time to do the route is on a warm evening when it is likely that you will get the place to yourself.

 

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On leaving the ranger centre head on up the tarmac road towards Glencorse reservoir.  The climb is reasonable and provides a good warm up.  Continue along the shore road until the road bends to the left.  On the right hand side is a gate and sign posts to Balerno and Bonaly (NT215640).  Go through the gate and follow the signs for Balerno, but do look back and marvel that you are only 30 minutes drive from the centre of Edinburgh.  The path is rough singletrack that continues up past Bell’s hill to the highest point of the route at 347 metres.  Although rough in places in dry weather the track is rideable all the way to the top, but you will be in low gears.  I last did this route with friends Geoff and Kathryn.  A few months earlier Geoff had injured his knee after crashing at Glentress.  This time poor Geoff fell off at low speed on this uphill section and his bike bit him yet again, on the same leg.  I would change that bike.

 

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On reaching the top enjoy the views to the north and the west, then continue down on the excellent made up path and roads to the ranger centre at Harlaw reservoir (NT180652).  There is a locked gate on the way down and although it has a stile, it is easy enough to lift your bike over the gate.  Continue along a good track on the north west shore of Harlaw and Threipmuir reservoirs.  Keep a look out for bird life, on a previous visit I watched an over ambitious cormorant trying to wrestle a substantial sized rainbow trout from the water just next to the road.  On that occasion the trout won.  Take care, two spillways have to be crossed and the algae covered cobble stones on the one at Harlaw in particular can be treacherously slippery.  Signs warn of this and a foot bridge is available if needed.

 

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Towards the end of Threipmuir go on past the road-end for Easter Bavelaw farm and as the road veers right, turn left into the wood and follow a path for about 300 metres until you exit the wood at a tarmac road.  Turn left and start to head up the hill to Bavelaw Castle.  Stop as you cross the bridge over the end of Threipmuir reservoir and have a look at the birds on the nature reserve.  Among them you will probably see a resident flock of Greylag geese who like the place so much they do not migrate.  They were sleeping peacefully on mud banks when I passed but there are always one or two on lookout duty keeping a beady eye on you.  The climb up to Bavelaw Castle is deceptive, it starts gently and gets progressively steeper.  If you are reasonably fit you will make it to the top, but your legs will be spinning round in a very low gear.  At the top turn left and whilst catching your breath enjoy the views before setting out onto the hill.  A superb path awaits that twists and turns downhill through Green Cleuch all the way to The Howe at the head of Loganlea reservoir.  Flotterstane is now just over 5.5 km distant and down hill all the way.  Watch out for anglers back casts as you pass along the steep sided Loganlea reservoir and at all times be on the look out for walkers on the road and you will soon arrive safely at Flotterstane for some well earned refreshment.

 

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