Pentland Hills

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Pentland Hills, a group of hills commencing in Edinburghshire, 3 miles SW of Edinburgh, and extending thence south-westward for 16 miles through the counties of Edinburgh, Peebles, and Lanark, to near Carnwath, where they slope into Clydesdale. The valleys average breadth is from 4 to 6 miles. They nowhere form a continuous chain or ridge, but are broken up by many intersecting ravines and hollows, the principal being the valley occupied by the Glencorse Burn near the NE end, and the Cauldstane Slap between East and West Cairn Hills near the centre. Through the latter there is a rough cross-road from the Edinburgh and Lanark road up the valley of the Water of Leith, to the Edinburgh and Dumfries road, by Penicuik and Biggar, at Linton; and at many points the hills are traversed by footpaths, over the attempted shutting up of which, against public use, a good deal of feeling has recently- been excited. Along the NW the rocks belong to the Calciferous Sandstone series of the Carboniferous System, while along the SE they belong to the Lower Old Red Sandstone System, and hale to the N a thick series of interbedded porphyrites of the same age. At several points there are patches of Upper Silurian rocks, which are above North Esk reservoir and else. where very richly fossiliferous. These must hale been, at one time, wholly covered to a depth of from 6000 to 7000 feet by carboniferous rocks, all of which hale been removed by denudation. Ice action has been traced over 1600 feet above sea-level, and erratics that must hale come from the NW are found over 1000 feet up. There are numerous springs and streams, those near the N end providing the water supply of Edinburgh, Leith, and Portobello, the principal reservoirs being Torduff, Clubbiedean, and Bonaly, on the N near Bonaly Tower; Glencorse and Loganlee reservoirs, in the basin of Glencorse Burn or Logan Water; and Listonshiels and Balelaw (Threipmuir and Harelaw) Reservoirs, in the basins of the Water of Leith and its tributary, Balelaw Burn. Other reservoirs are North Esk reservoir, for regulating the supply to the mills along that stream, and Cobinshaw and Crosswood reservoirs on Murieston and Linhouse Waters, and connected with the supply of the Union Canal. Besides the streams already mentioned, there is Lyne Water on the SW, flowing by Linton to the Tweed near Lyne church. The appearance of the hills varies considerably, but is everywhere more or less rounded. In some districts they are bleak and heathy, but in others they are green and covered with excellent pasture. The scenery along their skirts and in some of the glens of the intersecting streams is very pretty; and near the centre of the SE side along the North Esk at Carlops, on the borders of the counties of Edinburgh and Peebles, are Habbie's Howe, and the rest of the scenery rendered classic in Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd; while 1½ mile N by W of Penicuik, on the shoulder of Carnethy, is the scene of the battle of Rullion Green. The principal summits from NE to SW are Allermuir Hill (1617 feet), Castlelaw Hill (1595), Bells Hill (1330), Black Hill (1628), Carnethy (1890), Hare Hill (1470), Scald Law (the highest, 1898), West Kip (1806), East Cairn (1839), West Cairn (1844), Mount Maw (1753), Craigengar (1700), Byrehope Mount (1752), Faw Mount (1356), King's Seat (1521), Fadden Hill (1526), Millstone Rig (1439), White Craig (1425), Catstone Hill (1470), Black Law (1336), Harrows Law (1360), Black Birn (1213), Bleak Law (1460), Mid Hill (1347), and Left Law (1210). From Catstone Hill a scattered series of hills pass southward by Mendick Hill (1480 feet), Blyth Hill (1007), and Broughton Heights (1872), and connect the Pentlands with the Southern Uplands. In 1883-84 there was much correspondence and some litigation with regard to the right of way over the Pentlands. The Pentlands, of which Lord Cockburn wrote about 1825 that ` there is not a recess in their valleys, nor an eminence on their summits, that is not familiar to my solitude. One summer I read every word of Tacitus in the sheltered crevice of a rock (called ` My Seat ') about 800 feet above the level of the sea, with the most magnificent of scenes stretched out before me.'-Ord. Sur., shs. 32, 24, 1857-64.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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