With a new Trailstar and some other gear to get to know, I looked at a weekend a bit closer to home; a Pentland Hills circuit from Livingston. It was one of the coldest nights of the year and everything worked just fine.
At the end of last summer, West Lothian Council announced they had funded a new path linking West Lothian to the Pentland Hills. This was the last link of the old drove road from Midcalder to West Linton, the Old Scottish Right of Way 51. The new path crosses from Selm Muir Wood, through Leyden Farm and over Corstone Hill to Little Vantage where it picks up the established drove road to West Linton. It avoids walking the length of Leyden Road, although you still have to organise yourself to get to Selm Muir Wood. We start from the western entrance of the wood which is off Morton Road, around an hour’s walk from Livingston South Station.
Following woodland paths to the south side of the wood, we came to an old beech hedge adjacent to open farmland. A short distance further was a stile with small “Friends of the Pentlands” waymarkers. This led across the fields through Leyden Farm, Hilly Cow Wigwams and then out onto Corstone Hill. Here the path becomes boggy and indistinct with yellow cap posts for marking until it arrives at the A70 and Little Vantage. In poor visibility it would probably be easier heading out onto Leyden Road and following this to the A70.
Losing light we moved towards Harperrig and a good choice of pitching spots for the night near Gala Ford (which now has a bridge). The Trailstar pitched easily and I had a Thermarest Xtherm mattress to try for the first time.
It was probably the coldest night of the year. A walker told me it was -4 C in the car park around 7am so I guess it was down to below -6 C during the night. I slept very warm; the reflective properties of the Xtherm work very well indeed.
The heavy frost made the going up to the Cauldstane Slap very easy as the boggy ground had frozen solid enough to hold weight as it was crossed. After the clouds burnt away it was a beautiful sunny early Spring day.
From the top of the Slap we headed east to East Cairn Hill (the going on the northern side of the fence is probably slightly easier). Then we headed for the stone wall at the top of the highest point. Crossing this there is an old drove track that winds down to the Bore Stane keeping close to the wall most of the way.
Coming into the foothills you have a choice of routes back towards West Lothian. Turning right towards Bavelaw will bring you out onto the A70 with about a mile of road walking until you reach a footpath into Kirknewton by the old aerodrome. We went left looking for the crossing at Leithhead Farm. The final section of this path is boggy where cattle and horses have ruined the ground. The final two fields to the farm are steep, and often have cattle with calves during the warmer months, with no straightforward alternative route.
From Leithhead it was a quick walk along Leyden Road to arrive at the east entrance to Selm Muir Wood.