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SANDISON'S SCOTLAND; HOWE ANN AND I LOVED TO BURN OFF THE MILES BY GOING ON EXPEDITIONS.

BRUCE SANDISON IS A JOURNALIST, ANGLER AND AUTHOR OF A STRING OF BEST–SELLING BOOKS ABOUT SCOTLAND'S OUTDOORS. HE LIVES IN SUTHERLAND.

It started in Habbies Howe at Nine Mile Burn to the west of Edinburgh.

Mildly protesting, yet anxious to please my girlfriend Ann, I was chivvied from the comfort of the old inn and marched swiftly to the top of West Kip (550m) in the Pentland Hills.

I don't think I enjoyed the experience of walking for walking's sake but I knew instinctively that if I wished to retain the regard of the beautiful creature by me that I would have to start enjoying it pretty damned quick.

Habbies Howe, sadly, is no more. Now it is a private house. Back then it was our favourite pub, immortalised by the Scottish poet Allan Ramsay (1686–1758) in his play The Gentle Shepherd: "Gae faurer doon the burn tae Habbies Howe/Where a' the sweets o' spring an' summer grow/And when ye're tired of prattling side the rill/Return tae Ninemileburn, an' tak a gill."

Wise advice, which Ann and I followed then and did so thereafter for many years.

A gate in the car park off the A702 Edinburgh/Biggar road leads onto the hill, signposted to Balerno. The round trip, Nine Mile Burn to West Kip and back via Eight Mile Burn, takes about three hours and begins by following an ancient track by Monks Burn.

Cistercian divines tramped this way between their monastery in the woods to the south of Habbies Howe and Howletts House – The House of the Owls – once a chapel, now ruins on the north shore of Loganlee Reservoir. Past the woods at Cap Law, the track descends and junctions with a track leading up from Eight Mile Burn. Say goodbye to the Monks here and make the easy dash up to the summit of West Kip.

On a clear day, the view from West Kip embraces half of Scotland – Auld Reekie, guarded by the Moorfoot and Lammermuir Hills, and to the west the broken lands of the Trossachs. The Cairngorms crowd the northern horizon: eastwards, the golden fringe of Fife and Largo Law then the blue waters of the Firth of Forth, and the black Bass Rock.

Return from the summit to the junction and hang a left down the track to Eight Mile Burn, which is one and a half miles distant from the start point at Nine Mile Burn.

However, these miles are not proper miles. They are shorter, like Roman or English miles. The old Scottish miles were 1975 yards in length, as in "the lang Scots miles" in Robert Burns poem Tam O'Shanter, the ones that Tam didn't think about while "bousing at the nappy." Miles today measure only 1760 yards.

The Romans occupied this area some 2000 years ago and built a road along the skirts of the Pentland hills between Leith and the Upper Clyde, spiked with garrison forts.

With care, you can still pick out the line of their road at Eight Mile Burn. I generally fall in behind a bunch of sweating, cursing legionaires and bid them farewell once we reach Nine Mile Burn.

Now, more than half a century, four children and 10 grandchildren after that first climb, I still see that special gleam in Ann's eye as she plots further lung–expanding expeditions and I have come to enjoy it very much indeed.

CAPTION(S):

VALLEY Loganlee Reservoir from the hillside
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 29, 2013
Words:586
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