Moorfoot Hills

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Location: Moorfoot Hills near Gladhouse Reservoir
Terrain: hills, farmland
Type of walk: round trip
Length: 13 kilometers
Total ascend: 280 meters
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Warning: the terrain is boggy in places
Refreshments: none
Other walkers: none
Map: Landranger 73; Peebles, Galashiels
Last update: August 2002

Read an explanation of this brief information.
Check the conditions of use for this route description.


How to get there 

(Large scale map)

Coming from either the A703 or the B6372: turn into the small road that links these two roads and that passes Gladhouse Reservoir. Approximately five kilometers from the A703 and three kilometers from the B6372 turn into a small road signposted for Moorfoot. Follow this road for one kilometer until you reach a small parking area at the left, next to some trees that line the bank of Gladhouse Reservoir.

Route description 

(Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 map)

Walk along the road towards Moorfoot Farm. At this farm go straight on, following the dirt track signposted for Huntly Cot. At the next group of buildings you also go straight on, following the main track.

Turn left at the crossing with another dirt track. After some 50 meters turn right onto the track that follows the edge of a small plantation. At the end of the plantation the track again turns right and continues alongside a drystone wall. When your way is blocked by a gate in a second drystone wall, use the stile at your left to enter the field. Cross a small stream by means of a plank and continue in your original direction along the edge of the field and the drystone wall. Go through the next gate in the wall and cross the gully (don't get your feet wet). Continue to walk along the drystone wall, now perpendicular to your previous direction.

Cross a small stile in a wire fence and continue until you reach the end of the drystone wall. Here you turn left into the field, towards a small plantation with tree tops that are just visible behind the bulge in the field. Soon you come upon a faintly recognizable track that crosses your path. Turn right onto this track, which leads you to the rightmost one of three small hillocks and to the wire fence behind it. Turn left and walk along this fence until you reach a small stile. Climb the stile and carefully negotiate your way through a boggy area to reach the small plantation.

Walk along the edge of the plantation towards the hills. At the end of the plantation you come across a path that runs parallel to the hills. Follow this path to the left. Cross a small stream by means of a plank and pass another small plantation. Here the path veers to the right and gradually starts to climb up the slope of the hills. Enjoy the view across Midlothian towards the Pentland Hills as your altitude increases.

You are now walking in the general direction of Torfichen Hill, the leftmost of the peaks you can see from this point. Just in front of Torfichen Hill a cleft in the hills is visible and a little closer by a less easily recognized second cleft. This second cleft is where you will enter the hills. There is a third cleft almost exactly to your right.

Sheep pen in the valley of the South Esk

By now the path becomes less and less well defined and you probably soon lose it altogether. Just scramble through the fern field in the general direction of Torfichen Hill (tread carefully to avoid unpleasant surprises hidden by the fern cover). At the other end of the fern field the path reappears, now climbing towards the cleft in the hills. If you can't find back the path, just aim for the summit of Torfichen Hill until you reach a wire fence, and then follow this fence uphill to the right.

When you reach the saddle at the top of the cleft, your path is blocked by a gate in another wire fence. Turn right and continue to walk along this fence, which follows the hill summits and will be your companion for the next three and a half kilometers. You may want to alternate between both sides of the fence, depending on the state of the terrain. Between Mauldslie Hill and the Huntly Cot Hills you cross a wire fence, and later a second fence between the Huntly Cot Hills and The Kipps.

Along this part of the route there are excellent views across Midlothian to your right and across the valley of Blackhope Water to your left. More or less straight ahead the windmill farm on Emly Bank and Bowbeat Hill is visible; eyesore or symbol of progress, you choose. And in case you wonder about the wooden contraptions you encounter; these are used to hide behind during a grouse shoot.

When the summit of The Kipps is almost exactly to your right, the wire fence makes a sharp 30 degree bend to the left (make sure that you do not accidently pass this waypoint, or else you may find it difficult to find a route into the valley of the South Esk). Here you leave the fence and turn about 60 degrees to the right. Your aim is to stay to the left of the summit of The Kipps and not lose altitude. When you encounter boggy patches, pass these on the high side. Soon you come across a dirt track that leads down from The Kipps. Turn left onto this track.

This is my favorite part of the walk. Not only have you left the boggy terrain behind you and is the rest of the way all downhill, but you are also walking through some beautiful scenery as you descend towards the valley of the South Esk. Continue to follow the dirt track until it reaches the valley floor, where it joins a dirt track that follows the South Esk valley (see the photograph). Turn right onto this track. In the far distance beyond the end of the valley you can see a double hill; this is Arthur's Seat in the center of Edinburgh.

Soon after you have gone through a kissing gate you reach the remnants of Hirendean Castle, sitting on the slope to your right, flanked by some trees and a sheep pen. Continue to follow the track, which now crosses the river. When you reach Moorfoot Farm, turn left onto the tarmac road that leads you back to where you started the walk.

Route map

Additional notes 

Approximately half of this walk leads through terrain that is boggy in places, so that it is not advisable to do this walk shortly after a lot of rainfall. Having said that, I did the walk without problems in August 2002 after some quite wet weeks, followed by only a few dry days.

The section along the ridge of the Moorfoot Hills leads over terrain that is in places quite uneven. Be careful not to sprain an ankle. Good walking shoes are an absolute must for this walk.

It can be windy on the ridge, so make sure that you carry appropriate clothing with you.

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