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  • Jackie Gleave

Pentland Hills: Threipmuir - Harlaw - Black Springs loop


Location: Pentland Hills: Threipmuir - Harlaw - Black Springs loop

Date: 6 June 2024

Length: 5 miles

Level: Easy

Fave coffee: Corner Cafe, Currie


My preference for this loop, and I do love a loop, is to start from Threipmuir carpark rather than Harlaw, but you can start from either.  Both have carparks and are having extension work done so very soon they will be all-singing, all-dancing affairs with space for overnight campers, toilets etc.  Obviously this comes at a price, so what is a free event at the moment no doubt there will be charges introduced before long.


Starting at Threipmuir you get this amazing view as you walk down to the reservoir with a view to East Kip, West Kip, and Scald Law further into the Pentland Hills:


Threipmuir Reservoir was built by the Edinburgh Water Company between 1843-1848, and was intended to supply water to the now-forgotten mills at Balerno. Today, it forms part of the local flood prevention scheme by slowing the speed at which water from the many burns and streams enters the Water of Leith.


The reservoir is only a short walk from the carpark, and on reaching the reservoir you should then follow the small beach running alongside until you reach an embankment which will lead you to this metal bridge. Cross the bridge.


You’ll get your first glimpse of Harlaw reservoir through the trees. 

Unlike Threipmuir reservoir, which is pretty exposed, Harlaw reservoir is sheathed in trees with secret little beaches along the way…perfect picnic and paddling spots.  That is what I absolutely love about this walk…although short in stature it more than makes up for in the variety of landscape.


Make your way through the woods with Harlaw on your left until you come to the top end of the reservoir with a picnic bench and the most sublime view.

Harris admiring view and picking up the crumbs from the previous picnic


From here head back onto the main path and you’ll see a stone stile with a signpost to Black Springs. 

Often when I’ve done this walk, I’ve only taken in the two reservoirs, Threipmuir and Harlaw, but looking to step it up a bit this time I was curious to see what Black Springs had to offer and so headed off on a voyage of discovery!


Well, I can certainly say, I was not disappointed!  It’s always lovely to stumble across somewhere you’ve never visited, and yet has always been on your doorstep.

Follow the woods, up and then down a fairly steep hill. 


At this point, my only thought was that if there is nothing at the bottom of this hill except for a measly old tiny black spring I’m going to be a bit cheesed off!

Well, not on your nelly, it was the weirdest, and yet most glorious, experience.  Opening a gate at the bottom of the hill you will first see what looks like a small stream and not much else. Nothing can then prepare you for the sight that is yet to come of Black Springs nestled in the valley.

Black Springs, itself, is named for the many small streams that emerge from nearby Black Hill and was historically also known as the Rumbling Well.  Having turned right through the gate follow the path which takes you to the small dam with the head of Threipmuir feeding into Black Springs.


There is a quaint stone cottage at the head of the dam, which may be a fishing bothy?  Behind the cottage is Black Hill, which will be thoroughly deserving of another visit when the hills are sumptuously covered in purple heather…. late summer by all accounts.


Head back the way you came, and back to the stone stile by Harlaw, then follow the route around Harlaw keeping an eye out for kingfishers and otters.


My favourite route back is through the woods, dipping in and out of the views across the water,


If you want a quicker return route there is also a farm track which will take you straight back to Threipmuir carpark.


Before you set off home do check out the Red Moss of Balerno.  Adjacent to Threipmuir carpark there is a little path that takes you straight to Red Moss nature reserve and the boardwalk.  It’s only a 5 minute walk and thoroughly worth it.

Red Moss is one of only twenty raised peat bogs still surviving in the Lothians and in early June when I visited, there were swathes and swathes of cotton grass, it really was very special.


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