Every city has an unfashionable district - that part where tourists are warned away from. The Edinburgh suburb of Leith fit that description in years gone by... but not any more. The capital's port area has undergone redevelopment and revival in the past couple of decades, and it's now one of Edinburgh's most underrated spots. Flashy new offices and apartments fit together like a jigsaw with old port buildings and a string of high-end restaurants along a smart section of the Water of Leith known as "The Shore"; menus are bursting with Scottish seafood, though the catch probably isn't as local as it used to be. Andrew Lamb's house is worth a short detour away from the riverside: a beautifully-restored merchant's house on Burgess Street which dates to the early 1600's. On the coast at the Port of Leith, beyond a series of rejuvenated quays, is the large Ocean Terminal shopping centre. As well as containing the usual selection of chain shops, restau…

Castlelaw Hill Fort

Castlelaw Hill Fort is a large, iron age fort at the summit of one of the Pentlands' eastern foothills. What sets it apart from most other hill forts is a 1,500 or 2,000 year-old earth house or souterrain (essentially an underground passageway possible once used for storage) incorporated into one of the defensive ditches. You can still explore inside if you're prepared to stoop a little - the ceiling has been artificially raised so you don't need to crawl! A very short side branch accesses a large chamber in addition to the 20-metre long main passageway. Back outside, it's easy to see why the fort was constructed here: views from here over rural Midlothian and into the heart of the hill range around Glencorse Reservoir are both excellent. Tracing the actual earthworks is a little difficult: the best views are from the elevated ground immediately to the north. A short distance to the west is the boundary of a military firing range: although the fort is safe to visit, v…

Scottish Owl Centre

Almost exactly at the halfway point between Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Scottish Owl Centre at Polkemmet Country Park opened in 2012. Today it has the largest collection of owls anywhere in the world, with over a hundred owls looked after and on display here. Most are in pairs, with breeding successes leading to re-homing in the wild where possible. Flying displays take place at least once a day, depending on the season. Paths can be muddy so don't come wearing your best shoes; otherwise, as long as you like owls, you'll have a hoot!

Name: Scottish Owl Centre★★★☆☆
Location: Polkemmet Country Park, off B7066 a mile west of Whitburn, G.R.: NS 924650 ///shimmered.envy.swarm
Open (2018): Daily, February to October; weekends, January & November
Cost (2018): £7.50 (adults), £5.50 (children)


Walk: Greenock - a Cut above

The Greenock Cut is a 9 km-long aqueduct running around three sides of Dunrod Hill above Greenock. Constructed in 1827 to supply the town's industry and houses with a reliable water supply, it eventually fell out of use when it was replaced by a tunnel under the hills. More recently, lottery funding saved the aqueduct from falling further into disrepair, and a newish path constructed alongside it now provides a nearly flat, high-level walking route with fabulous views across the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, and over the Firth of Clyde with the Argyll hills beyond. A wide track over a low pass completes the circuit, with a visitor centre (and cafe next door) in the heart of the park explaining the history of the Cut - the water supply also incorporates a complicated chain of reservoirs, dams and sluice gates. They say that the best views require a lot of effort... but having experienced these easily-gained ones, we're not so sure...

Name: Walk: Greenock - a Cut above ★★★☆☆