Walk: Gentle shepherds & leaping witches - Carlops circular

Scottish Borders / Midlothian | Pentland Hills | Half day walk | ★★★

[North Esk valley from the top of the pass]

North Esk Reservoir is a fairly little-visited spot in the southern Pentlands above Carlops; one of the many burns tumbling down from the moors into this body of water is the source of the namesake river. A pass between Spittal Hill and Patie's Hill makes for a scenic approach to the reservoir from near Nine Mile Burn. Starting from Carlops, our circuit also takes in the photogenic folds of Habbie's Howe, which include a small waterfall, cave and unspoilt woodland. Habbie's Howe was also the setting for The Gentle Shepherd: the most famous work of 18th century Scottish poet and playwright, Allan Ramsay.

[Habbie's Howe]

📌 Walk: Gentle shepherds & leaping witches - Carlops circular ★★★
Start / finish at Witches' Leap car park, in quarry by A702, south end of Carlops village, G.R.: NT 161559 ///campfires.hopefully.cookies

▶ 9 km / 6 mi | ▲ 310 m | ⌚ Half a day | Moderate
Features: Witches' Leap; Habbie's Howe & Peggy's Pool waterfall; North Esk Reservoir; Carlops
Terrain: Clear but muddy paths in Habbie's Howe; then good tracks across the pass to the reservoir. Return to Carlops from Fairliehope is on a rough path with rocky / steep spots and some boggy areas (alternatively remain on the main track). Two busy road crossings and other minor road sections. Part of the path through Habbie's Howe is closed due to a landslip, with local alternatives available (see O.S. maps).

Route & map

Car park - Kitleyknowe - Peggy's Pool - Habbie's Howe - Newhall - Spittal Farm - pass between Spittal Hill & Patie's Hill - North Esk Reservoir outflow - Fairliehope - Carlops Bridge - Carlops - start

Route credit: Scotland Off the Beaten Track
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On our visit

Wildlife: Buzzard & mallard ducks at North Esk Reservoir. Lots of sheep, small birds.
Weather: Unbroken sunshine, deep lying snow and light winds. -5°C at 10am in Carlops; sub-zero all day.

Chronological photo guide

[One of the rocks forming the Witches' Leap - witches are said to have jumped between two of these outcrops for entertainment]

[Road to Kitleyknowe]

[Auchencorth Moss]

[Habbie's Howe]

[Ice formations]

[Habbie's Howe]

[Peggy's Pool & waterfall]

[Habbie's Howe]

[Cave in Habbie's Howe]

[Ice]

[Hair ice]

[Ascent out of Habbie's Howe]

[Track just beyond the A702 crossing]

[Approach to Spittal Farm]

[Above Spittal Farm]

[North Esk valley from the top of the pass]

[North Esk valley from the top of the pass]

[North Esk Reservoir]

[Track to Fairliehope]

[Return path to Carlops]

[The return path has rough and steep sections]

[Carlops]

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