Walk Day 53 – West Linton to Uphall

Day 53 – June 1 West Linton to Uphall
 Weather: Rain  B&B: Oakridge Hotel (£30)
 Departed: 9:00 Arrived: 15:00  Walked: 5h 12m Rested: 0 hr 50m
 Distance Today: 16.5 mi / 26.50 km  Total Distance: 824.2 mi / 1299.87 km
 % Complete: ~ 71.55%  Pint of the Day: none!
 GPS Track for: Day 53

For the first time since I began my walk I opened the curtains and found it was raining. If anyone had told me before I started that this wouldn’t happen until Day 53 I would never have believed them. Not only was it raining but the visibility was poor and the Pentland Hills were nowhere to be seen.

The forecast was for the rain to taper off by mid-morning and so I wasn’t in a particular rush to finish breakfast. The Meadows B&B was pretty good value for £30 and in an en-suite room too. It’s a modern house in a modern suburb but what it lacks in character it makes up for in mod cons.

I was away by 9am and fully kitted out in all my rain gear. West Litton is situated at the foot of the Pentland Hills and it is these hills that separate the Borders region with Scotland’s old industrial heartland. I began my walk by following a local road past the golf course and out onto open moorland. I slowly gained altitude as I walked further into the hills and after several miles the road gave way to a farm track near the Baddinsgill reservoir. The visibility was improving slightly but the tops of the hills were still shrouded in mist and low cloud.

I followed the ever narrowing farm track for a couple of miles until it was nothing more than a footpath. By now it was 11am but the rain showed no signs of stopping and the ground was pretty soggy. I picked my way through the mud, stones and heather and eventually made the summit known locally as Cauldestane Slap. As I descended I could just make out Harperrig Reservoir below and while it appeared close it was in fact a couple of miles away. When I drew closer I could see that this Reservoir was full, another first on this trip.

Overall the route from West Litton to Little Vantage is very well marked, with the possible exception of one unmarked fork in the path just before Cauldstane Slap (I made an educated guess and chose correctly). I followed the markers and a series of foot bridges constructed from old railway ties to the A70. Andy Robinson’s guidebook suggests a route over Corston Hill but with the wet conditions and poor visibility I chose to make my way to Mid Calder by road. I followed the A70 for one mile and only encountered a handful of cars before I headed north on an even quieter B-road for another couple of miles. By now it was 1pm and the rain was finally starting to ease off. I took a shortcut down an unmarked lane where I crossed the railway track and another A-road before entering East Calder. I walked through East Calder and on to Mid Calder, located just a mile to the west.

I was making excellent time and started looking for a place to take a break. When I got to Mid Calder I discovered I was less than 3 miles from my destination at Uphall and so I decided to carry on. My route took me through Pumpherston, the “Historic Centre of Scotland’s Oil Shale Industry“, at least according to the welcome sign I found buried in the underbrush. In the Historic Centre’s centre I found the “ScotCafe” which looked down-to-earth enough to accept a soggy hiker like myself and empty enough just in case they had second thoughts. I enjoyed a fried egg sandwich and a pot of tea while noticing a certificate in the window declaring them as the “Best Café” in Uphall / Broxburn. The café closed at 2:30pm so my visit was short but sweet.

I carried on down the road towards Uphall Station and the M8. When I arrived at the M8 I found the underpass was closed on account of a large amount of construction work. This wasn’t good because there was no easy alternative for crossing the busy motorway. I decided to ask the construction crew if I could walk through. I guess I looked soggier than they did and so they told me to go on through but to stay left and not to get accidentally paved (presumably the paperwork would have been onerous). A few workers looked surprised but most didn’t give me a second look. One, possibly an aspiring Health & Safety officer, walked me through part of worksite.

Once on the other side it was a short and uneventful walk to Uphall. The whole area is more rural than I expected, especially as it is just on the western edge of Edinburgh. B&B’s are very thin on the ground here and so I checked myself into the Oatridge Hotel for the night. Nothing special but a reasonable value at £30 a night. Tonight I’m resting up for what might be the longest walk of the whole trip. Tomorrow I’ll head north-west to Linlithgow where I’ll meet up with the Union canal. I’ll follow this canal all the way to Falkirk where I’ll join the Forth & Clyde canal at the famous Falkirk Wheel and then continue on to Kilsyth for the night.

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