Start location: Bonaly Tower (NT 212 678)
End location: A702(T), Flotterstone (NT 234 631)
Geographical area: Lothian and Borders
Path Type: Rural Path
Path distance: 6.3km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians, Suitable for Bikes, Suitable for horses
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From Bonaly Tower go uphill on a tarmac road past the Scout Centre and through the car parking area at NT211674. Go through gate and continue steeply uphill through woods on a good gravel path (this is locally known as Puke Hill). Go through gate at NT210671 and on to open moor. The track is now deep, loose gravel. Carry on to another gate at NT211664 and drop slightly to cross in front of Bonaly Reservoir dam. Rising again the path reaches a gate at NT212661. Go through this on to MOD land. Turn right on muddy track and follow this through Phantom's Cleugh. As the track begins to drop, an older track can be seen higher up as a small terrace on the left hand side. Exit the signposted MOD land via another gate at NT212651 and cross a small bridge. The muddy path carries on towards Glencorse Reservoir, meeting the Maidens Cleugh track at NT214642. Turn left, downhill, towards Glencorse Reservoir. Turn left at gate and follow the tarmac road down to the Flotterstone Inn and the A702.
Cyclists may struggle with the initial climb and should be aware of how muddy the section through Phantom's Cleugh is. All the gates can be opened on horseback but are of the self-closing type and riders should therefore be wary of them swinging closed.
This old route from Bonaly to Flotterstone has long been popular due to it being so easily accessible from Edinburgh. Henry Cockburn lived at Bonaly Tower from 1811 to 1854, and his home was a base from which many eminent figures explored the Pentlands. Bonaly and the Pentlands in general have driven others to poetry - Will. H. Ogilvie appears to commemorate this route in his poem, In Pentland Wine (c.1906): "Behind us the mists of the valley / Lie low on the moorland's breast, / With the bonnie banks of Bonaly / In the grey of the winter dressed. / The west wind, wanton is chiding / Glencorse with the scourge of his whips, / And the wild ducks over it riding / Are tossing like storm-tossed ships.". Plenty more verse by various poets can be found in Robert Cochrane's Pentland Walks (1924).
Phantom's Cleugh was a bit of mystery to us. Although the name appears on modern maps, we could find no old maps also naming it as such.
Eventually, the Friends of the Pentlands' excellent wee publication Pentland Place-Names* gave us the answer: "A late-20th century name given by the Pentland Hills Ranger Service to honour the work of a man nicknamed 'The Phantom' who was often seen doing minor path repairs here, but refused to engage in conversation!". So, there's still a mystery then...
*The book is highly recommended; buying it from the ScotWays website supports both Friends of the Pentlands and ScotWays (and thus the Heritage Paths project too).