For most of my Christmas holidays the last day was looking like one of the best weatherwise, and I was saving it - and its better buses - for one last long walk. And then at the last minute it changed its mind, and became dull and grey, so the best compromise seemed to be a short walk - and as I'd had my last two Pentland marilyns on my todo list for about five years, I decided to be virtuous and start the year by climbing one of them.
This is another walk from the useful Biggar bus - which I got off a bit too early, because Dolphinton goes on for a long time. So I walked through the village, past the turning for the church, and headed up the next turning, which is briefly a road before becoming a farm track and then a path between two lines of fences.
The path leads up to a dip between the Black Mount and its smaller neighbour, and although the hill path turns up again after a patch of woodland just before the top, I went on until I could see the other side - the empty lands of the southern Pentlands, once the hills have run out.
Retracing my steps, I crossed the fence at the junction and began to head uphill beside the trees. There was a distinct path, but it was steep and muddy and very slippery in places, and I was glad that the rest of the hillside was heather, which although it might wear you out, at least always gives a good grip.
Once up on the ridge it became just a walk, following a tiny line of path through the heather for far longer than I expected, but with good views all round despite the gathering clouds - back to Mendick Hill and the main Pentland ridges, over Dunsyre with its church in the trees to the lower hills of the south, to the clouds gathering over the Broughton Hills and the Moorfoots to the west, and finally ahead to Tinto.
The summit ridge is so flat, as well as so long, that it took a long time for the trig point to come into view, but it did eventually, looking, as someone else said, as if it had been nibbled by beavers.
My plan now was to descend to the Big Red Barn for a cup of tea, and it was nicely in view from the ridge. At this end the ground drops away fairly quickly from the summit, leading to a lower top where the path heads on and the fence I planned to follow turned away. There was no path here, and I tried to skirt around the edge of the heather, before meeting the fence again at a place where the ground suddenly fell away under my feet - but as it was deep in heather again I decided just to bounce down regardless.
I stopped for a while to sit in the heather and eat some belated lunch, and then headed down again to where the ground eased off and became grass - much easier for a while, until I met a complicated collection of fences and ditch and had to figure out a way across.
After dodging the next patch of trees an open gate led into another grassy field - only this one turned out to have cows in it, so I turned back into the scattered trees which lined its edge. The (almost) last puzzle was getting from the field to the road, because there was no nearby gate, and it was the difficult kind of fence with an extra strand of barbed wire strung inside it so you can't get your foot onto the fence - but eventually I found a place where they'd come apart enough to dodge through, and just had to figure out the best way across the road!
I wasn't sure if the bus would stop at the junction, so after a welcome cup of tea I walked back up into Dolphinton just as it got dark - it had been a nice little trip for a middling kind of day, although the views would be even better on a good one.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.