Yesterday’s adventure was a
hike walk to Howlet’s House in the Pentland Hills. I have passed by these ruins countless times over the years but, until yesterday, I had never stopped to explore them. But as the sun was out and the clouds were in hiding, I felt that it was the perfect day for a gentle 10(ish)-mile walk into the Pentland Hills – especially since it was a weekday (Thursday) so I felt it would be less busy along the reservoirs than at the weekend.
The walk was part of my “me time” mini-holiday that I have taken from work in the days leading up to the 12th anniversary of Paul’s death. I had expected it to be a solo and relatively silent walk, but I met another solo walker about 2 miles in and things transpired in a way that meant he joined me for the rest of the walk. Indeed, that meeting meant that my planned out-and-back walk included the addition of a walk over and around one of the hills, adding 3+ miles and 2+ hours to my journey – and providing more than 25,000 steps towards my 5,000,000 step goal. (But that’s a reflective story for another day.)
Having an accidental adventure partner meant that I didn’t explore the site in the way I would have on my own. However, I did get a really good look around and feel that I did the site justice. But I do think I will have to return one day to enjoy my picnic lunch at the site, which I didn’t do yesterday. I have realised that it would be a great place for a geocache and if I place one there, I will have more of a reason to visit the site moving forward!
As I shared more of a reflective post about my accidental adventure partner, I will move on to the site itself for now. (Read about my walk with grief here.)
About Howlet’s House
Howlet’s House dates from the late-1500s. All that remains today is a ruined portion of a vaulted wall to the northeast with a window in the centre, and the low ruins of what would have been the southeast wall for that same structure. The larger of these walls stands 10-feet at the tallest point whilst the smaller wall is no more than 4-feet on the outside elevation. To the west of this are the footprints of a larger building (maybe 25 feet long?), outlined with only a base layer of stone that is slowly being overtaken by vegetation.
The remaining wall seems fairly stable for now, but I imagine that it will collapse within the next couple/few decades if nothing is done to preserve it. And from what I can see, no attempts are being made to do that. But then, that just means it will be a wonderful discovery for a future archaeologist to ponder!
As others have noted, there is some uncertainty in the history of the ruins. It has been suggested that they might be part of a chapel with a priest’s house attached whilst others think that it is the remains of a tower house. It has even been suggested that the sight might have been kennels connected to Logan Tower (or Logan House) which was a 13th-century tower house belonging to the St Clair family (Barony of Roslin). Personally, given that the Logan Tower was sited a stone’s throw from Howlet’s House, I am more included to accept the chapel or maybe the kennel theories.
I would love to return one day when I can really explore the area more. I would like to look at the footprint from the larger structure to see if I can identify doorways, and I would like to see if I can identify any other structures that might have been there. If I do discover any of these things, I will update this post!
Howlet’s House is 3.1 miles from the carpark at the Flotterstone. To access the site, you simply walk past Glencorse Reservoir and about halfway along Loganlea Reservoir. The walk is on a paved roadway with a slight incline (250 feet elevation difference) and the road is fairly well maintained. Be warned: Occasional cars access scattered farms and fishing spots and once you get beyond Glencorse Reservoir you are in an open range area so there may well be sheep on the roadway.
The site sits just past the Loganlea Fishery site, tucked away against the hillside. If you’re not looking for it, you can easily miss it! (If you come to the end of the reservoir, you’ve gone too far.) As you walk past the fishing cabin, you’ll see a small dirt road/path on the right. That will take you up towards the site, then you’ll have to walk through the vegetation to access it.
If you have the energy to add more distance to your trek, the Loganlea waterfall is another mile along the way. This area also provides for some lovely views (and great photos). You’ll need to carry on to the end of the paved road then go through the gate at The Howe Cottage. From there, you will be on easy to recognise trails. Stay to the left and cross a little stone bridge in front of the cottage, then follow the path to the right staying on the main trail. You’ll cross two wooden bridges before coming upon a set of large square stones crossing the water.
When you get to the stones, turn left and walk along the edge of the hill and left bank. You’ll then see the waterfall tucked into the hills. I generally like to climb over the fence so that I can (carefully) get a little closer to the waterfall. There are other options for longer walks by carrying on over the stones and following the path along to the north side of the Pentlands before looping back around. You’ll find a range of options on the Pentland Hills site including detailed maps.
You can see what the site looks like today in my photos below. For comparison, you can see photos from the Scottish National Buildings Record on Canmore’s site. Those photos are from a 1963 site survey and show how much the southeast wall has collapsed in the last 50+ years.