A-Z of Fife’s Hills: S

S for St Ninians

The artificial hillocks of St Ninians may seem a strange inclusion in a listing of Fife Hills. However, in 2020 two out of the three hillocks gained Tump status (hill with 30m and upward prominence) and thus earned themselves a place in the Database of British and Irish Hills.

The hillocks of St Ninians are a landart form designed by Charles Jenks, created on the site of a former open cast mine. Locally controversial, as the original plans were never completed, it is still an obvious landmark when viewed from the M90 near Kelty. The highest of the hillocks is St Ninians East at 181m. This is the hill that attracts the most attention as its summit is adorned with three sculpture features and an avenue of machinery. Access to the summit is via spiral paths often referred to as the walnut whip.

Whilst it is the modern open cast heritage which most people will associate with the area, it is also worth bearing in mind that this is the site of the lost mining village of Lassodie. Once, a thriving community was located here.

The long distance path, the Fife Pilgrim Way, skirts alongside the hills, and walkers on this route can easily make a diversion up St Ninians East.

The area can be approached from the north, east or south. The southern approach from Kingseat along the route of the Fife Pilgrim Way is probably the most scenic. When using this approach, the walker crosses the causeway at Loch Fitty with the hills and sculptures on the skyline providing a tantalising glimpse of what lies ahead.

More information on walking in the St Ninians area is available from Fife Walking.

A-Z of Fife’s Hills: R

R for Redwells Hill

I’m skipping Q in this A-Z because we don’t have any hills beginning with Q in Fife. I did consider Q for quarry hills as a number of hills in Fife have been subject to quarrying. Notably Lucklaw Hill and Ormiston Hill the sites of working quarries. Also in the quarry hills would be Orrock Hill near Kirkcaldy with its northern slope still being quarried away and Lathalmond Hill near Steelend where an old quarry has left very little of the actual hill in tact.

So moving on to R I’m going to feature Redwells Hill.

The 192m Redwells Hill at the back of Kinglassie is probably not a household name among hills. However, it does boast Blythe’s Tower on its southern slopes so does offer some interest.

Blythe’s Tower was built in 1812 and there are conflicting stories as to why it was originally built. It would appear to have been used as lookout tower during Word War II (source: Historic Environment Scotland).

The Fife Pilgrim Way passes close by but access to the either the hill or the tower is not straightforward from the waymarked path.

Redwell Hills is the highest point in the surrounding farmland (agricultural and grazing) and as such access to it needs to be in accordance with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It can be approached from the east via field edges where there is a plentiful supply of gates to get around the fences. Although not much higher than the surrounding ground, the summit is marked with an OS trig point.

Redwells Hill features on the other Fife hills page on Fife Walking

A-Z of Fife’s Hills: P

Park Hill

At 339m Park Hill is the highest summit in the Fife part of the Cleish Hills and is the 7th highest hill in Fife.

The high ground of the Cleish Hills is comprised of rough grass moorland and forestry, and straddles the border of Fife and Perth & Kinross. Undoubtedly the more interesting and most visited summits lie within the Perth & Kinross section though.

Park Hill can be reached from either the western or eastern side. The easiest approach, although longer, is probably from the east by means of forest tracks as far as “Windy Gate”. Beyond here there are rough tussocky paths across the moorland over (or around) the Georgeton Hills, to the vicinity of Park Hill. An approach from the west is likely to be very wet underfoot as is an approach around the southern and western shores of Loch Glow.

The hill is an offshoot of nearby Dumglow which makes for a more interesting destination. Also within the area are the three lumpy hillocks known as the Inneans and the craggy looking Dumifarline. Both Dumglow and Dumifarline are the sites of hillforts. The rough tussocky moorland and lumpy ground gives the area a feel of “real hill” to it.

The Cleish hills, although low in hill terms, form some of the highest ground in Fife. As such they are well worth a visit either by the hill walker looking for an easy option or the more adventurous low level walker.

The Fife Walking Cleish Hillforts page provides details of a route around all these hills.

A-Z of Fife’s Hills: O

O: Ormiston Hill (Black Cairn Hill)

Ormiston Hill (also known as Black Cairn Hill)

Continuing with the A to Z of Fife hills this week’s hill is Ormiston Hill in the north of Fife, a grand viewpoint over the Tay.

Ormiston Hill lies at the back of Newburgh on the north Fife coast. It’s primarily rough grazing land although its north eastern slopes have been eaten away by the large Clatchard Quarry. The walker ascending the hill from Newburgh will mostly be blissfully unaware of the quarry’s presence (unless blasting is taking place). It’s 236m summit is the 20th highest hill in Fife (as per the Database of British and Irish Hills).

It’s a straightforward walk up to the summit from Newburgh and it’s well worth stopping from time to time to look back, as the views north over the Tay are excellent. The summit itself is well defended by gorse bushes. However, there is a path through the gorse accessed via a stile. Approaching the summit from any direction other than the stile is unlikely to be much fun.

In days gone by the summit had defences in the form of a hill fort and there was a nearby fort on Clatchard Craig which has now been completely lost to the quarry. At the south western foot of the hill close to a minor road are the remains of MacDuff’s Cross, also worth a visit.

More information on Ormiston Hill is available from Fife Walking.

A-Z of Fife’s Hills: N

Norman’s Law

Norman’s Law is a distinctive landmark in the north of Fife and at 285m is the 11th highest hill in Fife. It also has the distinction of being one of Fife’s Marilyns.

The most popular ascent of the hill seems to be from Luthrie in the east but it can quite equally well be ascended from Glenduckie / Ayton in the west or from Pittachope to the north. The Pittachope approach is the shortest and easiest route on to the hill being only 1 mile with less than 500 feet of ascent. The Fife Coastal Path circles the hill on its northern and western sides and there are at least three routes up the hill that start from the coastal path. It’s easy therefore to incorporate this hill into a walk along the coastal path.

Once up to the summit, which is the site of an iron-age fort, the views are splendid in all directions but particularly so over the Tay to the Angus Hills. The summit area itself is quite knobbly and the eastern approach path is a bit steep and eroded.

Norman’s Law makes a good short outing by itself but for a longer day it can be combined with its neighbour Glenduckie Hill, connecting the two by means of the Fife Coastal Path.

Check out Fife Walking’s Norman’s Law page for details of routes up the hill.