For the final instalment in this series of posts the featured hill will be Fife’s highest point, West Lomond.
There are numerous ways of accessing the 522m West Lomond. The most popular (and hence very busy) route is from Craigmead along a rather boring track. Quieter and more interesting routes are from the Bunnet Stane near Gateside, from Glenvale via John Knox’s Pulpit and the Devil’s Burdens, and from Falkland via the Maspie Den or Arraty Den. The more intrepid walker however will probably enjoy a clamber up the cleft of Craigen Gaw on the northern escarpment. Whichever approach route is used, once at the foot of the hill, the walker then has a choice of a direct ascent up the steep eastern / northern slopes or following the track around to the western side for a more gentle ascent.
The hill’s three geological features of the Bunnet Stane / Maiden’s Bower, Devil’s Burdens and John Knox’s Pulpit are all worthy of a visit and can be included in a circular walk ascending from the Bunnet Stane and descending via Glenvale (or vice versa).
So that’s it, although there is a Yellow Hill in Fife that could have been used for Y, it is not a hill that is likely to appeal to the majority of people being a rather scrubby summit protected by electric fences!
A recap of the A to Z
A: Aberdour (Cullaloe Hills)
B: Benarty Hill
C: Cairnie Hill
D: Drumcarrow Craig
E: East Lomond
F: Fleecefaulds Hill and Flagstaff Hill (note since the post was published the summit of Fleecefaulds Hill has “moved” – check hill-bagging.co.uk for latest information).
Unfortunately there are no hills in Fife beginning with U, but the village of Upper Largo is host to the 10th highest hill in Fife, the 290m Largo Law. A very prominent landmark throughout the East Neuk, the hill rises steeply from the surrounding flat farmland.
There are two main summits to the hill, the southern one which is the visible one when approaching the hill and the higher northern top where the trig point is located. Also of note is the 235m Craig Rock to the east, site of hill fort and well worth a visit. As is to be expected of a hill in a flat coastal area, the views from this extinct volcano are superb.
There is a steep and somewhat muddy path directly up the grassy southern flank from Chesterstone Farm (follow the arrows for the path around the farm). It will take a bit of effort to get up the hill but the rewards are worth it.
If taking a dog on the hill, please note the restrictions on the sign at the car park next to the school / cemetery. The hill is used extensively for cattle and sheep grazing.
The Fife Walking Largo Law page provides more information on the hill along with a circular walk from Lower Largo.
The Burntisland Binn is a very obvious hill with its craggy cliffs at the back of Burntisland. Despite its local significance (one story is that god put the Binn in its position to protect Burntisland from the cold north winds), it is not actually recognised as a hill in its own right. With less than 30m height loss (prominence) between it and its higher neighbour, Dunearn Hill, it doesn’t make it into the hill lists.
It is though, well worthy of inclusion in any description of Fife hills and from sea level its 193m provides a reasonable leg stretch for the walker. There are numerous routes to the summit including a simple stroll along the access road to the Craigkelly TV mast. An interesting route starts from near Burntisland Golf Club where a path heads up the eastern shoulder of the hill to the now abandoned Binnend Village. Originally built to house workers at the nearby shale oil works it also became something of a holiday destination for a while. Today just a few remains are visible.
The summit of The Binn is a fantastic viewpoint for the surrounding area. Southwards, the cliffs drop away to Burntisland and the expanse of the Firth of Forth. A view indicator sited at the summit helps identify the distant landmarks.
Check out The Binn page on Fife Walking for details of 8 different routes to the summit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sporting the Hopetoun Monument on its summit, this hill is one of the most visible landmarks in the north Fife / Cupar area. The 100 foot columnar monument was built in 1826 in memory of Sir John Hope, 4th Earl of Hopetoun (source: Historic Environment Scotland). A similar monument is located at Haddington in East Lothian.
At 221m, Mount Hill is the lowest of Fife’s seven Marilyns (hills with 150m and upwards prominence). As much of its slopes are covered with forestry there are unfortunately only limited views on the ascent / descent. However, once at the summit the trees clear, leaving rough scrubland around the monument and views across the surrounding countryside.
There are a number of possible routes up the hill, the shortest and quickest being via signposted forest tracks from the east. Other routes start from the southern side. There is a lack of parking in the area unfortunately so it may be easier to walk in via Over Rankeilour or from Letham.
At just 190m this is the highest hill in the north east of Fife. It is a very conspicuous landmark due to the presence of a large working quarry. The pink felsite quarried from here gives the hill its distinctive red glow when viewed from the south in the sun.
The scrubland summit is easily reached from the village of Balmullo to its south, via field tracks/paths. There are at least two possible routes up the southern slope (one on either side of the quarry) and neither of them are particularly strenuous.
An approach or descent via the northern side is highly recommended where the slopes are clad in attractive mixed woodland. There is a network of paths in the woods leading out on to the open heather and scrub hillside. There are smaller community woodland plantations in the area which can also be incorporated into a walk up the hill.
The summit itself is topped with a communications mast along with an OS trig point and a cairn which is built from bricks rather than stones.