A circuit of 3 hill summits: Black Hill, Woodhead Hill and Cowden Hill. The first two summits are reached through rough pathless forest and may appeal more to the summit bagger than the casual walker. However, the route is flexible and these summits can be omitted.
Distance: 14 km / 8.5 miles
Ascent: 440 m / 1450 feet
Terrain: mostly unsurfaced paths and tracks, some field edge walking and a short road section. Short rough off-path sections in forest to reach hill summits.
Start / finish: Grange of Lindores
Facilities: space to park 3 – 4 cars near Berryhill Farm at NO 257 161, nearest refreshments/toilets in Newburgh.
Other walks in the area:
From the layby north of Berryhill Farm walk northwards up the road to Grange of Lindores. Turn left at the farm and then left again to walk through the farmyard to the far side. From here a track provides easy access up Golden Hill to a communications mast and viewpoint. When the track turns sharp left through a gate a convenient sign points the way. Continue up the hill now in a south east direction to reach the signed viewpoint.
Go through the gate and cross the next field (there may be livestock present) to reach a gate in the south east corner. Follow the fence / wall south east to reach the edge of the forest.
At this point you will need to climb the fence to gain access to the forest. Once across the fence follow the rough fire break for approximately 50m to where it is crossed by a feint trodden path. Turn right following this path into the forest. On entering the forest the path splits and you need to take the less obvious right hand option (in Autumn 2019 an easily negotiated small fallen tree obstructed the path).
Once into the trees the path provides reasonably easy walking through deciduous woodland. After almost 500m the path splits at grid ref NO 253 149. Take the left (more obvious) fork through a firebreak uphill for 200m to reach a gate. The gate is somewhat awkward to open so it may be easier climbing over it to reach the open field on the other side. Follow this field edge with a fence on your right until you spot a place where the fence can easily be crossed (there are at least two suitable crossing points). Continue in the same direction with the fence now to your left until you reach an obvious clearing.
From this point a surfaced track provides an easy walk through a firebreak to reach a clearing with an old picnic table. From here you need to choose your own route up through the trees on your right to reach the 213m summit area of Black Hill. It’s not as difficult as it might look. There is no summit marker and because of the trees, no view either. This is one for the hill-bagger rather than the leisure walker!
Return to the picnic table clearing and retrace your outward route to the forest edge clearing and then back to the gate (remembering to climb over the fence to your right at some point). Climb over the gate again and follow the path until you reach the junction at NO 253 149. It is very easy to miss the junction approaching from this direction so keep a careful lookout and if you reach a dense area of the forest you have gone too far. This time at the junction, take the right hand path which soon reaches the forest edge and turns left. After almost 100m the path turns back into the forest. However, leave the path at this point by squeezing through the gap at the gate on your right and follow the field edge down to a rough car park area (this could be used as an alternative start point).
Pass through the car park, now on a decent vehicle track, to reach the forest on the opposite side of the fields. A wooden marker post has been placed at the start of a trodden path leading into the forest. Take this path which quickly reaches a T junction where you should turn right. The path soon becomes a forest track and provides an easy walk along the edge of the forest. There are views across the fields back to the forests of Black Hill.
The track turns away from the edge of the forest gradually gaining height. At a junction keep to the main track so that you turn back on yourself. You should now be walking in a northly direction. Continue up the hill until you reach the high point of the track. From here pick your own pathless route up through the trees on your right to reach the 196m summit of Woodhead Hill. Initially the slope is clad in bracken which may be hard going in the Summer but it quickly gives way to blaeberry. Sadly there is the remains of a campfire at the summit. There is no cairn but if you search around the summit area you should find an Ordnance Survey trig point in the trees (it takes a bit of finding).
Return to the track and turn right so that you are continuing northwards. Follow the track as it curves right to go round the hill. At grid ref NO 259 145 a, not very obvious, path meets the track from your left. If you reach the edge of the trees you have overshot it, in which case retrace your steps for about 20m. Follow this trodden path downhill to the forest edge where it turns left (north) and follows the fence line. There are good views along this stretch of the Black Loch and Cowden Hill, our next destination.
The path circles the hill in an anti-clockwise direction and after turning south, reaches a wooden marker post at the path to the car park. Use this path to return to the vehicle track and turn right downhill for 500m to reach the public road.
An alternative short cut would be possible if you were to climb the barb wire fence on your right whilst the path is above the Black Loch. Once into the fields it should be an easy descent to reach the access road for Woodehead and to walk out to the public road that way.
On reaching the public road, you have the option of cutting the walk short by turning left and walking back up the road to your start point.
However, to continue with the walk, turn right along the road passing the lovely Black Loch. Keep to this quiet road for approximately 1.5 km until you reach the vicinity of Woodmill Farm. Before you reach the farm however, go left through a gate onto a field track leading up the hill.
This track provides the walker with an easy ascent up the southern side of Cowden Hill with no difficulties from either gorse bushes or barb wire. Once at the summit area you will need to leave the track and walk through the long grass for about 70m to reach the actual summit cairn. From here there are good views of the surrounding hills.
Return to the track and continue northwards to reach a fence with a gateway. Once on the opposite side of the fence, you have the option of a steep direct descent in a north east direction. Alternatively stay on the grassy track (either option at the Y split is OK) following it to its furthest point from the fence where it starts to circle back round on itself.
Leave the track and head steeply downhill in a northerly direction for 40m to meet another grassy quad bike track. Turn right on to this track and follow it to the east down the grassy hillside. The track turns south east and reaches a gate at the entrance to a woodland. Follow the track through the woodland to reach another gate on the far side leading into a field. After passing through the gate, follow the field edge downhill to join a muddy track.
Turn left on to this track, a core path, and follow it initially through woods and then through open fields. Pheasants may be encountered in the woods and livestock in the fields. When you start to approach a band of deciduous trees the path turns sharp right at a gate (don’t go through the gate). There is a convenient core path marker post at this point. The path now heads downhill through a field to reach a small wooden gate close to the railway line.
Go left through the gate and follow the pleasant woodland path parallel to the railway. When the path exits the woods the ground becomes a bit rougher as the path follows a field edge. 300m after turning left around the field, a metal pedestrian gate is reached with a green Scotways arrow. Cross the wee bridge and go through the gate into a grassy field where the path route follows the line of trees to the far side.
The return route to the start, is left through a metal pedestrian gate and along a field path to the road. However, before heading back, you may wish to make a detour to the ruins of Abdie Old Kirk.
View / download this route from Viewranger
View / download this route from Ordnance Survey
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