A walk around the abandoned St Ninian’s opencast mine area and the Land Art that never was. This “non-development” is very obvious from the M90 motorway and locally controversial has the ambitious project has never been finished. Plans by word renowned landscape architect Charles Jencks for a Scottish World project were abandoned when the site changed hands in 2013. The mining is now finished and the site remains abandoned and nominally closed off to the public, waiting for nature to recolonise it.
If you want to see how the site has changed in recent years, take a look at it on Google Satellite Maps which shows the mine, then Bing Satellite Maps which is more up to date than Google and shows the forms of the Land Art alongside the mining area, and then compare these maps with how the site is today.
Warning: this walk takes you into an abandoned mining area which although there is no active mining, should not be considered entirely safe. The ponds / lochans scattered around the area are likely to be very deep water and are not suitable for swimming / diving. Keep children and dogs away from them.
Distance: 11 km / 6.8 miles (can be shortened)
Ascent: 110 m / 370 feet
Start / finish: Kingseat (near Dunfermline)
Other walks nearby:
Start the walk in the village of Kingseat on the outskirts of Dunfermline where there is on-street parking available.
Walk northwards out of the village using the pavement on the left hand side of the road. Beyond the speed limit signs where the pavement ends is a tarmac access road for Loch Fitty House and Hawthorne Acres. Go left down this road passing Hawthorne Acres and keeping straight on (not right) at the first junction and then right at a fork so that you stay on the main track.
Follow the tarmac path with Loch Fitty to your left and the form of the Land Art appearing ahead of you as you reach a causeway. Cross this causeway on the path and continue until the path leaves the lochside and your pass a barn on your right hand side. Keep straight on at the first junction you come to and then go left at the second path junction in the opposite direction from the core path arrow marker. Cross the burn using a bridge and go through (round) the gate with a “Keep Out” sign.
Keep on the main gravel track which will bear left and pass some storage containers. This track now makes its way along the edge of the St Ninian’s site next to trees, bears right and follows the edge of a forestry plantation. When you reach a junction you should keep right so that you are heading away from the forest and towards the Land Art. Cross over an unsightly concrete area ignoring a track going left until you reach the next junction at the foot of the first mound. Go left on the track that goes uphill and follow it as it curves its way up to the twin peaked mound.
There is an air of desolation to this whole area, a feeling of being out of place. From the summit of the mounds the vastness of what has been left behind becomes obvious. Deep water ponds intersperse the rough grass landscape which seems devoid of humans (despite the area becoming popular with local dog walkers). Perhaps it is even more poignant when you reflect that the thriving agricultural and later mining village of Lassodie once occupied this spot.
Return to the bottom of the hill and go left at the junction passing in front of the first mound as you head towards the second mound with its triple peaks. Keep straight on at the first junction so that you reach the foot of the second hill. You can, if you wish, proceed directly up the hillside as some people have already done. However, if you go left you can circle the hill in a clockwise direction and use a spiral track for an easy gradient. As you start to approach the far side of the hill, having passed a lochan on your left, a track goes off to your right to spiral up the hillside. The track completes 2 1/2 anti-clockwise circuits of the hill before reaching the summit area.
The three peaks of this hill have been adorned with tree and tyre sculptures and between the peaks is an avenue of old mining machinery. There are some good photo opportunities here as well as views of the surrounding countryside. After exploring the area start your descent. There are in fact two spiral tracks and if you use the wooden steps at the ends of the machinery avenue they will take you down the hill using the other spiral. Depending upon which set of steps you use, you will either complete 2 or 2 1/2 clockwise circuits before reaching the bottom, this time at the front of the hill.
Turn left onto the track and then go right at the junction so that a pond is on your left hand side. This track follows the eastern boundary of the site staying close to the M90 motorway for a while. Keep on this track which takes you through a wooded area out of the site to an access road where there is room to park a few cars.
At the parking area go right following a core path arrow to pass the barn that you saw earlier. Keep the farm to your left and go through the barrier gate to reach a path junction. Go left at the junction onto the path which leads back to the causeway across Loch Fitty.
After crossing the causeway and passing through a gate, leave the tarmac path on a grassy path to your right through the trees. This pleasant path weaves its way close to the loch shore for a while. Sadly at the time of writing (Summer 2017) irresponsible campers have been using this area. The path rejoins the tarmac path at an old fishery area (which closed when there were plans to drain the loch and mine it) where you now turn right to continue alongside the loch. Follow the path which crosses another causeway, skirts the edge of a field, turns left and comes to an end.
The continuation of the tarmac path is a grassy track through a wooded area. Although quite dark and dense at first, the track soon reaches the edge of the woods and bears left to take you between wood and open field. The end of the track is reached at a grassy field which is easily crossed to reach the unfenced side of the access road at Hawthorne Acres near the start of the walk. Turn right onto this road and follow it back to the main road at Kingseat.
View / download this route from Ordnance Survey.
View / download this route from Viewranger.
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