Hills: Ormiston Hill (236m), Black Hill (213m), Cowden Hill (204m), Woodheads Hill (196m)
These hills form a compact group between Newburgh and Auchtermuchty. They can be walked individually or combined with each other for a longer outing.
Ormiston Hill (Black Cairn Hill) (236m)
Once the site of an ancient hillfort, these days the summit of this hill above Newburgh is well protected by gorse bushes. There is, however, a trodden path through the vegetation provided you approach from the right direction.
The circular route suggested below ascends the north side from Banklands and descends to Ormiston. The core path is then used to walk back to Newburgh.
Distance: 5 km / 3 miles
Ascent: 280 m / 900 feet
Terrain: grassy hillside, muddy paths/tracks
Start / finish: Banklands, Newburgh (KY14 6DN). Grid reference NO 229 178
From the corner of Banklands there is a tarmac track uphill to a reservoir where a gate on the left provides access to a somewhat overgrown path. Keep on the path until after the 3rd gate (a double gate setup with both an old and new gate). When the path splits, go right up hill through gorse which gives way to open hillside where livestock may be encountered. Head up the hill with a wall / fence to your right. A gate which is awkward to open is reached after which aim for the stile at grid ref NO 234 172. Cross the stile and go through a pedestrian gate onto a trodden path. The path provides an easy means of negotiating the thick gorse to reach the summit cairn.
Return to the stile after which aim roughly eastwards to a small coll. Descend the grassy hillside in a south east direction picking up an obvious path / track down to a gate. Go through the left-hand gate using a path to cross the next field to reach a stand of trees on the far side. A gate leads to a wide and somewhat muddy track where you turn left (north), before reaching Ormiston. Keep to the path until you approach the quarry where a wooden pedestrian gate on your left provides access to a grass path that circumnavigates the quarry. The path is easy to follow as it skirts around the quarry to reach the north side.
The path splits at a bench with a purple arrow marker. The right-hand option heads up to a viewpoint with a picnic table and is worth a detour. The left-hand option turns north west through gorse to reach another marker. For Banklands keep left or for Monkswell Road turn right.
NB: In Autumn 2019 blasting times at the quarry were advised as being Monday, Wednesday, Friday between 1pm and 2pm.
Black Hill (213m)
The shortest route of ascent to Black Hill starts from the B936 at NO 241 147. From here a forest track takes the walker directly to a clearing with an old picnic table from where a pathless route can be taken through the trees to reach the summit.
Another relatively short route is by using the track up its eastern flank. Once up the track turn right at the junction and head west towards Black Hill. The forest can be reached via a field edge and squeezing through a gate. Go left alongside the forest edge for 100m until a path turns westwards into the woods. At NO 253 149 the path splits with the left option heading uphill through a firebreak to reach a gate which must be climbed. Follow the field edge south west on the other side and find a place where the fence can easily be crossed. Continue alongside the fence to reach a clearing at NO 250 146. From here there is a surfaced track to a clearing with an old picnic table from where a pathless route can be taken through the trees to reach the summit.
A longer but more scenic route is possible from Grange of Lindores. The route starts at the farm where a track provides easy access up Golden Hill to a communications mast and a signed viewpoint. After the viewpoint use the gates and field edges to reach the edge of the forest at NO 253 154. Climb the fence and 50m into the forest go right on a trodden path into the trees. Take the right hand (less obvious option) at the path split for easy walking on a woodland path. After 500m the path splits again. Take the more obvious right fork uphill through a firebreak to reach a gate which must be climbed. Follow the field edge south west on the other side and find a place where the fence can easily be crossed. Continue alongside the fence to reach a clearing at NO 250 146. From here there is a surfaced track to the clearing with an old picnic table from where a pathless route can be taken through the trees to reach the summit.
Cowden Hill (204m)
Cowden Hill is probably best ascended form the track at NO 269 144 near to Woodmill Farm. This track provides the walker with an easy ascent up the southern side of Cowden Hill with no difficulties. 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.
The hill can also be ascended from its eastern side using the core path from Woodmill Mains to Abdie Old Kirk for access. Leave the path at NO 270 154 heading uphill along a field edge to reach a gate into woodland. From here a quad bike track takes you up the hill north of the summit. Ascend the steep grass slope to pass through a gateway on to the track that passes close to the summit.
Woodheads Hill (196m)
Unlike the previous three hill Woodheads is not classified as a Hump (Hundred metre and upwards prominence) and neither does it exceed the 200m mark. Although its summit is clad in scrub and conifer and affords no views, the surrounding forest tracks are popular with dog walkers. The summit is easiest reached by a direct ascent from the high point of the track that circles it to the north and west. This track itself is easily by using a track up the northern slope from the public road. For a longer walk-in, there is an approach along the core path from Lumqhuat.
Black Hill / Woodheads Hill / Cowden Hill Circuit
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
Head to Black Hill first. Use the route from Grange of Lindores up to Golden Hill and the viewpoint. Walk around the fields to access the forest and follow the paths as described above to reach the clearing with the old picnic table.
After visiting the summit, retrace your steps through the forest and along the fence to the gate. Climb the gate and follow the forest path back to the junction at NO 253 149 which is easily missed when approaching from this direction. Take the right-hand fork so that you start heading eastwards rather than the northwards direction of your outward route. Turn left on reaching the forest edge. After 100m squeeze through the gate to the right and follow the field edge down to the forest track.
You could now walk down the track to the public road and either turn left back to your start point or turn right if heading for Cowden Hill. However, it is worth including nearby Woodheads Hill.
Head to the forest on the opposite side of the fields where you will find a wooden marker post. Enter the forest on a trodden path quickly reaching a T junction where you should turn right. There is now a section of forest track walking with views over the fields to the forests of Black Hill. The track gains height and heads into the interior of the forest. Keep to the main track so that you turn back on yourself and are walking in a northerly direction. When you reach the high point of the track it is possible to make a detour to the 196m summit. Choose your own pathless route up through scrub and trees and search for the summit trig point.
Return to the forest track and continue circling the hill in a clockwise direction. At grid ref NO 259 145 is the start of a not too obvious path on your left (it’s about 20m before the edge of the trees). Follow this path downhill to the forest edge turning left along a fence line. There are good views of the Black Loch and Cowden Hill from here. The path circles the hill anti-clockwise and reaches a wooden marker post indicating the path back to the forest track. Once on the vehicle track turn right downhill for 500m to reach the public road.
Turn right and walk down the road for 1.5km to reach the Cowden Hill track just before Woodmill Farm. Ascend Cowden Hill by this track with a 70m detour away from the track to reach the actual summit.
Descend north on the track through a gateway and head steeply downhill to meet with a grassy quadbike track. Follow this track downhill, through a section of woodland and then use the field edge to join a muddy track which is the core path from Woodmill Mains to Abdie. Turn left and follow the track north west through woods and then fields. When you start to approach a band of deciduous trees the path turns sharp right at a gate with a marker post (don’t go through the gate). The path then follows the railway line through pleasant woodland before becoming a bit rougher when it turns left along a field edge. Pedestrian gates and a green arrow now mark the route to Abdie Old Kirk from where a field path takes the walker back to the road close to Berryhill Farm.