Hills: Benarty Hill (356m)
Benarty Hill is the fifth highest hill in Fife. It’s distinctive profile has earned it the nickname the Sleeping Giant. Four routes from the southern Fife side are described but it is also possible to approach the hill from the RSPB Vane Farm on its northern slopes in Perth and Kinross. The routes all start from the “hill road” but starting from Lochore Meadows Country Park is highly recommended and three approach routes from there are also described. There are thus a multitude of options available to mix and match to create your own personal route. An end to end traverse over the hill is recommended.
There is a small amount of parking on the hill road at NT 15869 96969, the start of the steps route, opposite the Lochore Meadows gate. Additional parking is available at various points in Lochore Meadows park including at the Willie Clarke visitor centre where there is a café and toilets.
A quiet route up the hill but with a couple of fences/gates that need to be climbed. Shown in blue on the map.
Distance: 2.9 km / 1. 8 miles
Ascent: 220 m / 700 feet (30 m / 100 feet if used for descent)
Terrain: grassy hill paths and tracks
The route up the hill starts from the hill road at a gate at NT 15182 96650, approximately 800m west of the Lochore Meadows gate.
The gate is locked and needs to be climbed (please do so at the hinged end so as to cause the least amount of damage) to reach the rough track on the other side. There may be cattle in the next two fields so if you have a dog keep it close to you. Follow the track across the field and up the hillside to reach a communications mast. At this point the track comes to an end. Keep right, away from the woods passing around the back (north side) of a hillock aiming for a fence junction. There is an unlocked gate in the fence taking you into the next field.
From this point head up hill alongside a fence and later a wall. Cross the wall at a convenient point so that it is to your right and keep following it as it turns right. Follow the the fence line over a number of lumps and bumps with views across Loch Leven and ahead to Benarty summit. A further fence needs to be crossed. After some lumpy bumpy ground the site of the hill fort site is reached. Cross over the fence at the junction so that it is now to your left. Descend steeply to a dip (there may be sheep in this area) and continue to follow the fence to a viewpoint and the summit trig pillar.
A straightforward easy route through a recently planted woodland. Good option for the descent. Shown in magenta on the map.
Distance: 1.8 km / 1.1 miles
Ascent: 200 m / 580 feet (minimal ascent if using in reverse for the descent)
Terrain: Landrover track and grassy hill path
This route starts from the Hill Road at NT 15530 96787, about 400m west of the gate to Lochore Meadows Park.
An open-able gate provides access to a corner of a grassy field (livestock may be present) where a grassy track heads up the hillside. As the track leaves the fields and gains height it becomes more obvious. This route has good views back towards Loch Ore so is a good one to use for the descent. Keep proceeding upwards through recently planted woodland. At a junction keep left continuing uphill. If coming down this way you need to turn right at this junction which always seems counter-intuitive. Go through an old deer gate (it’s probably locked but can be squeezed through). Once through the gate, follow the grassy track / path up to the ridge line and then right towards the summit.
The Steps Route
The most popular route up the hill. Many people just go up and down this route. The steps can be hard work however. Shown in green on the map.
Distance: 1.6 km / 1 mile
Ascent: 190 m / 550 feet (minimal ascent if using in reverse for the descent)
Terrain: steps, forest path, grass path
This route starts from NT 15869 96969 at a layby on the Hill Road opposite the Lochore Meadows gate.
A signpost points up the steps which form the first part of this route. Part way up where the path turns sharply left there is a welcome bench with good views back to Loch Ore. Keep left at this point and continue on upwards on the path in a now westerly direction.
Recent felling has opened up the views on this stretch of the walk. New bulldozed tracks have been created by the forestry works and there are now a number of routes up the hill. At a junction with a choice of four paths, the original route takes the second left path, crosses a bulldozed track and bears right up the hill close to a fence. At an obvious crossing point it then cross the fence on to the open hillside. A shorter but steeper route to reach the fence crossing point is to take one of the right hand paths (they join together) at the junction, going directly up the hill, also crossing the bulldozed track at one point.
Once across the fence a well trodden path now leads across moorland for about 0.7km to reach the summit trig point. At the trig point, walk over to the nearby fence to take in the views northwards across Loch Leven.
A route that makes use of the new link path between Vane Farm and Lochore Meadows. Shown in red on the map.
Distance: 3.4 km / 2 miles
Ascent: 230 m / 730 feet (60 m / 200 feet if used for descent)
Terrain: steps, forest track / path, surfaced path, grassy hill path
This route starts from NT 15869 96969 at the layby on the Hill Road opposite the gate to Lochore Meadows, although it is also possible to start from the foot of the forestry track further east towards Ballingry.
signpost points up the steps which form the first part of this route. Part way up where the path turns sharply left there is a welcome bench with good views back to Loch Ore. Keep right at this point continuing eastwards around the hillside.
After about 500m the path meets a forest road where you turn left heading up the hill. At the edge of the forest, join the new surfaced path which you use to skirt around the edge of some conifers. Once around the trees, leave the main path using a rough trodden path up a steep slope to your left. Once up the short section of slope cross broken fences on to the open hillside. Follow the fence away from the trees until you pick up a grassy path. This path can now be followed for about 1km along the ridge line of Benarty to reach the summit area. Navigation is straightforward on this section as you have the fence on your right to follow.
Approaching from Lochore Meadows
This is a particularly good approach during May when Harran Hill Woods turn into a sea of bluebells. It is just over 2 miles and 120m of ascent from the visitor centre to the Lochore Meadows gate on the hill road.
Use the North Shore path anti-clockwise around the loch. At the far end of the loch the paths heads away from the shore and joins at quiet road. Turn left on to this road passing a small car park. The track up Harran Hill is reached soon after the car park. There are two tracks up the hill and either of them can be used. The one to the right is the more commonly used one but does have a rather steep section. The two paths re-join as they descend down the hill to join an obvious track. Turn left on to the track to reach the hill road opposite the Benarty Hill steps.
This ascent is also just over 2 miles but has less ascent than Harran Hill woods. Again follow the North Shore path around the loch to reach the small car park on the north west side. Keep following the route around the loch passing the start of the Harran Hill track until it turns left through a gate. Leave the loch-side route at this point keeping straight on along the road for 450m. On reaching a junction turn right towards some new build houses. Pass through a couple of metal gates onto a woodland track that heads gently uphill. The track joins the hill road at the entrance to Benarty House. Turn left for the West or Woodland route, and right for the Steps and East routes.
This is a shorter approach route being 1.5 miles from the visitor centre to the Lochore Meadows gate on the hill road. It does however, include a field crossing which may be muddy after rain and where cattle may be encountered.
From the main Lochore Meadows car park head towards the pit head memorial and train to join a short section of path out to the Pit Road. Turn right on to the Pit Road and go through a gate on the opposite side of the road into a grassy field. There is a feint path across the field. On exiting the field turn left on to the track known as The Avenue. It is now a 1km walk along this track to reach the Lochore Meadows gate on the hill road.