Ben Cleuch from Alva

At 721m Ben Cleuch is the highest point in the grassy rounded Ochil Hills. It’s most commonly ascended from the south where the approach routes are through deep glens and up steep slopes. It’s northern side is more open and gentle, however, distances are longer and the terrain a bit rougher.

The routes described on this page all start from Alva. They are all described as ascents but can easily be used for descents. Mix and match to create your own circular walk. The Alva routes can be combined with Tillicoultry routes using a path through the Ochil Hills Woodland Park between the two towns. The amount of descent on a route is the amount of ascent in the reverse direction (i.e. when using for descent).

Before embarking on any of these routes you should ensure that you are properly equipped for hill walking including map and compass. If the cloud is low on the hills, navigation skills may be required especially on the lesser used routes.

Start point: Alva Glen car park at the top of Brook Street,
FK12 5LD, Alva or Woodland Park car park, FK12 5HU.

Facilities: Free parking, bus services to Alva, refreshments in Alva

Other walks in the area:

Route 1
Via the Silver Glen and Ben Buck

This is probably the easiest ascent of Ben Cleuch, as once up the zig zags at the foot of the Silver Glen there are no further steep sections, plus a landrover track provides an easy ascent for much of the way.

Distance: 6.4 km / 4miles

Ascent: 700 m / 2300 feet

Descent: 20 m / 65 feet

From the Alva Glen car park, follow the path upstream to cross a footbridge to a viewing area for the impressive waterfall at the foot of the glen. From this point there is quite a network of paths. You want to head up the hillside in a roughly east direction to get above the burn and reach an old pipeline. If you spot any marker posts for the Diamond Jubilee Route follow these. Once you reach the pipeline, go under it and up a few steps beside a Scottish Water pump station to reach a metal pedestrian gate. Once through the gate you are on a path across the open hillside leading to a landrover track at the foot of the Silver Glen.

If starting from the Ochil Hills Woodland Park car park, follow the paths in a westerly direction through the park to reach a pedestrian gate onto the open hill and turn right up the landrover track.

Go left onto the landrover track and follow the zig zags up the hill. It’s a bit tedious but is an easy way of gaining height. At the top of the zig zags there is a junction of tracks. The route described below keeps straight on (right) at this junction into the Silver Glen.

Follow the landrover track for 3km gaining height and reaching the headwaters of the Glenwinnel Burn at Alva Moss. Leave the track when it turns left just before its termination.

An obvious path strikes off north east uphill to the summit of Ben Buck. However, just before reaching the actual 679m summit the path bears right towards Ben Cleuch. You can include the summit though and then follow the fence line south and pick up the path again when it joins the fence. Continue upwards alongside the fence to reach another fence with a stile. Cross over this fence and turn left to follow it for 400m to the summit of Ben Cleuch with its view indicator, trig point and shelter cairn.

route map
Via the Silver Glen and Ben Buck

View / download this route from Viewranger.

View / download this route from Ordnance Survey.

Route 2
Via Craighorn and Ben Buck (option to include the Nebit)

A fine high level route on to Ben Cleuch that is a bit quieter than the other more popular routes.

With The Nebit

Distance: 7 km / 4.4 miles

Ascent: 925 m / 3010 feet

Descent: 220 m / 725 feet

Without The Nebit

Distance: 6.8 km / 4.2 miles

Ascent: 765 m / 2500 feet

Descent: 80 m / 260 feet

From the Alva Glen car park, follow the path upstream to cross a footbridge to a viewing area for the impressive waterfall at the foot of the glen. From this point there is quite a network of paths. You want to head up the hillside in a roughly east direction to get above the burn and reach an old pipeline. If you spot any marker posts for the Diamond Jubilee Route follow these. Once you reach the pipeline, go under it and up a few steps beside a Scottish Water pump station to reach a metal pedestrian gate. Once through the gate you are on a path across the open hillside leading to a landrover track at the foot of the Silver Glen.

If starting from the Ochil Hills Woodland Park car park, follow the paths in a westerly direction through the park to reach a pedestrian gate where you turn right to go up the zig zags.

Go left onto the landrover track and follow the zig zags up the hill. It’s a bit tedious but is an easy way of gaining height. At the top of the zig zags there is a junction of tracks. The route described below turns left at this junction to head over The Nebit (optional) and Craighorn.

About 150m after the junction a grass path heads off to your right up the southern face of The Nebit. You can either use this path to gain the 449m summit or simply stay on the landrover track and follow it around the western side of the hill to reach the Glenwinnel Burn and the start of the ascent on to Craighorn. If you go up the Nebit, descend in a west north west direction from its summit back down to the landrover track and the Glenwinnel Burn above the Spout of Craighorn waterfall (do not descend north east into the Silver Glen).

Cross the burn and then start to ascend the grass slope of Craighorn ahead of you. A grass path soon starts to form and takes you all the way to the 583m summit area.

Beyond the summit the ground flattens out and the path continues northwards to reach a wooden gate in a fence. Climb over the gate and follow another grass path/track to your right in a roughly north direction away from the fence line. The path takes you across the edge of the boggy ground known as Alva Moss to reach the top of the Silver Glen landrover track.

From this point an obvious path strikes off north east uphill to the summit of Ben Buck. However, just before reaching the actual 679m summit the path bears right towards Ben Cleuch. You can include the summit though and then follow the fence line south and pick up the path again when it joins the fence. Continue upwards alongside the fence to reach another fence with a stile. Cross over this fence and turn left to follow it for 400m to the summit of Ben Cleuch with its view indicator, trig point and shelter cairn.

route map
Via the Nebit, Craighorn and Ben Buck

View / download this route from Viewranger.

View / download this route from Ordnance Survey.

Route 3
Via the Silver Glen and Ben Ever

The shortest (and quickest) route from Alva to Ben Cleuch summit. Probably the most well used of the Alva routes.

Distance: 4.9 km / 3 miles

Ascent: 715 m / 2340 feet

Descent: 30 m / 100 feet

From the Alva Glen car park, follow the path upstream to cross a footbridge to a viewing area for the impressive waterfall at the foot of the glen. From this point there is quite a network of paths. You want to head up the hillside in a roughly east direction to get above the burn and reach an old pipeline. If you spot any marker posts for the Diamond Jubilee Route follow these. Once you reach the pipeline, go under it and up a few steps beside a Scottish Water pump station to reach a metal pedestrian gate. Once through the gate you are on a path across the open hillside leading to a landrover track at the foot of the Silver Glen.

If starting from the Ochil Hills Woodland Park car park, follow the paths in a westerly direction through the park to reach a pedestrian gate onto the open hill where you turn right to go up the zig zags.

Go left onto the landrover track and follow the zig zags up the hill. It’s a bit tedious but is an easy way of gaining height. At the top of the zig zags there is a junction of tracks. The route described below keeps straight on (right) at this junction, heading into the Silver Glen.

Follow the landrover track through the Silver Glen for 1km until you reach the 2nd gate. After the gate, take a grass path steeply up the hillside to your right leading on to the southern shoulder of Ben Ever. When you reach the sky line turn left (north) towards the summit of Ben Ever.

You now have the option of either going over the 622m summit of Ben Ever or round it to the east. Both routes converge at a gate on the north side of the hill. A short uphill slog on to the shoulder of Ben Cleuch following a fence line now follows. The path bears right away from the fence to short cut the corner before reaching the summit with its trig point, view indicator and rock shelter.

Map of route
Via the Silver Glen and Ben Ever

View / download this route from Viewranger.

View / download this route from Ordnance Survey.

Route 4
Via Wood Hill and Ben Ever

An aesthetically pleasing, though somewhat steep, ascent of Wood Hill that makes for a good high level approach to Ben Cleuch.

Distance: 5.7 km / 3.5 miles

Ascent: 750 m / 2460 feet

Descent: 80 m / 265 feet

From the Alva Glen car park, follow the path upstream to cross a footbridge to a viewing area for the impressive waterfall at the foot of the glen. From this point there is quite a network of paths. You want to head up the hillside in a roughly east direction to get above the burn and reach an old pipeline. If you spot any marker posts for the Diamond Jubilee Route follow these. Once you reach the pipeline, go under it and up a few steps beside a Scottish Water pump station to reach a metal pedestrian gate. Once through the gate you are on a path across the open hillside leading to a landrover track at the foot of the Silver Glen.

Do not follow the landrover track up the hill but instead go through the metal pedestrian gate into the woodlands in front of you. You are now in the Ochil Hills Woodland Park. The path crosses a burn where a viewing platform for the waterfalls and silver mine has been constructed. You soon reach a track junction where you need to bear left up the hill. After a further 100 m you reach another junction where you again turn left now heading uphill in a north west direction.

Keep on this path, initially through trees and bracken, as it turns right and heads up the hill to a gate where you exit the woodland. You are now on more open hillside with old pine trees. The grass path goes steeply up the south west side of the hill following an old grassy wall as it gains height. As you approach the summit of the hill you have the choice of continuing straight up the steep side of the hill or following the path round to the north of the summit for an easy final approach.

Leave the 526m summit in a northerly direction on a grassy path. A steep sided gully soon bars your way. It is possible to go down and back up the steep grass slopes, or alternatively follow a feint path that skirts around the western edge of the gully. Once over/round the gully follow the grass path north east to reach a fence. Go through the gate and keep the fence to your right so that you are walking north west towards Ben Ever. Pass the rocky promontory of Calf Craig, after which the path strays away from the fence towards the Ben Ever summit.

The path leaves the fence line as it heads towards Ben Ever. You now have the option of either going over the 622m summit of Ben Ever or round it to the east. Both routes converge at a gate on the north side of the hill. A short uphill slog on to the shoulder of Ben Cleuch following a fence line now follows. The path bears right away from the fence to short cut the corner before reaching the summit with its trig point, view indicator and rock shelter.

Map of route
Via Wood Hill

View / download this route from Viewranger.

View / download this route from Ordnance Survey.

Route 5
Via Alva Glen and Ben Buck

A longer route but a particularly fine one that follows the path up the lovely Alva Glen.

Distance: 7.5 km / 4.5 miles

Ascent: 800 m / 2600 feet

Descent: 85 m / 285 feet

This route is best started from the Alva Glen car park rather than the Woodland Park.

From the Alva Glen car park, follow the path upstream to cross a footbridge to a viewing area for the impressive waterfall at the foot of the glen. From this point there is quite a network of paths. You want to head up the hillside in a roughly east direction to get above the burn and reach an old pipeline. If you spot any marker posts for the Diamond Jubilee Route follow these. Once you reach the pipeline, go under it and then up the hill. Keep left, do not follow the marker post to the right (that way leads to the Silver Glen).

A pedestrian gate takes you into the wooded lower Alva Glen. This is a particularly spectacular walk through the river gorge on a maintained though uneven path. The Alva burn tumbles over waterfalls, and through rock pools as it makes it way down the hill. There are a number of viewpoints along the way.

The path leaves the lower glen close to the smugglers cave. Cross the stile, to continue following the burn upstream. The path splits and our route follows the left hand fork. The right hand fork takes you down to the river which is worth a detour if you have time. If the lower glen was spectacular, the upper glen could be described as delightful, There are still waterfalls, rock pools and isolated trees but there is a more open feel to this part of the walk. The path is not maintained now and there are a couple of rocky steps so good footwear is essential. The grassy prow opposite the Spout of Craighorn waterfall is an ideal spot for a coffee / lunch spot although the sheep also like this spot so watch where you sit! Beyond the waterfall the path continues upstream to reach the confluence of the Alva Burn and Strabanster Burn.

The path now fades out and you need to cross the burn which may entail getting wet feet! Clamber up the steep grass slope in front of you to reach a fence with a gate in the corner. Go through the gate and look for a grass quad bike track to your left going up the hill. Follow this track keeping straight on when a fork goes off to your left downhill. At the next fork keep left still going up the hill (right will take you back to Alva via a landrover track). You can either stay on the track or you can use the path to the west (left) of it to reach the small hillock. Either way you need to follow the path/track as it turns right (east) close to the hillock. After almost 300m you reach a fence junction with a gate.

Go through the openable gate and follow the grass track eastwards with a fence to your right. You will pass two gates in the fence. At the second gate the path starts to leave the fence in a more northerly direction to cross the edge of the boggy ground known as Alva Moss and to reach the Silver Glen landrover track.

From this point an obvious path strikes off north east uphill to the summit of Ben Buck. However, just before reaching the actual 679m summit the path bears right towards Ben Cleuch. You can include the summit though and then follow the fence line south and pick up the path again when it joins the fence. Continue upwards alongside the fence to reach another fence with a stile. Cross over this fence and turn left to follow it for 400m to the summit of Ben Cleuch with its view indicator, trig point and shelter cairn.

route map
Via Alva Glen and Ben Buck

View / download this route from Viewranger.

View / download this route from Ordnance Survey.

Linking to Tillicoultry

If you wish to combine an Alva route with a Tillicoultry route to make a circuit, it is easy to walk between the two towns via the Ochils Hills Woodland Park. If you are doing this it is sensible to park in Tillicoultry at Upper Mill Street or use the Woodland Park car park. Parking at Alva Glen will add extra distance to your walk.

The metal pedestrian gate at the zig zags at the foot of the Silver Glen leads into the woodland park. There are two main paths/tracks through the park with the car park being located on the lower one. The junction for the path to Wood Hill described above is on the upper path.

At the Tillicoultry side the path exits the woodland park alongside the golf course. After about 600m the path joins a tarmac road where you turn right down hill. Turn left at the first junction following an arrow marker post, then turn right past a few houses to reach a bridge over the burn on to Upper Mill Street where the Tillicoultry routes start from.

Distance: 2.5 km / 1.6 miles

Ascent from Alva to Tillicoultry: 40 m / 140 feet

Ascent from Tillicoultry to Alva: 125 m / 420 feet

Route map from Alva to Tillicoultry
Route between Silver Glen Zig Zags, Alva and Upper Mill St, Tillicoultry

© 2019 Fife Walking. All rights reserved. If using this route for a group or organised walk, or as the basis for publishing a route elsewhere please credit Fife Walking as being your source of information.