Monday, 2 September 2013

A walk in the Lomond Hills.The Peaks of Fife.

This is a day out from late June I've just got around to posting. An early mist was predicted but it was a good forecast on the east side of Scotland so we headed for the Lomond Hills as Ron had never been up them. I had a circular walk in mind that would take in both East and West Lomond. A five to six hour day at a steady pace.
As you can see it was still misty when we arrived but by the time we had climbed halfway up the first hill from the scenic and historic village of Falkland it was starting to clear.
One from the village itself on the way up the hill from the large central square car park. Falkland is one of the real gems of Fife with cobbled lanes, old buildings covered in history, plus the ancient Royal hunting palace of the Scottish Monarchs.

Some gardens even have a mini Falkland within them. In some ways it feels very English. Almost Cotswolds in nature and in surrounding landscape. (Shock! Horror!) They even play cricket here and take it just as seriously as the villages down south. Neighbouring Fife village Freuchie even entered then won the English Villages Cricket Tournament one year which was some achievement as it's a tiny place. The path up the hill is signposted and travels up past the right hand side of this recycling factory on a village street then enters the woods seen above. A steep climb at first up a long straight  line of wooden stairs. Once on the ridge the going is easier though.

We started out by heading up East Lomond first which is a cracking walk in itself then made for West Lomond along the grassy, high level track that connects the two summits.
After that we cut down into the finest glen in the Lomonds, the steep sided Glen Vale, but first we had to descend to the Devil's Burdens. This is a straight line of massive, weathered boulders similar to the peak district or Stanage Edge although slightly smaller with no real rock climbs to speak of. Scrambling only. Still a nice feature though. The Devil is supposed to have dropped these from his back as he flew over the Lomond Hills. It's also the name of Scotland's well attended hill race through the Lomond Hills which passes this point.

Not being into running I didn't realise what an epic and large event this is as there is not much evidence that 700 runners pass through here. It is still a grassy and beautiful location throughout its length. Long may it remain that way.
Although a mere 30 miles apart the east coast gets roughly half the rainfall of the west coast. My next mountain post will demonstrate this difference in very graphic terms and what that actually means in real terms on the mountains.
A sea of cotton grass under West Lomond.
Ron doing a good impression of John Knox from the precarious scoop of John Knox's cave. A prominent hollow halfway up a five story sized sandstone cliff. From here the great man, notorious nippy sweetie, and protestant firebrand reputedly preached to the faithful, condemning the catholic Mary Queen of Scots and all that she stood for. A very readable, short and interesting account here. It's also full of other facts on the history of Scotland. Great site for bite sized details that are easy to digest and remember. 
Nearby is this tranquil waterfall. A magical place and a contender for one of the prettiest waterfalls in Scotland. Not powerful, not dramatic... just small, stunning, tumbling, playful. Perfection in nature.
Instead of fairies however I ran into this down here. A very large, very nasty looking flying insect, nearly three inches long. It looked like some kind of sand wasp that digs a hole then causes paralysis in fat juicy caterpillars with its sting before dragging them underground to feed its brood. Despite a fair bit of searching I cant find its likeness anywhere online. A seasonal invader from the continent perhaps due to the extended summer heat wave?
It behaved like a really evil, (not so wee) bug that feared nothing and no one so I gave it plenty of room bending over to take this photograph. I didn't want it numbing me with its sting then dragging my fat juicy body underground. It was almost big enough to attempt it :)
We returned to Falkland across Harperleas Reservoir then past little Ballo farm to the car park on the minor road that cuts the Fife Regional Park in half. This is also a good place to do East and West Lomond summits from if you want an easier way up with far less ascent. Allow about an hour for each peak starting from this elevated car park at a sedate pace.
We then walked down this minor road past Maspie Den back to Falkland. Even this tarmac road was a joy in late June with a cornucopia of wild flowers filling the verges on both sides and very few cars. This road over the Lomond Hills also forms part of  a popular bike tour. Did it a few years ago and it was very fine indeed. A great day out and perfect walking for humid conditions as we had a light breeze once up onto the central plateau area between the peaks.

Video today is a modern classic. Soulsavers with Mark Lanegan on vocal duties. The poignant and moving 'Kingdoms of Rain'.


The Glebe Blog said...

Back to the beautiful kingdom eh Bob.
I'll be over this weekend at Glenrothes and the Leuchars Air Display.
I think I told you a while back that I was only a boy when I first climbed Falkland Hill. I've walked over to West Lomond, but never been further on. That looks a great circuit you found. My young 79 year old aunt probably wouldn't be up to that sort of length though, my 89 year old definitely not.
I'm surprised you never mention crossing the wonderfully named 'Coalpit Burn'.
Never been up to John Knox cave, maybe I'll have to have a look at that.
Like the music and the link, Kingdom of Fife........Kingdoms of Rain.
Loved this post Bob.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim.
I've never heard of the Coalpit Burn, you've got me there. Is that the same as the Glen Burn under West Lomond or a local name for the Conland Burn flowing into Glenrothes from East Lomond that I don't know about? It's not on my Perth to Alloa OS sheet 58.

Video brings home the scale of the natural disasters that hit America from time to time. Although the central district has been back to normal for years several of New Orleans outer districts have never been rebuilt to this day. The folk that lived there simply moved elsewhere. Being so vast people there seem to have a history of shifting locations as the situation demands. We seem to be much more resistant to any change and strive to stay put even when the jobs disappear, hence all the different accents within a short area. i.e. all the British cities having instantly recognisable accents 30 miles apart.
Like the kingdom of Fife in fact. A world proudly separated from the rest of Scotland:)

Carol said...

Superb photos of a truly beautiful area. I was only commented as we drove north last week about how we keep passing the Falkland area and the Lomond hills but not stopping off.

That waterfall's a beaut :-)

Is John Knox's cave easy to find and get up to?

Balanus said...

Hi Bob,
Wonderful post as ever - the better for being from the Kingdom :)
Your fabulous image of the insect is a beautiful (and absolutely harmless) adult stonefly. Probably Perla sp. But not 3 inches!!! 2 or 3 cm at best - your poetic licence is showing :))

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Balanus/Rab for the correct identification. Stonefly. It's easy to find when you know what to type in.
It was most definitely not 2 to 3cm however more like 5 or 6cm. I don't exaggerate that much:)It was easily two inches long. I only noticed it because it was so large and was making an irritated buzzing noise with its wings. I think it had lost an antennae as the photo seems to show only one.
You know your insects but it was two inches. May my Willie fall off if I'm lying:)tailsch

blueskyscotland said...

PS. Tailsch is not a swear word. I typed the verification code in the wrong place. Some of them are so hard and small to make out I need to use a bloody magnifying glass to decipher them.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Carol.
The cave is easy to reach from a small car park on the yellow minor road between Loch Leven and Gateside. Both the cave and car park are marked on the Perth and Alloa sheet 58 OS map. Take about an hour from there. You also pass a hermits stone dwelling beside the path lower down. Empty but interesting. The cave is halfway up a sandstone cliff with a path leading round a short but slightly exposed ledge into it. It's more of a scoop that a proper cave but an atmospheric place. Very good natural acoustics for reaching a large audience in the bowl below which is probably why it was chosen.

Anonymous said...

I did a bit of reading up about the cave after my visit in jan 2012. apparently the council blew it up!

blueskyscotland said...

Well spotted the 23.
There used to be another hollow just below this scoop which no longer exists. Gone around 2004? There's no firm evidence John Knox ever used this place as a pulpit anyway although it was a gathering place for Covenanters to listen to the faithful spread the word. I was in the original hole years ago(very low roof I seem to remember)and it didn't have the same commanding presence that standing on the upper shelf would have. Great echo effect here if you proclaim loudly. The lower hollow was sheltered from the elements so might have been suitable for sleeping in.