Having spent a lot of time recently on Fife buses, I decided to have a treat and take myself as far as Ladybank by train - although only after setting out to the station and having to come back home to find my camera, putting myself an hour behind - still with enough time, but not much to waste.
I could have got a bus up from Ladybank to Collessie, but it meant waiting for 57 minutes in order to avoid a walk which would take about an hour - I had considered it, but decided against it mostly because there didn't seem to be a cafe to wait in, and measured out the walk instead. So of course what did I see in front of me as I left the station but a new cafe!
Still, I had bought coffee at Haymarket, and being late I felt more like getting on - along to the shops, past the old post office building, and then up as far as the church and along the angle of roads which the A92 cuts across - bare farmland here, with the Lomond Hills looking very dominant and quite snowy.
Spring did not really seem to have come to inland Fife - the flowers along one garden wall (admittedly north facing) were still thoroughly in the snowdrop and crocus stage, and the daffodils by the roadside at the Giffordtown hall (which is confusingly in Charlottetown) hadn't started to open.
I walked up past a big place holding some kind of horse show, with an amazingly loud but unintelligible tannoy, and then came to the Fife Zoo, which is not a zoo yet, but does have a cafe - and this time I decided that it was elevenses time, and went for tea and apple cake.
It's obviously a good part of the world for animals, as the next landmark I came to was a sign warning me of ducks!
This turned out to be presumably a notice of the nature reserve at some little lochs near the junction, although it wasn't the ducks that looked dangerous - swans always seem belligerent, and the geese were fighting each other.
The junction was called Trafalgar, after an inn which once stood there - a slightly surprising name to find in the middle of nowhere.
Collessie was a surprisingly historic looking place of stone cottages and thatched roofs - almost too pretty for Scotland and more suited to some part of England which wants to look like a jigsaw, but undeniably attractive.
There is a medieval inscription on a tomb built into the churchyard wall, dating from just after the reformation when the new church was trying to discourage burials within church buildings.
Ye loadin pilgrims passing langs this way
Pans on your fall and your offences past
How your frail flesh first formit of the clay
In dust mon be desolvit at the last
Repent amen on Christ the burden cast
Of your sad sinnes who can your sauls refresh
Syne rais from grave to gloir your grislie flesh
Defyle not Christs kirk with your carrion
A solemn seat for Gods service prepared
For praier preaching and communion
Your byrial should be in the kirkyard
On your uprysing set your great regard
When saull and body ioynes with joy to ring
In heaven for ay with Christ our head and king.
The way to my first hill started along a track from the village, which turned out to be reassuringly signposted as a path to Grange of Lindores vie Collessie Den. (I like signposts, they suggest the path will actually exist - in Scotland at least!) This looked like a dogwalker's favourite, although I didn't meet any - well trodden to the point of mud.
I knew that a track curled up around the first set of farm buildings, but just before I came to them there was an open gap into a steep grassy field, which looked just as good a way of getting a start - at the top of that I was onto a good clear track which led up to the first wooded patch and split in two.
Essentially I just had to keep the main line of trees on my left and I would get to the summit somehow - although there were more trees on the ground than on the map, and I did wish I'd taken a screenshot of the map showing the field boundaries. But it was very nice walking - flat dry field, and trees and bushes all around. It was a pretty nice day, too - although it wasn't sunny it was fairly bright, and the lingering chill had gone from the air, so that it suddenly felt far more like spring.
I was a bit confused when suddenly there was no more up in front of me, because I knew I hadn't passed the top, but by serious thought I worked out that there was still higher ground ahead to the left - it didn't really look higher than the top I had already passed, but the trees were confusing.
There was still a little patch of snow lingering in a hollow up here, and I was going to walk over it to leave footprints until I saw that someone else had already done that far better - I couldn't bear to spoil the pattern
This being a Marilyn, I was sure there would be a tiny bagger's path winding its way to the top, and there was, from a point where the fence was broken down - it was much rougher ground on this side of the fence, but not difficult.
The summit is half ringed with trees and half with gorse bushes, giving it only half a view, over to the Lomond Hills again - it felt a bit like a hill fort, although I don't think it was. No cairn, but a big stone marking the top.
The best way down towards Monimail was more or less straight down to Whitefield, but as that was straight through a field of cows I skirted the edge of it instead. Through the gate into the next field it was harder to find the way out - what looked like a gate in the corner turned out to be only a barrier over a burn, and I was trying to figure out how to open the next one along when the owner called to ask if I was lost. I said I didn't think so - I did know exactly where I was - and she said I must be because I was trying to get into her garden, but she showed me the way out, round the back of the house onto the track leading down to the village.
Monimail produced a bench exactly when I wanted one, which never happens, so I sat down to eat my lunch on the little triangular green.
There didn't seem to be anything to be seen of the tower marked on the map (I think there is really, but it all looked like private gardens to me), so I set off along the road again. Monimail doesn't seem to be speaking to its church, which is a nice one but a good way outside the village - I was a bit surprised to find another church so close to Collessie's, but it turned out to be over a parish boundary, part of Cupar rather than Howe of Fife.
Letham was a surprise - not Collesie's cottages or the usual old square farmhouses or ugly new things, but something more like Newport's Victorian villas.
I was fairly sure I could get round the way I wanted to go, avoiding the main road, but again it was nice to see it signposted as a recognised route.
From the first corner I had a good view of my next objective - the monument on top makes it very easy to spot.
Cunnoquhie in the middle of the path turned out to be a fairly big place with a clock tower - just wrong enough to be confusing, because along I didn't think it was 10 to 3 I was willing to believe it (it was about half past 2). From the far side the clock tower turned out to be the gatehouse to an impressive Georgian house, but the land around all sloped down in a way that made it impossible to get a good picture.
At the far end of the track I was very briefly turned onto the verge of the main road, and then turned onto another little road through Fernie, where the track I wanted turned out to be blocked by the unfriendliest gate I had ever met - padlocked, topped with three strands of barbed wire, and with signs warning of both bulls and agressive cows with calves.
So instead I went in at the bottom gate of the field next door (actually over it, because it was tied up with a very complicated knot, and pretty solid - I wasn't wasting a lot of untying time on people like that), and out at the top gate, onto the forbidden track. As I expected, there were no visible bulls in any of the fields, no cows with or without calves, and no unleashed dogs - just a lot of chicken wire and odd bits of wood presumably theoretically containing the pheasants which were in fact popping about all over the place.
The buildings marked on the map turned out to be just big storage sheds, so there wasn't even anyone to come out and shout at me, and the track and gates were all in pretty good condition, so that it was good walking once you got inside.
Where the track supposedly turned into a path it just vanished instead, so I followed roughly round the edge of the field - muddier here, and trampled by cows at some point - to the wood on the other side, where a thing like a gate that didn't move or possibly a huge stile took me over onto a little path running up to a forestry track, which brought me out onto another track marked 'Public footpath to the monument'.
This track was not so good - at one point a huge flood had escaped from it and turned the neighbouring trees into a kind of pine mangrove swamp, and it was all pretty wet - but it led up to a junction, and another junction, and a track which seemed to be looping right round the monument without ever getting any nearer to it - I was starting to worry about time, if I was going to manage to catch the bus back to Ladybank and get the train home in time for dinner, so it was quite frustrating.
Eventually the track did lead to a gate, or a kind of door, with the monument just up above.
It seems a bit silly having a trig point on the summit when the monument so completely dwarves it, but I suppose it's useful for something!
The monument is to the fourth Earl of Hopetoun, helpfully described as 'the Peninsular war hero' in one description I read - but as my Napoleonic war knowledge is all naval, I'm still not very much wiser about what he did.
I decided that the part of the loop I had been signposted away from couldn't be any longer than the part I had come round, and it was certainly a lot drier and easier to hurry on - the wet part slowed me down, but the track out towards The Mount was better again. The buildings at The Mount also seemed to be empty and in ruins, leaving me feeling as if I had been threatened by ghosts all the time I was unwanted on their land.
Then hurrying on down the road, scaring a horse by appearing too suddenly ("look, it's not a monster, it's just a person walking", said the rider), and past a lovely patch of spring at the corner at Easter Fernie.
Then another bit of hill to hurry up, and down towards the main road where I saw a bus go past and slowed down, only for another to go sailing past a few minutes later - I don't think I would have caught it, though, even if it had been willing to stop at the road end.
So I walked on to the Deer Centre, where I knew there was a proper stop, and sat down to look up the buses (because there was only a timetable on the other side of the road, but I had one in my bag) and then a bus went past the other way, and I suddenly thought 'that was daft - I could have got on it and caught the train in Cupar'. But the buses seemed to like to go around in pairs, because another one came along five minutes later and took me to the station in Cupar with a few minutes to spare, and I got home for dinner after all.