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Right across the Lomond Hills

Right across the Lomond Hills


Postby nigheandonn » Sun May 24, 2020 12:49 pm

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Bishop Hill, East Lomond, West Lomond

Date walked: 08/03/2020

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At this time I was still trying to figure out how to climb 10 hills by the end of March in between a tangle of other commitments - doubles were going to be very useful, but generally required Saturday buses, and any time I'd been free on a Saturday, a storm had other ideas.

The two Lomond hills I hadn't already climbed were a kind of possibility for a Sunday, but not a very appealing one - no buses ran round the eastern edge of the hill on Sunday, which seemed to mean not only not traversing Bishop Hill, but having to walk right back round to Strathmiglo. Then the week before I suddenly discovered that Scotlandwell was only three miles from Ballingry, with buses to Halbeath every half hour - I'd never joined up my geography enough to look at that side of the hill.

I decided that in that case I might as well do the full trip, starting with the climb up East Lomond from Falkland which I'd done before, and managed a surprisingly successful start to catch a 9:30 bus from Barnton - my bus catching abilities are never very good on Sunday morning.

At this point, however, the bus got lost. I had heard something about the approach to the bridge being closed, so I was only mildly surprised to end up in Kirkliston - when we shot on to Winchburgh I thought maybe we had to go right round and approach from the west, but instead we shot right through, at which point the driver finally realised something was wrong and did a rather awkward turn right across the road to head back again.

Two phone calls, a passer by and a phone map later, we were back in Kirkliston and taking the right turn, and finally over the bridge, arriving into Glenrothes about half an hour later than we should have done. So it was a good thing that I should have had about 50 minutes to wait there, and possibly a good thing that I didn't discover earlier that by waiting an extra 20 minutes I could catch a Stagecoach bus with my day ticket instead of paying extra for a local one - I did, wandering off to Costa to drink tea in between, but if I'd realised I might have left Edinburgh an hour later, and if anything had gone wrong then I'd have been stuck for two hours.

The bus kind of slinks past Falkland, just a glimpse of the palace from the end of the road, but once off and walking along the main street it's a wonderful spot, with much more than the palace - Fife seems to have a knack for this kind of preservation, even if it's really a kind of benign neglect.

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Falkland Palace

The path starts from the end of a road of newer houses - a very organised sort of path, passing through a plantation of trees where it mostly seems to be steps, which are quite hard work. All the sunshine had gone, and everything looked pretty dingy.

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Up the steps

Eventually the trees stop and leave you in the open air, and on a less well made path, pretty muddy after all the storms.

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In the open air

A heavy shower was passing parallel to the hill without touching me - eventually it cleared to leave sunshine and a rainbow touching the farmland below.

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Rainbow

The climb towards the summit was very steep and very slippery - some of it was roughly stepped, which helped a bit, but it was still pretty hard going. The rainbow was now touching the bottom of the steep part, and a lady who headed down past me looked like she was going to find her pot of gold.

By the time the summit indicator came in sight the clouds were gathering again, although I'd hoped to reach it in sunshine.

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East Lomond summit

With a view to the other side I could watch the next shower heading towards me, and this time it looked like it wasn't going to miss.

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Approaching rain

The weather hit hard just as I came to the top, and I dropped down the other side as well as I could - the wind doing its best to take me off my feet, and the rain hard in my eyes, and everywhere else. The path was sodden to start with, as on the other side, and altogether it was an absolutely miserable few minutes.

This is the second time that has happened to me on this same hill - and I've only climbed it twice - although that time it was a thunderstorm which waited until I'd dropped down from the summit, and chased me right back to Falkland. This time the sunshine was back on Bishop Hill, beyond the lochs, while I was still under the cloud, and amazingly quickly the whole world had returned to sunshine and blue skies, although I was still pretty wet, as was the ground.

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Sunshine again

The way on was a definite lane, between two old stone walls - a bit of a surprise, as I couldn't really think what so distinct a route would have been used for, when it only seemed to be leading from one hill to the next.

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Along the lane

The carpark at Craigmead was also a bit surprising - I was thinking of this as the wilds, just the gap between two hills, and then suddenly it wasn't. But the toilets were open, surprisingly, and very welcome, although there wasn't much else except an information board.

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Car park

The path led on just as a broad trodden place in the grass, but after a while it joined up again with the track between the two walls, which must have wandered off somewhere else - there was what seemed to be a boundary stone marked WR 1818, so it presumably is a genuinely old route.

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Between the walls

It's a surprisingly long way between the hills, nearly 2 miles from Craigmead to the point where West Lomond gets steep - the track lost its walls and climbed on towards it, passing the top of a little cleft valley.

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Approaching West Lomond

Maybe only a wuss would chicken out on the direct climb, but I decided that I'd had quite enough of hanging on to steep sodden grass on the first hill, and kept to the main path as it climbed across the shoulder, with a nice view of the geometrical farmland below - it was one of those sudden places where the hill is hill and the flat is flat, with no kind of in between.

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Farmland below

Round the far side of the hill the path does climb quite steeply for a while, but it's gained height by then, and still slants a bit.

The summit has a huge but scattered old cairn, as well as the trig point - the base of the trig point was obviously once built into the cairn, but since then all the unattached stones have been moved and piled up somewhere else.

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West Lomond summit

From here on I was much more on uncharted territory - and heading into very different territory, Bishop Hill looking very different from the simple rising shapes of the other two hills, and much rougher.

There was no path shown on the map in the way that I wanted to go, but as I walked in that direction one appeared under my feet, although further down it became unnervingly steep and loose, which was less surprisingly when I looked back and realised I'd been coming down parallel to tiny crags, a change from the smooth sides of the hill I'd seen before.

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Below the steep bit

A tiny thread of path curved back around the base of the hill, eventually meeting an unexpected stile at the fence which ran roughly parallel to the dividing valley below.

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Across Glen Vale

The path faded away a bit after that, through a tiny wet valley, but picked up at a junction from where a narrow but clear line led on through the heather to join a good gravel path, which met a track rising on the other side of the main valley.

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Choice of tracks

Once on the Bishop Hill side it wasn't nearly so clear what I should do, and I badly wished I'd taken a copy of the relevant section of the orange map with the fences marked - every so often a path wandered off to the right, but there were a lot of lumps and bumps over there. and I knew that the summit wasn't one of the first ones.

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Rough ground

By the time the track by the main fence faded out and I realised that following it wasn't going to work I was on the wrong side of an electric fence, and the best plan seemed to be to keep going until I could turn up to follow the edge of a forestry plantation to where a path crossed the hill, and follow the path back - a nasty trudge over wet and deeply tufty ground, but not a bad way of handrailing to the summit, apart from being a bit of a long way round!

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Up to the trees

Reaching the trees meant crossing a little deep valley where two streams joined, which was easier to do a bit away from the wall, and then I was climbing up again to end up in a narrow gap between the trees and the wall, with occasional tiny patches of snow lying, and finally reaching the point where the path passed through the wood.

The path here was a broad grassy track, a broad ride through the trees and then on by the side of a fence - much more distinct than I had thought it might be, which was quite a relief.

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The right path

Further along the hill I even came to a signpost, which was a surprise - even if none of the arms exactly seemed to point to anywhere I wanted to go. Once again I seemed to have passed through the back of beyond and ended up in civilisation - of a kind, anyway, although it was quite nice up here with the late afternoon light and the edge of the hill dropping away towards Loch Leven.

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Choices

The summit came in sight as a definite top - again, more than I had thought it might be on this very different kind of hill.

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Summit in sight

The summit had the nicest cairn of the day - no extra decorations, just good stone - although it also had the coldest wind.

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Bishop Hill summit

I didn't linger for long, as I wanted to get not just down to the road but as close as I could to Ballingry before the light failed. My aim now was not back towards the track through the woods, which turned back to the east, but along the edge towards the little golf ball radar station and the path dropping to Scotlandwell, and I picked up a tiny path which clung quite dramatically to the edge of the hill.

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Along the side

There was a choice of climbing or skirting the little tops at White Craigs, and I lazily went from around, and from there the path led quite clearly down the nose of the hill - as so often, it seemed a long slow way, with Scotlandwell coming into view below but never actually seeming to arrive.

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Descending

It did in the end, of course, although I turned the wrong way at the very end and came out by the church, a little bit back from the village.

It was after 6, and I could and maybe should have stopped for dinner here, but I wasn't sure if the buses kept running regularly from Ballingry all evening, and went hurrying down there only to find that I'd miscounted for the connection at Halbeath - I'd expected either to get a connection quite quickly, or have an hour to find something to eat at the leisure park. I went for dinner anyway, expecting a long wait, and found that I was served so quickly that there was still a chance of making the next bus, only I missed the bus back to the park and ride (stagecoach's website said it was running late, and it wasn't!), got on another one, and then on a whim got on a 747 to the airport instead of standing in the cold waiting for the next Edinburgh bus - so it was an unusual journey home, at least.


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nigheandonn
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Re: Right across the Lomond Hills

Postby Sgurr » Sun May 24, 2020 2:53 pm

That is a really good walk. I'm ashamed to say that I have lived in Fife since 1964 and have NEVER yet done the three hills together, partly because the summit of Bishop is in Kinross, so can't be counted in the Fife Marilyns, and partly because it seems a long way to get back to a car, though having one means that you can omit the long slog from the village up the East Lomond and can do them from higher up. The way you did it is a bit precipitous, I do it sometimes just to keep up fitness but seldom overtake anyone now.
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