While some of my more 'heroic' friends don crampons and axes in the Winter months, I have spent a little time appreciating some of the lower hills which I have never climbed. The first of these was Benarty Hill, a pleasant little ridge near Kinross, which I have seen countless times from the M90 (Perth-Edinburgh) Motorway. As it is so close to the carriageway, it's charming features can easily be appreciated from there - but somehow I'd never managed to climb it. It makes for a very pleasant two-and-a-half hours walking, with lovely views from clearly defined paths.
An unclassified road runs from near junction 5 on the M90 towards the village of Ballingry, from which there are two possible ascent routes of the hill. Near the village is a car park, with a sign, and a path leading into the woods, I chose the route at the western end of the hill. There's a layby with spaces for one or two cars, and a gate with an orange barrier leading to a track which marks the start of this route.
This end of the hill is dotted with distinctive flag-poles, which belong to the adjacent firing range. When red flags are raised on these, this route is closed as it runs behind the targets on the range. However, when the flag-poles are empty, there seems to be no objection with using footpath which links the poles, as a means of access to the ridge.
The track passes the firing range then turns steeply into the hillside, eventually becoming a narrow, muddy footpath up though the woods. The thick forestry clings to the sides of the hill, while the top is open grassland, and the path reaches the top of the woods by a stile, from where the paths along the broad grassy ridge are obvious.
At times the path doesn't provide the best views, but by bearing left and following the edge of the ridge, the panorama is consistently wonderful. As the ridge turns sharply right above the Mulla Craig cliffs at a summit of 327m it narrows and turns, passing an ancient fort site. The ridge is easily followed across a series of hummocky summits until the trig point at 356m is finally seen across a fence, over another stile.
This hill provides a nice steep pull up over a few hundred meteres, and expansive views over Fife, The Ochils, over the Firth of Forth, and towards the distant Perthshire hills to the North.
I retraced my steps back past the rifle range to the waiting car - but it would be equally possible to continue along the path and down towards Ballingry, and use the road to complete a really pleasant circuit. While the high mountains have their drama and challenge - when time is short, or conditions severe, a little hill like this can be a great way to spend a morning.