Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Bishop's Hill

East and West Lomond, which togther are sometimes known as 'The Paps of Fife', are the most distinctive landmarks in that part of the world. While they both look quite dramatic from some angles, they are remarkably easily to climb from the car park at the head of the pass above Falkland, which separates them. As a result they are extremely busy hills, with the trade-routes up each of them being well-worn and on summer weekends being as busy as Sauchiehall Street.  

Bishop's Hill, is Fife's third hill - and lurks in the shadow of West Lomond, it's bigger brother. Despite this, it is well worth a climb, for its expansive views, sense of remoteness and sense of remoteness from people - as there are virtually none up there!

The kirk in the village of Scotlandwell allow use of their car park for hillwalkers, with the proviso that Sunday mornings, and any other events such as weddings and funerals are avoided - which seems more than reasonable! A hundred yards or so southwards along the road from the kirk, a signposted track leads away from the road and twists and turns its way up the flanks of Bishop's Hill. There are in fact, many more paths on the ground than the OS show, even on their detailed 1:25,000 map of the area. There is a lower path which goes left through the woods - and the ascent path which veers to the right, before a series of zig-zags. I went right, and once through the tree-line, was rewarded very quickly with wonderful view out over Loch Leven and beyond.

The climb is probably the best part of Bishop's Hill, as the summit area is vast, boggy, grassy and hummocky - and is crossed by a dizzying network of paths which seem to lead in all directions. Navigation across this in bad conditions could be an entertaining proposition. A more significant path traverses the hill, which follows an old stone wall. The summit lies beyond this, a lovely view point, about 400m higher than the car-park. Sadly I was faced with a dreich, misty, cold day - and didn't linger long.

A return by the same route would be easy, but a more interesting prospect is to head along the top towards Glen Lomond (the rift that separates Bishop's Hill from West Lomond and which contains the geological feature known as John Knox's pulpit). Dropping down into Glen Lomond is steep - but pathed, and then a return track winds back towards the starting point underneath the cliffs of Bishop's Hill.

The return track seems to peter out, midway back along the journey, only to reappear further along - above the village of Kinneswood. I had to pick my way through a few fields (occupied only by sheep), and through several very aggressive thorn bushes to progress. Once the track re-appears it meets up with the track back down to Scotlandwell, just underneath the zig-zags of the ascent route.

All in all, this makes for about a 3.5/4 hr circuit of most enjoyable countryside, with great views and a good bit of exercise on the surprisingly challenging ascent.

(W & E Lomond from Bishop's Hill)

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