DRIVING up the M90, heading for the Highlands, a prominent ridge catches the eye.
Benarty Hill lies to the south of Loch Leven and offers great views of the hills beyond the Firth of Forth as well as the Ochil and Lomond Hills in front of the higher mountains to the north.
It was a twitcher friend who told me, after many years, what a treat I was missing by not going up the hill. His binoculars are regularly taken out on jaunts in this area and it is easy to see why – not only is there an RSPB reserve just next to the hill, but the rich farmland and woodland in the area makes for a good variety of wildlife.
The route is quite short and the trig point is only a little over 1,100ft, but the way up is steep, especially at first, making you feel as if you are going up a “proper” hill.
Once on the top, the gradient eases and you can explore the wide ridge – which is really an expanse of moorland – with the views enhanced by the steep slopes and crags falling away on both sides.
Take a picnic if you don’t mind the cold at this time of year, but definitely take some binoculars.
DISTANCE 2 1/2 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 600ft.
TIME 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
MAP OS Landranger 58.
PARK There is some roadside parking at the bottom of the hill. Leave the M90 at junction 5 and follow signs for Glenrothes. At a T-junction go right then take the first left – signed for Ballingry. The space to park is just over a mile and a half down this road, on the left, at the bottom of some steps.
IN SUMMARY Go up the steps next to the parking area, past a green Forestry Commission post. A steep path leads up through woodland, eventually reaching a bench from where you can look south over Loch Ore towards the Pentland Hills across the Firth of Forth.
Beyond the bench is a track, where you go left, uphill. Higher up, the track turns into a path and bears right. After emerging on the edge of the tree line go right to follow a fence with an old, tumbledown wall on the other side. A short way up, a piece of wood attached to the top of the fence allows you to cross it and follow a path on the other side, through heather.
After reaching the top of a short rise, via a grassy bank, the trig point at the top of Benarty Hill can be seen a few hundred yards ahead.
Follow the path across moorland to reach the high point, but to get the best views over Loch Leven towards the Lomond Hills walk a few dozen yards further, to a fence. To the left, west, are the Ochil Hills.
Although Benarty Hill is criss-crossed by a number of paths, the best return is the way you came.
REFRESH The visitor centre at the RSPB’s Loch Leven (formerly known as Vane Farm) reserve, on the other side of Benarty Hill from the start, has a good cafe.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA After seeing Loch Leven from the top, the reserve and visitor centre is a good place to visit and get an insight into the wide array of bird life which lives in the area. (www.rspb.org.uk)