VANE Hill is more of a viewpoint than a hill in that it is somewhat dwarfed by Benarty Hill and its broad ridge behind. However, it is a great place for a walk with fantastic views.
A short but fairly steep climb is needed, but there are lots of benches along the way on which you can rest if necessary. This is a good family route and ideal if you want to give those unsure of uphill walks the confidence to give it a go.
Once through the woodland above the RSPB’s Loch Leven nature reserve, two benches next to the cairn at the top are just reward, and ideal for looking across the panorama of lowland hills.
At the bottom it is well worth visiting the bird hides near Loch Leven – this autumn 20,000 pink-footed geese are expected to arrive from Iceland.
DISTANCE 1∫ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 450ft.
TIME 1 hour.
MAP OS Landranger 58.
PARK The RSPB’s Loch Leven reserve car park is just over two miles east of junction five on the M90, next to the B9097.
IN SUMMARY Go into the visitor centre from the car park, exiting the shop through a door at the far end (you have to pay to enter the reserve first – adults £5, children £1, concessions £3, family ticket £10). Turn right to reach a picnic area. You can do the circular walk in either direction but I think it preferable to take the steeper path on the way up – meaning less stress on the knees on the way down.
Pass a wooden screen on the left of the picnic area, through which you can watch birds feeding, and then take a grass path with some wooden steps at various steep sections.
The path reaches woodland and then twists up to a more level section. At a sign you can make the walk even shorter by going straight on but to reach the top go left, up more steps.
The path then makes a wide, clockwise loop to the top of the hill where you will find two wooden benches and a small cairn. Before continuing do take time to enjoy the view of Loch Leven in front of you with the Lomond Hills to the right and the Ochils to the left. You can also see Bass Rock and North Berwick Law away over the Firth of Forth.
To start the way back, cross straight over the top and take a path downhill which bears to the right, back into the woodland. At a junction go left and drop all the way back to the picnic area in a wide loop, ignoring a path to the left lower down. Before re-entering the visitor centre a right turn will lead you to an underpass below the road to hides overlooking the loch.
REFRESH There is a great café at the visitor centre.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA The reserve and visitor centre offers an insight into the wide array of bird life which lives in the area (www.rspb.org.uk). n