SEPARATED from Kelty by the M90, Blairadam Forest offers a number of paths, one of which, the Blairenbathie Mine Trail, hints at the area’s coal mining heritage.
As far back as the 13th century, monks from Dunfermline were mining shallow seams of coal along the small burn that runs through the forest. In 1733, William Adam, the famous Scottish architect, bought the estate of Blair Crambeth with the intention of making money, one way being to mine for coal. He renamed the estate Blair Adam after himself.
As the 19th and 20th centuries developed, coal became an important local industry. In 1895 Sir Charles Adam leased land for the Blairenbathie Colliery, which in its heyday employed 300 men (at its peak, Kelty had ten pits and a population of 8,000). However, operational problems and a drop in trade led to the colliery’s closure in 1925. Maps of the early 1900s show an entirely different landscape from today.
Desperate for some low-level cold winter’s day exercise, Jimbo and I opted for the Mine Trail which encircles the remains of the colliery – a distance of only 2½ miles, but extended to 4 miles by starting from the car park just off the B914.
All the while Jimbo and I (plus two springer spaniels) were on the lookout for the Beast of Blairadam.
Winding through an open area, follow the minor Tarmac road (from where the M90 can be heard but not seen) to reach Blairadam Depot. Immediately turn left from the forestry track, as signposted: red for the two-mile Glen Trail; yellow for the Mine Trail. It would be difficult to get lost.
At this stage follow both trails. A path on the track bed of a dismantled railway passes through a wider area, once a siding, to meet a forestry track slanting in from the right. Turn left on that track. Ignore one on the left and the Glen Trail sign on the right, then shortly slant away to the right.
A lovely new path winds through the wood, with a gentle descent to a stone-arched bridge that carried the railway high above the Lochornie Burn. Later turn right at a major junction (albeit the signpost is well down the track). Pass through mixed woodland and the site of the former colliery at map ref 123952. The slight noise of the distant motorway confirms the approach to the eastern side of the forest.
Cross a stream where the Glen Trail comes in and so back to the red and yellow signposts. Continue to the green Heritage Trails sign – straight on leads to Kelty via Kelty Bridge, whereas the circuit is completed by turning to the right, southwards, as signed Butterchurn and Kelty via M90 footbridge.
When returning to Blairadam Depot, take note of the former railway bridge’s brick abutment, on which is carved the Beast of Blairadam, Fife’s legendary big black cat. As with other parts of Scotland, there have been many sightings over the years of a big cat, perhaps a puma.
Jimbo had been totally cynical about large cat sightings – until one day in June 2001, cycling up Glen Elchaig with his son-in-law, when they were suddenly confronted by an extremely large black cat about 10 yards in front. Twice the size of Jimbo’s black Labrador, it shot off, and although they pedalled at full tilt it drew away. Birds shot out of the trees in panic.
The cat had a very large tail and although it was principally black appeared to have traces of brown within its fur. Having later looked at large cat photos, Jimbo is convinced that it was a puma.
MAP Ordnance Survey map 58, Perth & Alloa
DISTANCE 4 miles
TERRAIN Superb track and path
START POINT Blairadam Forest parking area, just off the B914, map ref 130938
TIME 2 hours
NEAREST TOWN Kelty
REFRESHMENT SPOT Baxters Restaurant by M90, Junction 4