West Lomond (NO 197066, 522m)
East Lomond (NO 243061, 434m)
480 metres of ascent
This was a lunch-time impulse, on a day that suddenly seemed too good to waste.
The Lomonds are a pair of ancient volcanic plugs, pushing up through layers of sedimentary rock that form an intricate escarpment around three sides of West Lomond (of which, more later). I left the car at the big Craigmead car park, which is reached by the narrow ribbon of potholed tarmac that crosses the moorland between Falkland and Leslie.
Down the road a short distance, and then a left turn took me on to the broad track that crosses the moor towards West Lomond.
Close to the start of this track, there’s a little puzzle:
A neat and obviously fairly recent block of stone bears this inscription:
Division of the
Commonty of the
Sir William Ray
The upper surface is marked with the initials WR (one assumes William Rae) and the date 1818. And yet it’s very much not two centuries old. It seems to be a reproduction of one of the many boundary stones that mark the nineteenth-century divisions of the old common land of the Lomonds. An original can be found a little farther up the track:
And there are more than a hundred scattered around the area. For more on that topic, see the 2015 Fieldwork Report by David Munro and Oliver O’Grady.
The tourist route up West Lomond curves around its north side and reaches the top from the west, but I chose the masochist’s direttissima that goes straight up the steep north-east side. So I was soon at the summit, looking back the way I’d come, and to East Lomond beyond:
The triangulation pillar of West Lomond seems to have eroded out of the surrounding terrain quite dramatically, leaving it poised on its curved concrete foundation like some sort of giant Subbuteo footballer:
In the distance, above, you can see Loch Leven. The larger wooded island is the location of Loch Leven Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned in 1567-8.
Instead of returning the way I’d come, I decided to pay a visit to the West Lomond escarpment. Its long curve offers a fine collection of evocative toponyms—there’s John Knox’s Pulpit (blown up by Fife Council in 2004 because considered unsafe), the improbably poised Bunnet Stane (presumably next on Fife Council’s list), the sheltered meadow of Hoglayers, and the little summit of Wind and Weather. But I dropped off down a knee-strainingly steep path to the south-west, aiming for the Devil’s Burdens—a scattering of stones supposedly dropped by the Devil himself, under circumstances described in my link; but why His Satanic Majesty was doing anything so menial as lugging some rocks around Fife is not clear to me.
The steep path took me to a stile, which had enough missing parts on its downhill side to make it a significant challenge for anyone with shorter legs than mine.
And then down to the Burdens themselves—a much-eroded stone rampart, which I prudently looped around and approached from below.
Up close, this is a fairly impressive barricade, in some places a good four metres high.
Then I climbed back up to the stile, and picked up a narrow slot of a path on its uphill side, which took me around to West Lomond’s east side. Here, I decided to strike off across the moorland rather than follow the path all the way around to the north-east side again.
I avoided marching straight towards East Lomond, but took a line that erred a little to the north, avoiding the boggy ground promised by Balharvie Moss, which lay due east. It was easy enough going, the heather fairly short and the marshy areas fairly dry, but it was also rather unsatisfactory—these little off-piste excursions usually turn up something of interest, but this one afforded nothing but a pair of panicky grouse. Eventually, I joined my outward track, and headed back to the road past a busy row of beehives.
The route to East Lomond was pretty much a mirror image of West Lomond, except on a smaller scale. First of all, a short track:
Then a choice of routes up (I took the steeper one again):
The bare summit of East Lothian is crowned by a rather nice view indicator on a low pillar, but I wasn’t able to access it immediately because it was being used for other purposes:
That’s not something you see every day.
So I sat and admired the view of West Lomond for a while, and then retraced my steps to the car.