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WALK THIS WAY: Exploring the Lomond Hills Reservoirs in Fife

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Lomond Hills Reservoirs, Fife

It’s always good to have a Plan B or even C for those mornings of indecision when the weather turns out to be trailing the forecast by a long way.

The Lomond Hills had seemed a safe bet the evening before. The reality was that I was met by threatening skies and shrouded heights, rain peppering the windscreen, trees bending almost double in awe of the wind.

The normally busy car park at Craigmead – the launch pad for so many fine walks – was deserted. With no sign of conditions improving soon, I decided to stay low, using the fine network of field and core paths to make a circuit of the three big reservoirs of the six that serve the area, Ballo, Harperleas and Holl.

Looking down to Ballo Reservoir.

I headed uphill from the car park on the tarmac for a short distance before turning off right on to a rough farm track. The views opened up almost immediately: West Lomond rising straight ahead, East Lomond directly behind, while the steely waters of the Ballo Reservoir lay down to the left.

Soon I passed the ruin of Ballo Castle, the crumbling remains fast disappearing beneath rampant vegetation and dominated by a massive tree. I suspect it won’t be much longer before there is little sign of its existence, just like its somewhat sketchy history.

East Lomond and Ballo Castle ruins.

Just beyond, a stile gave access to a grass path leading down to Harperleas Reservoir. It seemed ironic that on a day when waterproofs were needed, the water level was at its lowest point for some time, but today was merely a blip amid long spells of relatively dry conditions and the scarcity of summer rainfall.

Once across the dam and a short walk right along the track, I turned left on a narrow path into Harperleas Woodland (there’s a small wooden sign – could be easy to miss) twisting steadily uphill through the wet grass and conifers.

The silence was absolute, the light constantly changing as the path passed through small clearings and then darker corridors as the canopy thickened again, a soft, copper bed of pine needles underfoot. There were also small sections of boardwalk to ease passage across some of the muddier areas.

Harperleas Woodland path.

When the path emerged at another small clearing, I went straight across and through a metal pedestrian gate for the final steps out of the wood. This brought me to another gate into a sheep field, where a walk along the right-hand edge led to a farm road.

I turned left, walking gently downhill on the track where the stones of an earlier road were showing through the newer surface, before passing the farm buildings at Wester Balgothrie to reach a crossroads.

Straight ahead lay Holl Reservoir – you can also start the circuit from here – where anglers were already claiming their spots for the day, the cone of West Lomond centre-point in the distance.

Beyond the water, the path climbed again with a more open aspect due to recent tree felling and then into fields where a gated passage led round Balgothrie Farm and along towards a fishing hut on the shores of Ballo Reservoir.

Field passage.

Another series of gates in rapid succession led to the final short push uphill to a stubborn metal gate, where I caught up with the multi-coloured line of a group of ramblers who had just started out from Holl. With the sun now shining amid patches of blue sky, it seemed they had chosen their moment for the circuit better than I had.


1.     Exit car park by main entrance, turn right and walk uphill for 750m before turning off right on Ballo farm track.

2.     Follow track west, ignoring left turn down to farm, and just past Ballo Castle ruin turn left by  crossing wooden stile and taking grassy track down to cross Harperleas Reservoir.

3.     Once across, turn right along track and after 500m watch for path on left heading into woods (signed: Path to West Leal).

4.     Path twists through trees, opening up to pass fields on left at one point then going back into darker tree corridor before reaching open area. Cross over grass track, going straight ahead through metal pedestrian gate and keep following path to edge of woods.

5.     Go through gate and stay right on rough track across field to emerge at farm road, then turn left (signed: Holl Reservoir).

6.     Walk east passing East Feal then further on farm buildings of Wester Balgothrie to reach  crossroads. Go straight over (signed for Craigmead) to Holl Reservoir.

7.     Pass reservoir and take path heading uphill to Craigmead, passing through felled woodland then fields, using fence corridor with series of gates round Balgothrie farm and along to fishing hut.

8.     Go through another series of gates to reach path heading uphill to public road. Go through metal gate and turn left to follow road with care back down to Craigmead.


Distance: 10.5km/6.5miles

Ascent: 242m/794ft

Time: 2.5-4 hours

Grading: Pleasant, easy loop suiting all fitness levels on woodland paths, farm tracks and field edges, with some walking on quiet roads. Muddy and waterlogged sections, some with boardwalks, good footwear advised. Farmland route – dogs under close control at all times. Please remember to close all gates securely.

Start/finish: Craigmead car park (Grid ref: NO 227061) 3.5km south-west of Falkland on minor road to Leslie, with toilet facilities and picnic tables.

Map: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger Map 58 (Perth & Alloa); Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 370.

Tourist Information: VisitScotland, St Andrews iCentre, 70 Market Street, St Andrews, KY16 9NU (Tel 01334 472021).

Public transport: Buses to Falkland from Glenrothes and St Andrews.