Kinnoull Hill’s status as an iconic natural vantage point has ironically been enhanced by human development.
For most of its life the highest point atop the spectacular wooded cliffs two miles south-east of Perth city centre was a spot that only locals knew about.
But from the 1970s the summit and nearby Victorian-era tower have become curiosities to a wider audience thanks to the creation of the busy M90 and A90 trunk roads.
This has led to many more people discovering that Kinnoull Hill is much greater than the summit’s admittedly dramatic views over the River Tay steeply below.
The secret has long been out that here lies the 754-acre Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park, a Site of Special Scientific Interest that also includes four other hills, Corsiehill, Deuchny Hill, Barn Hill and Binn Hill.
The tranquil haven was given to the city of Perth in 1924 and was part of Scotland’s very first woodland park in 1991.
Pam Kemley can see her home from the summit. “This is my favourite hill because it is my hill and I am so lucky to have it,” she says.
So many people love Kinnoull Hill, and this is why.
‘As soon as I see the hill I get the feelings of home’
Kinnoull Hill symbolises why Chris Thompson loves where he lives.
Chris, 33, grew up in the Bridge of Earn before moving to England when he was 13.
Eight years later he returned to Perthshire, moving to Abernethy to work at the town’s Branston potato manufacturing plant.
“Kinnoull Hill is symbolic,” he says. “I have lived elsewhere on various occasions and when I came home it was one of the first things I saw down the motorway.
“As soon as I see Kinnoull Hill I get the feelings of home. It is an intangible feeling of recognising the hills from childhood – it’s like Frodo going back to the Shire.
“A lot of people resent the place they grew up in but as soon as I moved back I knew it was a good place to be.”
Joining Chris for a first-time trip up the hill was his partner Izabela Kania, who has been in Scotland for two years after previously living in Poland.
“It’s a different perspective being up here and looking at the houses and cars, seeing things so tiny,” she says.
“Watching everything from a distance puts everything in perspective.”
‘This is where I belong’
Pam Kemley justifiably feels that Kinnoull Hill is hers.
The 58 year old has lived almost literally below the summit of Kinnoull Hill for the past 11 years.
“I can see my house from here,” Pam says while pointing towards West Kinfauns.
“We often sit in our back garden and look up at the hill. It’s lovely having it there and there are a whole range of walks here for people of all abilities.”
Pam grew up in Kilmarnock and spent a time in Craigie, near Blairgowrie, before moving to Perth 27 years ago.
“When I used to drive from the west of Scotland to Dundee I went past this hill and it stuck in my mind.
“I’d always remember the hill and always use it to describe the route to other people.
“This is my favourite hill because it is my hill and I am so lucky to have it
“I sit in the back garden look up and know this is where I belong.”
On the day we meet, Pam is with her six-year-old Cockapoo Bailey and is showing her friend Kay the hill for the first time.
Kay is from Durham and in the process of moving to Methven.
“It’s lovely,” Kay says. “There is a lot of water to look, which I like, and you can hear the cars in the distance which makes it more real.”
Route of monarchs
Kinnoull Hill is linked to Deuchny Hill by Coronation Road, a route taken by monarchs travelling between Falkland Palace and Scone Palace.
The woodland park includes an abundance of flora and fauna, as well as roe deer, red squirrels and, of course, excellent open viewpoints.
It also features grassy paths and waymarked nature trails through fine mixed woodland of Scots pine, larch, oak, birch and Norway spruce.
Deuchny Hill has an arboretum established in the 1920s that was reinstated in 2003.
‘It was love at first sight’
David Wood is chiefly responsible for the enduring presence of red squirrels among the vast wooded areas of the park.
In the late 2000s the conservationist set up a team that eliminated an increasing number of grey squirrels to ensure the reds could thrive in their native habitat.
“We had a group of trappers to ensure the red squirrels would still be here,” he says.
David, 67, owned gaming exchange shops Solid Gold Games Centre and moved to Perth in 1995 to help with the expansion of the business.
“When I saw Kinnoull Hill it was love at first sight,” he says. “It is a magical place and so diverse.
“You can walk for miles and miles and see something different every 100 metres or so.”
David, a keen runner, moved to Aberdeen 18 months ago following the passing of his wife Kirsty but still maintains his Kinnoull Hill Facebook page for its’ 1,200+ members.
“I’ve visited wherever possible, Covid-19 allowing. The reason I wrote the poem was because I was missing it so much.”
Great place for skiing
John Gilmour had the perfect preparation for a big job interview – a run up to the top of Kinnoull Hill.
This gave him enough time to stretch his legs prior to the interview, which clearly went well because six years on he is still the school’s head teacher.
John, 49, has a personal and professional association with the park. He walks, runs, cycles and, in the winter, goes cross-country skiing here.
On the day we meet he is taking 26 pupils from year 5 on a school trip.
“The kids are learning about Perth and how it relates to the winder world,” says John, who was born in Northumbria and grew up in Yorkshire.
“They’re doing map work here and following the trails of Kinnoull Hill.”
John knew of the area before the interview due to his wife’s family living in Aberfoyle.
“The view is absolutely outstanding and when you go to the tower and look over the edge it is pretty special,” he says.
“It’s a great place to go cross-country skiing because you don’t want anything too hilly.”
Tower’s German influence
Built in the early 19th century, Kinnoull Hill Tower consists of a round tower set between walls, battlements and arches.
The dramatic cliffs on the south side of Kinnoull Hill reminded the 9th Earl of Kinnoull of the lofty crags along the Rhine Valley in Germany, and the fairy tale castles that dot the rocky outcrops there.
He felt that Perth needed its own version of those Rhine castles, so he erected fantasy towers atop Binn Hill, and here at Kinnoull Hill.
In addition to the tower, with its castellated battlements, the earl built a large stone table for use as a picnic area.
Some sources attribute the tower to Lord Grey of Kinfauns or to the 11th Earl of Kinnoull.
‘We never want to leave’
Emma Laing can think of few better places to ride horses than Kinnoull Hill.
Emma, 36, lives in Oakbank, but is blessed to own land for her four horses close to the hill.
She is often joined by her youngest daughter Reigan, 14.
“We absolutely love Kinnoull Hill,” says Emma, who also walks her six-year-old Cocker Spaniel Nala on the hill.
“We ride up and round the area regularly. There are plenty of paths and tracks for us, and enough room for walkers, bikers and horses.
“We can be out for hours, never cross the same path and the views are amazing, not to mention the wildlife. We never want to leave.”
Sweetest moment after knee surgery
Mike Irons knew that he was back to his physical best after climbing to the top of Kinnoull Hill.
Mike, 73, underwent a second knee replacement operation in November 2017 and it took two years for him to achieve his goal of reaching the summit of his local hill.
It was a sweet moment, and the Kinnoull resident invariably shares the enjoyment of making it to the top when he has visitors.
Mike, 73, who travelled the world working for manufacturer Blount UK, grew up in Newburgh and has lived on the lower slopes of Kinnoull Hill for 43 years.
“Because it’s on our doorstep we take friends and relatives who come to stay to the top of the hill,” he says.
“We can say to people ‘that’s the Lomonds, there’s Fife, there’s Abernethy, there’s Newburgh, there’s the Tay.’
“You can see so much of Scotland in every direction.”
Hill whets appetite for return home
A trip to Kinnoull Hill is whetting one couple’s appetite for their new life.
Alison Crockett, 58, and Pete Westmore, 54, have spent the past three-and-a-half years in Bermuda, where Alison has been the deputy governor.
The couple, originally from Glasgow, visited the hill ahead of their move to a Crook of Devon.
“Bermuda is 21 square miles so when you come up here you notice the space and variety of the landscape. It’s absolutely stunning,” Alison says.
“We are on our way to Montrose to see my daughter Kirsty and this is one of the short circular walks in a book we have so decided to stop here.
“I am looking forward to being back in Scotland and this whets the appetite.”
‘I wonder why I even need to go elsewhere’
Kinnoull Hill User Group chairman Steve Norris, 65, believes there is no place quite like home.
The retired teacher has seen plenty of the world, previously living in South Africa and travelling around the UK and Europe in his motor home.
“At times I go up the hill and wonder why I even need to go elsewhere,” says Steve, who two years ago retired from his role as depute at Woodmill High school in Dunfermline.
“It’s got such variety. There are thick wooded areas and other bits where it’s open.
“When I am at home I usually walk five miles each day, taking in Binn Hill and Kinnoull Hill, and see something different each time.
“There’s a fair few deer, red squirrels and lots of things to see, also some badger sets.
“It gives you a lovely view across Perth and over longer distances – what’s not to like?”
Parking is available at Jubilee Car Park near the Deuchny Burn, from where easy, fairly level paths lead around the park, and at Corsiehill Quarry Car Park at the base of a steep climb to the viewpoint.
Perth and Kinross Council has a leaflet detailing walks around the hill, which can be downloaded at http://www.pkc.gov.uk/paths