It was a toss-up this morning between a walk in the Ochils or digging the bike out. The bike won. Not quite sure why but I suppose it’s been such a while since I was on it last that the idea of a run round Kinross-shire’s Loch Leven just appealed.
With the Loch Leven Heritage Trail now complete, it’s possible to walk or cycle right round the loch without ever going touching a main road. And, with it being relatively level for most of the way, where could I find a better circuit to re-introduce me to the joys of cycling?
It’s only thirteen miles round the loch and, surrounded by the Ochils, the Lomonds and the Cleish Hills, there’s something to see every inch of the way. There’s lots of history, too. Short detours can take me to Burleigh Castle, Orwell Kirk and the 4,000 – 5,000 year old Standing Stones of Orwell; Kinnesswood, the famous well at Scotlandwell and to the RSPB Reserve at Vane Farm. I’m quite tempted, too, once I get back to Kinross pier, to take the wee passenger ferry across to Castle Island – the island that in 1567 served as a prison to Mary Queen of Scots.
Just past Orwell Kirk, a farmer is out gathering carrots giving the gulls plenty to be excited about. With much of Loch Leven being a National Nature Reserve, gulls are probably the least interesting creatures you’ll find – loch flies excepted! Depending on the time of year, you’ll see plenty Pink-footed and Greylag geese, whooper swans and wading birds such as snipe, redshank and lapwing- maybe even an otter. In autumn, Loch Leven welcomes as much as a tenth of the entire world population of pink-footed geese!
The shelter and viewpoint at East Brackley is really impressive and just one of many points on the circuit where we can stop and reflect on the words of Michael Bruce -the “Gentle Poet of Loch Leven”, when he wrote, “Hail, native land! Where on the flow’ry banks of Leven, Beauty ever-blooming dwells.”