This circular summer walk around Loch Leven takes in many beautiful spots including varied woods and marshland. It is particularly renowned for its birdlife. There are several opportunities for caféstops along the way! The ruined Loch Leven Castle sits on a small island in the loch and can be visited by ferry (from Kinross pier) in the summer. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned here in 1567. The largest island, St Serf’s, has the remains of an Augustinian Priory founded in 1150.Loch Leven is a National Nature Reserve and the route skirts the RSPB Loch Leven Reserve which sits on its southern shore. Ospreys fish in the loch in the summer and there are also red squirrels.
The starting point is at OS Reference NO 125 019 which is the parking area, near the toilet, at Kirkgate, Kinross (see map >).
Getting there: 47 miles/60 minutes
Take your favourite route out of Glasgow to M8 (Edinburgh) and exit at Jct 13 onto M80 towards Stirling. Continue on M80 until Jct 8 where the road splits – keep to the left and continue onto M876 (signed Kincardine Bridge). Continue on M876 and merge onto M9 for a short distance leaving at Jct 7 back onto M876 (Kincardine Bridge). At the roundabout take the second exit (A876) and cross the Firth of Forth. At the Kilbagie Roundabout turn left (A977) and at the Gartarry Roundabout take 3rd exit and stay on A977. Continue on A977 and at the roundabout on the outskirts of Kinross go straight on (2nd exit) onto A922. Note the tourist sign for Loch Leven Heritage Trail. At the next roundabout go straight on (Kinross). This is now Station Road (B918). Go straight on at small mini-roundabout and at the end of the road go right at the large mini-roundabout into High Street (B996). Continue down this cobbled street and take the 3rd left (after passing the hotel) into Burns-Begg Street (signed Kirkgate Park). Take second turning on left into Kirkgate (signed Kirkgate Park). Continue along this narrow one lane road into the park and head for the second parking area opposite the toilet (20p). Parking is free.
The Walk: Loch Leven Heritage Trail – 10.0 miles (shorter if the small hill detour is omitted)
The walk is level, except for the detour, and follows the Heritage Trail in a counterclockwise direction from the Kirkgate car park towards the Boathouse and a cashmere factory. The path continues and winds through fields with the loch on the left and views of Castle Island. Although the path veers away from the loch side the next section is popular with nesting sand martins and in the spring and summer the fields are often busy with lapwings, oyster- catchers and other birds.
Continue onwards along the path for just less than 4 miles until a covered viewing area is reached. This is slightly raised and may be a suitable place for lunch before arriving at the RSPB Visitor Centre at Vane Farm. Here the RSPB has set up an excellent viewing area upstairs with telescopes, enthusiastic staff, and a café- this is free. However, if you wish to enter the reserve and visit the hides there is an entrance fee (unless you are an RSPB member). You can have coffee here and stay to enjoy the sights.
RSPB Visitor Centre Amenities
Viewing screen past picnic area allows close-up views of birds using feeders.
Indoor viewing area in café. Telescopes, including one adjustable, overlook Loch Leven.
Three hides on Wetland Trail. Live birdfeeder camera action shown on large screen in café.
Those wanting a elevated view over Loch Leven can continue on the Woodland Trail (1 mile) which leads through birch woods to a viewpoint at the top of Vane Hill (248m) and then back to the Visitor Centre. From the RSPB Visitor Centre retrace your steps along the Heritage Trail to the Boathouse and then to the parking area at Kirkgate.
Those wanting a much shorter route can stop at the Boathouse and get a ferry to Castle Island and visit Lochleven Castle which has an interesting history. The ferry (maximum 12 people per trip) is weather dependent. There is an entrance fee but it is free to Historic Environment Scotland members. Booking is recommended.
Alternatively, another walk option is a circular signed walk (3 miles) going clockwise from the parking area.