I’d been holding out for a decent weather forecast for the weekend. After a week of blue skies and 20ºC+ temperatures, it was inevitable that the weekend would return to normality. In part anyway, it was still very mild, but rain was forecast and a layer of mist hung over Fife. I was toying with an overnighter on Beinn a’Ghlo, but plans changed over breakfast. Firstly, to the Trossachs with Margaret, then after some thought, closer to home. Falkland to be precise.
I’d heard of this walk from an ex- work colleague and hit up Walk Highlands for the route. We headed out past the red brick factory and into the trees above the village. The diffuse light amongst the trees made for an atmospheric climb and some pleasant photo opportunities. Margaret was cursing her camera, but her mood lightened instantly when I pointed out the red squirrel a short distance away. We watched as it climbed into the canopy above and skipped from tree to tree. Terra Firma is overrated.
The walk was steep and tough going. A teenager and his dog bounded past, gaily informing me there were exactly 250 steps ahead. I caught my breath and pretended I was waiting for Margaret to catch me up. We lumbered up to the summit of East Lomond, leaving the woodland behind. Open hillside offered no respite from the damp, still air condensing on our skin and clothes, by the summit I was drenched. Some of it might have been sweat.
The views from the summit of East Lomond were rather less extensive than the Walk Highlands guide had us believe. To the south, east and west: nothing. We watched as the mist enveloped the hillside below in a pincer movement. I remarked that I would not have been surprised to see Holmes and Watson [Jeremy Brett-era, obviously] charge out of the mist and across the fields, on some unknown pursuit. There was an atmosphere present. Almost all traces of 21st century life obliterated by water vapour. A colony of Ladybirds were having an orgy on the viewpoint. We rehydrated and headed off into the mist below.
A short walk off the summit and we were on the path running between fields to the left and moor to the right. The grasses and webs along the side of the path were suffused with water droplets. We walked on, crossing the Falkland to Leslie road and continued through cleared woodland. This section was punctuated by dead trees, rising upward through the gloom like petrified lightning. Further on we took a wrong turn in our attempt to find the waterfall, the Walk Highlands route should have specified the second path to the right. Nevermind, we sensed we weren’t quite on the right path and backtracked as we didn’t want to miss this feature.
The path runs around the back of the waterfall, there wasn’t a huge volume of water running down off the hill, but there was a certain novelty factor nonetheless. I toyed briefly with re-enacting the whole Reichenbach Falls incident, by throwing Margaret over the edge to her doom, or possibly a sprained ankle.
We pondered what process could have created the path, I’m still a bit baffled. Margaret suggested a basin, with pooled water eroding the limestone. Presumably the lower edge of the basin gave way long ago, leaving the feature we see today. Seems plausible, although you’d need a much greater volume of water than there is now. I would love to hear a proper geological explanation though.
We dropped down into gorge, criss-crossing the bridges from one bank to the other. The slope eased as the steep sides gave way to more woodland. We were entering the grounds of Falkland Estate with ornate stone bridges in the forest and the country house itself appearing through the foliage and mist, enhancing the whole Sherlockian motif. My thoughts turned to taking up pipe smoking.
We left the duck ponds and handsome estate buildings behind and emerged back into Falkland village. A lovely wee place, an historic town centred around Falkland Palace. The sort of place where the walls are freshly painted and gardens spotless, despite the onset of Autumn. We didn’t have much time to explore, but I think we’ll be back to visit the palace at some point. I often moan about living in Fife, forced out of Edinburgh by obscene property prices. There’s no decent hills [despite the one we climbed on this trip], but the longer I spend here and the more we explore, the more we find which marks out this forgotten backwater and changes my opinion of the place.
There’s an abundance of nature reserves, surprising and unexpected beaches to the north and picturesque villages dotted around. It’s the hidden pockets like Falkland that require some effort to seek out, but a little exploration usually rewards.