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The West Fife Woodlands Way

The West Fife Woodlands Way is a new 10-mile marked route around west Fife starting and ending in the pretty village of Culross.

Along the way, you will visit many of west Fife’s gorgeous woodlands including Valleyfield Woodland Park, Balgownie Wood, Devilla Forest and visit a plague grave and the West Kirk (Black Kirk in Outlander) with great views of The Ochills.

Read more – more ways to get outside in Fife

How to walk the West Fife Woodlands Way

Visit beautiful 17th-century Culross to hike along Scotland’s longest coastal path to a lost parkland gem, through woodlands home to red squirrels and visit a plague grave and a historic kirk on this 10-mile roundtrip stroll around the new West Fife Woodland Way. 

  • Walk start – free car park in Culross (east car park) 
  • Follow – the West Fife Woodland’s Way signs and waymarkers
  • Distance – 10 miles
  • Suitable for dogs? Yes – the paths do not go through any fields with livestock but watch out for ticks
  • Gates? Yes – remember your hand sanitiser!
  • Want more Fife Woodlands? – Visit West Fife Woodlands on Facebook

The West Fife Woodland’s way is walked in 8 stages:

West Fife Woodlands Way Map

  • Stage 1 – Visit ancient and pretty Culross
  • Stage 2 – Hike The Fife Pilgrims Way / Fife Coastal Path
  • Stage 3 – Explore the burn running through Valleyfield Woodland Park
  • Stage 4 – Walk to Blairhall Bings for an Ochills view
  • Stage 5 – Spot red squirrels in Balgownie Woods
  • Stage 6 – Detour into Devilla Forest
  • Stage 7 – Find the Plague Path and West Kirk
  • Stage 8 – Return to Culross for a drink or icecream!

Stage 1 – Culross

The West Fife Woodlands Way starts in the pretty 17th-century village of Culross. There are two car parks in Culross – one to the east and one to the west of the village centre. Both car parks are free.

Located on the Firth of Forth,  12 miles west of the Forth Rail Bridge in the south-west of Fife, Culross was built in the 16th and 17th century to house workers in the mining and later salt panning industries stretching along the Fife coast.

Once a busy seaport, Culross is now more famous for its role in the TV series Outlander.

Parts of the village, including the Palace, are now owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland, who are doing a very good job indeed of keeping the village as a perfect snapshot of a 17th-century Scottish village, albeit one that has been modernised and cleaned up for the 20th century.

Visit Culross Abbey, Culross Palace, the Town House and the Mercat Cross before or after your walk around the West Fife Woodlands Way.

Read more – how to explore Culross

Stage 2 – The Fife Pilgrims Way / Fife Coastal Path

Start your West Fife Woodlands Way by walking along The Fife Pilgrims Way / Fife Coastal Path from Culross towards Preston Island.

You can detour around the Preston Island and the Tory Bay Nature Reserve to make this a longer walk, or continue along towards Valleyfield.

The Fife Coastal Path runs 113 miles along the length of Fife all the way to Dundee. The Fife Pilgrims Way is an 87-mile route across the heart of Fife, which takes to you St Andrews.

Read more – more of my favourite walks in Scotland

Stage 3 – Valleyfield Woodland Park and The Bluther Burn

Once you reach Valleyfield, turn north into Valleyfield Woodland Park.

Once home to a grand classical mansion owned by Sir Robert Preston (known as Floating Bob for his travels around the world) Valleyfield Woodland Park was the only Scottish commission of famous 19th-century landscape architect and gardener Sir Humphrey Repton. 

Looking to emulate the success of nearby Culross, Preston opened mines in the area – including the salt mines at Preston Island. 

Built in circa 1800-1804 by Repton, Valleyfield Woodland Park has romantic burn-side walkways, rustic bridges, a walled flower garden and the remains of an ornamental canal and ice house.

Much of the landscape has been swallowed up by time, but West Fife Woodlands and the Valleyfield Heritage Project are bringing much of the site back to its former glory.

The house was demolished in 1941 after falling into disrepair. My favourite parts of the woods are the rustic arch and Jack’s path. 

Wander the woodlands, before following the path to the car park at the top where there is a path leading to Shiresmill Woods and Blairhall Bings.

Stage 4 – Shiresmill Woods and Blairhall Bings

From Valleyfield, a new path takes you across the old Blairhall bings, through newly planted birch woodlands and across wildflower-filled wetlands on old coal bings.

If you continue north from here you can connect here to the 12 mile Dunfermline to Clackmannan cycle path. Instead, follow the signposted path west towards Balgownie Woods. 

Before you reach the woods, climb to the top of the signposted viewpoint for a great view across to The Ochills.

West Fife Woodlands Way
West Fife Woodlands Way

Stage 5 of the West Fife Woodlands Way – Balgownie Woods

Managed by the Forestry Commission, Balgownie Woods is one of the most beautiful of Scotland’s wee woods and contains magnificent oak and beech trees – and is home to red squirrels.

The wood has five miles of paths to explore in 175 hectares but to follow the West Fife Woodlands Way, turn left as you enter the forest and follow the main forest road until you reach a turning on your left with the way sign.

This pretty path takes you along an avenue of beech trees to the west of the woodland. At the far western corner of the woodland, a new path takes you across fields with views to The Ochills and Saline Hill until you reach the edge of Devilla Forest.

West Fife Woodlands Way

Stage 6 – Devilla Forest

Devilla Forest is managed by the Forestry Commission. The West Fife Woodlands Way just skirts the edge of the forest, but if you have more time to explore there are four lochs in Devilla Forest to find.

Follow the Red Squirrel Trail to Bordie Loch, and on to the Moor Loch to spot dragonflies in summer. Peppermill Dam is the largest of the four lochs and Keil Dam my favourite.

From Devilla Forest, carefully cross the very busy main A-road to Kincardine towards Blair Farm and Blair Castle and then turn down the Moor Road on the south edge of Waas Plantation.

Devilla Forest Loch

Stage 7 – The Plague Path and West Kirk

The Moor Path takes you from Devilla to Culross.

Along this path is a plague grave. Robert, Agnes and Jeannie Bald are buried here, three children who all died on the same day in September 1645 from the plague as it moved north from Edinburgh. Their father James was a hammerman in Culross making iron cooking griddles. A sign marks the turnoff for the grave,

Further down the Moor Road, the path passes the location of the Battle of Culross – when in 1083, Kind Duncan’s army camped outside the village to await a raiding party from Denmark.

The Danes might have won the first battle, but lost the war, as the locals then laced their dinner with deadly nightshade, which induced sleep – allowing Macbeth (yes, that Macbeth) to enter their camp and slaughter them.

Don’t mess with a Scot.

The Moor Path eventually reaches West Kirk, dating from the 1500s, the kirk was once the parish church of Culross.

The Kirk was used as a filming location for the TV series Outlander – the site of the Benedictine abbey, the Black Kirk. Jamie and Claire visit the Black Kirk in Season 1 episode 3.

From West Kirk, return south to Culross via a quaint cobbled path.

Now Return to Culross… the West Fife Woodland Way is one of my favourite walks in Scotland!

Love, from Scotland x

Where to eat in Culross after your walk around the West Fife Woodlands Way

  • The Red lion, Culross. The Red Lion menu has all the pub grub staples – try the haggis nachos and pies! You can look at the Red Lion Culross menu online. 
  • The Biscuit Cafe, Culross– toasties and soups are served at the Biscuit Cafe (above the Pottery Shop)
  • Culross Palace Cafe – Bessie’s Cafe is located right in the Palace grounds
  • The Admiral Cafe – on the Mercat’s Cross. 
  • The Ice Cream van – often to be found on the green, serves delicious caramel and vanilla ice cream cones.

The West Fife Woodlands Way has been delivered by the volunteers of the West Fife Woodlands group over the last 5 years. The group has raised nearly £100,000 to deliver the project and have made all the very lovely handmade signs, planted a brand new fruit orchard, installed the many benches, designed and printed the wayfinding maps and built all the new connecting paths to complete the route – it’s a fantastic achievement and it makes for a brilliant walk. Well done West Fife Woodlands!

Sheila Wills

Sunday 6th of September 2020

I walked the West Fife Woodlands Way on Friday with a friend and we were very impressed with the route and the signage. I wanted to report that one of the posts has been chopped down and burnt but I don’t know who to report it to. I’ve taken a photo of the post and another of the location.