Places to go in Kinross-shire for families - Bishop Hill view

Ideas for family days out this summer – in Kinross-shire

Now lockdown is slowly easing in Scotland, family days out are a real possibility, but where to go? Verity has some great (free!) suggestions for local families in Kinross-shire.

Since we have been given a bit more freedom, I’ve been encouraging my children to venture further afield. Often I’m met with moans and groans – the youngest is too tired or needs a snack every three seconds, the eldest can’t bear the thought of more than 10 minutes away from his PlayStation, so I have to think of new ways to make a walk or bike ride interesting. They were bored of “let’s go and look for a Gruffalo” in Sunny Park woods by Week 2 of lockdown, but luckily Kinross-shire has plenty of stories and legends that I’ve been able to share with them. When we don’t have a story, we have been using our imaginations to make one up.

We all enjoyed a ride along the Heritage trail, where we stopped at the original Orwell church. It’s about a mile from Burleigh Sands and hard to see from the trail, but there’s a gate and a path up to the church. It was used by the monks from St Serf’s Island, who came ashore to pray. My eldest two loved imagining the monks coming over on their rowing boats and talking about what life must have been like living on the loch (can you imagine the winters on a frozen loch?). My toddler thought we were talking about monkeys, so there were lots of giggles about the monkeys going to church.

There are some incredibly old graves, one dating back to the 1600s, and we talked about who these people were and how different their lives in Kinross would have been from ours. For a teen interested in local history, a great creative piece could be written about the St Serf’s monks and the simple lives they would have led.

Another short walk or bike ride from Kinross or Milnathort is Burleigh Castle. Growing up in Kinross, I was always told it was haunted by the ghost of a young pregnant girl who threw herself out of a window. I didn’t tell my children this tale, as it’s rather tragic and sad, but we did share some not-so-scary ghost stories.

Even as an adult, the castle gives me the creeps and there’s no way I’d come here after dark. A sign tells the story of James Balfour who was involved in plots against Mary Queen of Scots and her husband; we wondered what clandestine schemes were hatched within the castle walls. From the castle, we then followed the trail through the Community Woodland. This is a lovely, tranquil spot and there are benches along the way where you can stop for a moment to reflect whilst listening to the birdsong.

Probably the best-known tale from these parts is that of Carlin Maggie, so of course we had to have a walk up Bishop Hill. Maggie was a witch (Carlin being a Scots word for witch) who was said to have challenged the devil.  This did not end well for poor Maggie, who found herself entombed in stone. Maybe one day she will be freed to wreak havoc once again on Kinnesswood, and this could also make for a fantastic creative story. We walked up the hill from Portmoak Church, stopping along the way to admire the awe-inspiring view. There’s nothing like a blustery walk up a hill to clear your head of any lockdown angst.

Next up was a walk around Crook of Devon – the setting of five notorious witch trials. In 1661 and 1662, 11 wretched souls were found guilty of witchcraft then strangled and burned near what is now the village hall. I absolutely love this kind of gruesome history and have quite possibly given my children nightmares for the rest of their childhoods after telling them this tale on our walk.

These witch trials would make an excellent premise for an imaginative story, from the point of view of any of those involved – the accused, the men who convicted them or even the executioner. A really dramatic and thought-provoking essay could be written about what occurred here all those centuries ago. There’s a great walk from the Crook to Rumbling Bridge, where you can you see the stunning waterfalls, or you could amble over to Tullibole Castle and see the memorial to the accused witches.

 

When I am lucky enough to find a couple of hours all to myself, where do I go? My absolute favorite getaway is to run or cycle around the Path of Condie. From Kinross, this is about 15 miles of climbs, but it comes with the most incredible scenery. You could make a day out of it by taking a picnic and stopping to explore the woods at Stronachie. There’s a lovely wee fishing loch, and it is a pleasant (although slightly hilly) walk to get to it.

There are also wonderful woodland trails filled with toadstools – it always feels to me like there’s something mystical here, just out of my reach. This is my go-to walk, run or bike ride if I’m anxious or needing to clear my head. If you’re struggling to find the words for an essay (or a blog post!) a battle with the hills, and a walk in the magical woods, will surely help inspire you.

For teens interested in local history or folklore, any of these could offer a great idea for a creative essay for either National 5 or Higher English. Even if none of these ideas appeal, a walk or cycle is certainly going to help open up communication within your family. I know my children are much more likely to talk to me about their lives if we are outside and being active rather than at home with all the distractions there.

These are just a few of the interesting places to visit here in Kinross-shire – there are many others to discover. Wherever you live in Scotland (and indeed the UK), get out there and explore together as a family this summer – talk, share, make up stories, and let us know where you end up …

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