These two hills are prominent landmarks in West Fife and eastern Clackmannanshire and as such provide extensive views of the lower lying countryside. Knock Hill is slightly higher at 364m but has been spoilt by the construction of a number of communications masts. Saline Hill is 359m and is the site of a hill fort at its eastern end.
The full walk taking in both hills is about 5.5 miles with 380m of ascent. The shorter walk to Saline Hill is 3.5 miles with 270m of ascent. The ground around here can be quite wet and boggy at times so walking boots are strongly advised and gaiters may also be helpful at particularly wet times. Once onto the open hillside the route is primarily off path and some sections can be a wee bit rough. Please note that this is sheep country so dogs should be kept under control and on a lead. If you have to cross a sheep field with a dog, give them a wide berth. There are numerous gates on this walk, please leave them as you find them. Most of the them are easily opened but you may need to climb the occasional fence or stile. Please ensure you are familiar with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code as this is working countryside that you are accessing.
The walk starts from Steelend close to the community centre / bus turning circle. There is parking at the nearby football ground or next to the recycling bins. An alternative would be to start from Saline and walk through the lovely Saline Glen to Steelend. Grid ref for the Steelend start is NT 041 922.
The path starts at the back of the Community Centre and is signed with a green Scotways sign from the main road. A link path from the football ground will also bring you to this point. Follow the path past some garages to a purple core path marker post from where it leads round the back of the houses through some trees. At the next marker post keep to the right on a grassy path. If you follow the arrow to the left it will take you through Saline Glen. Note the sign about dogs on leads when you reach a gate across the path.
Continue along the path until you reach a fence junction with the ruins of Killernie Castle nearby. At this point go through a gate on your right to continue on the path with the fence to your left. The farm and houses at Kilernie are your next landmark and at this point the path becomes a road. When this road turns left to join the public road, go straight on through a gate and follow the edge of the field alongside a ditch. The next fence you reach is crossed by a stile and after that the following fence has a wooden pedestrian gate.You will now be in a rather wet corner of a field in some trees.
Continue onwards with the wall/fence to your right passing through a number of gates until you reach a broken down piece of the wall which leads through to an old quarry area on the hillside. Where you go next depends upon which walk you are doing.
Go through the broken section of the wall and turn right onto a muddy track. Follow the track as it goes left and starts to go up hill. The track will come to an end leaving you with grassy hillside to climb off path. This is a relatively gentle ascent up the north west shoulder of the hill to the main summit at Mid Cairn. From Mid Cairn walk eastwards alongside a plantation of Scots Pine to reach the site of the fort at Easter Cairn.
Knock Hill and Saline Hill
Keep straight on rather than going through the wall. The path is now a Fife Core Path and is a surfaced track which is dry underfoot.You will pass a barn on your right hand side and then reach Sheardrum which is to your left. Keep straight on, don’t turn left to the farm, with some trees to your left and follow the path round to the right. This next section is rather muddy as the ground has been churned up by cattle. Keep to the left of the cattle feeding area and cross the field to reach a gate. After the gate you are in another field with trees to your left. There is a ruin amongst the trees. Keep the fence to your right and follow a ditch along the edge of the field. You will need to cross two small burns which can be a bit muddy. To your right is an old railway embankment and you may find it easier to climb up on to it for a drier walk.
When you reach a section of the railway line with some stone work (presumably the remains of a bridge) the core path now turns right to start going up the hillside. If you want, you can stay on the path to reach a fence where you can climb up over the embankment. Although this is a core path, it is not always obvious on the ground so pick your way up the hill as best as you can keeping fairly close to the fence on your left. You need to reach the fence junction in the south east corner of the field. Go through the gate and go left on to the dirt track to walk round the hill until you reach the next fence.
Turn right at this point, off the track and onto the pathless hillside to go directly uphill with the fence to your left. Higher up when you leave the fence the ground becomes easier but the gradient starts to steepen. If you find it a bit too steep, try zig zagging up the hill instead of going in a straight line. Soon you will reach the summit which is crowned with communications masts and a trig point. An alternative ascent would be to stay on the track and follow it round to West Lethans from where you can then follow the access road for the masts up the hill. This will add almost 1km to your route but you may find it easier if you don’t like pathless walking.
After a well earned rest to admire the views, descend in a south west direction directly down the grassy hillside. If it is misty it would be worth taking a compass bearing to confirm you are walking in the right direction. The ground becomes rougher and wetter lower down as you reach the coll between the two hills.Cross the fence and start to go up the other side. Depending upon your exact route you may cross some tracks as well. As you gain height the ground becomes drier and grassier and is a pleasant stroll. You should reach a wall which you can then follow (keep it to your left) to the summit area.
Before reaching the summit of Easter Cairn you will need to cross a barb wire fence. It is possible to squeeze through in the corner rather than climb it. You are then onto the final ascent to the fort. After this summit continue onwards following the wall on your left and a Scots pine plantation on your right to reach the highest point at Mid Cairn.
Descent for both routes
From either Mid Cairn or or Easter Cairn, cross the old wall at a convenient point and start heading roughly south west. Alternatively head over to the Wester Cairn area and start going south from there alongside a fence. By keeping to the west side of the field on your descent you avoid some steep ground with gorse bushes. The fence will curve left so that it is running in an east / west direction. If you descended from Mid Cairn or Easter Cairn you will meet this fence at some point. Assuming you kept to the west (right) of the field, keep the fence on your right hand side and follow it until you reach a gate at NT 040 929. If you came down over the steeper ground the gate may be to your right.
Cross the next field in a roughly south direction to reach another fence. This fence is broken in various places and should be easy enough to cross. If in doubt head for the right hand side of some gorse bushes where there is an easy crossing point. As you lose height the ground starts to get a bit rougher underfoot. You now have one final field to cross to reach the back of Steelend. A further fence must also be climbed to rejoin the path at the back of the houses. The fence has been well climbed so negotiating it shouldn’t be a problem. Alternatively there is a gate in the south west corner. If there are sheep in the field, it may be better to walk round by the field edge anyway.
View / download GPX track of this route from Viewranger.
View / download GPX track of this route from Ordnance Survey.
The red route below is the full route including both hills. The blue line shows the alternative longer but easier ascent of Knock Hill. The green line is the route up Saline Hill for the shorter walk.
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