Walk 180 – Dean Woods from Cairneyhill via West Fife Way – 7.6 miles

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This is a semi-circular route starting in the village of Cairneyhill. It takes advantage of the nearby West Fife Cycle Way and network of connecting farm tracks and rights of way to reach the impressive Dean Plantation. Once there you will experience Pitfirrane Dean - a deep gorge, before returning to the village via woodland footpaths and the quiet Pitdinnie Road. 

For a similar but shorter route try Walk 114 – Dean Plantation from Cairneyhill which is 4.3 miles. 

Print  Dog-friendly walk (one small stile – avoidable)

  Parking area at the Scout Hall, Cairneyhill ( KY12 8RN). If travelling by bus I suggest getting off on Main Street, Cairneyhill (war memorial) and picking up the route on Pitdinnie Road* (see route description below).

Dean Plantation via West Fife Cycle Way


Sometimes the best walks are those unplanned ones, and this is a fine example. It was planned in so much as I knew I was heading to my friend’s house in Fife to go a walk together, but for once I hadn’t planned every minute detail in advance. We headed out hoping to check out the cycle track behind Cairneyhill and also some of the minor footpaths inside the Dean, none of which we had explored as yet.

I had wanted to see this cycle track for ages now! I don’t actually know why, as most former-railways-turned-cycle-tracks look the same and this one was no different: Amazing for traffic-free cycling but a little boring for walks – unless you are with your besto in which case they are ideal for gossiping on whilst plodding along at a good pace with little chance of taking a wrong turn!

West Fife Way between Cairneyhill & Dunfermline

After this point the path became rather more difficult to manage. We actually weren’t sure at first if this was indeed the way – my map told me it was, but it was so overgrown that it barely resembled a path at all. We asked the lady from the farm (who happened to be out in the stables) and she confirmed that this was the right of way and so with her permission off we set into the jungle!

Tricky to find a way through! There were lots of nettles amongst other things and I was grateful to be wearing thick trousers and long socks. My friend – in leggings – didn’t get off so lightly.

The nice lady from the farm had advised us that up ahead we should avoid the very tempting wide track on our left, as there is often a bull there. So we did what we were told and headed over a stile into the small wooded area, which turned out to be very pleasant albeit pathless. Had we not spoken with the local, we probably wouldn’t even have noticed the stile to be honest… As it turned out on this occasion there was no bull and we would have been fine but then we wouldn’t have found these cute baby apples!

Baby apples found in the woods – hundreds of them! 
The pathless woods – or maybe it’s hidden beneath the autumn leaves! 

We were now on familiar territory, having crossed these fields previously coming in the opposite direction. I felt drawn to taking a photo of this excellent signage – I often use Fife as an example of best practice when speaking to people about core paths networks: any track, trail or footpath you come across, no matter how minor, always has a way marker. In this case, we were in the midst of several massive fields – not only did the signs help guide us, but they also gave us a sense of having permission to be there. Having a network of these all over the county encourages exploration, walking in general and a more active lifestyle. And I am all about that!

Well done Fife on the excellent signage 🙂

So we had now walked pretty far and had yet to even arrive at the Dean never mind explore it’s off-the-beaten-track options. We agreed that so far it had been a sufficiently varied walk to keep us interested and excited about what was still to come. Added to that the fact that Mr Sunshine had made an appearance and it was verging on perfection. A short walk along the busy-ish Lundin Road took us to the forest entrance and we set off on our adventure. We hoped to find a way down into the gorge and be able to follow the burn back up – we were confident we had seen paths down there on previous visits. This was my favourite part of the day!

Footpath along the burn deep inside Pitfirrane Dean gorge

The burn was looking rather pathetic to be honest, very low on water and full of leaves. However that turned out to be a good thing as we soon realised that our path crossed it at least four times on the way up the gorge! In spate, it would be a wellies job. This was also a very boggy section even though in general the ground within the woods was far drier than we had experienced in the past. So I imagine it must get pretty muddy down here after a lot of rain! Still well worth doing though – just a case of being prepared.

Back on the main path we found where we were supposed to turn right but the sun was getting low and we were conscious of time. What appeared to be a continuation of the main access path through the woods, went on past our turning and according to my map it would just end suddenly. It seemed hard to believe looking at it! We were curious, and it would be a shortcut for us if we could find a way through, so we decided to investigate. To our dismay the map was right and we had to double back…. At least we now know!

One benefit of walking later in the day is catching the sunset and tonight’s was a fine example! I caught the beginning of it through a clearing in the trees (photo below) but afterwards as we walked back down Pitdinnie Road to Cairneyhill, the sky began to glow vibrant red. Quite something!

Sunset above Cairneyhill & Crossford, looking out to the Firth of Forth

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