Loch Leven in the South East corner of Perth and Kinross, Scotland
The walk as described is about 11 miles, and is a reasonably flat walk round a loch. I must confess that I've never walked right round myself, but the first 2 miles or so are definitely wheelchair friendly. Beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife and a small town for pubs and cafes.
How to get there
For SatNav, the nearest post code is KY13 8DS. This is Burns-Begg st. when the road forks for Kirkgate park.
Leave the M90 at junction 6, Kinross, and take the right turn off (heading North) signposted 'Kinross, Milnathort' on the A922. Turn right at the 'T' junction into the town centre, then third left, signposted 'Loch Leven attractions'. After about 100 yards take the left fork, signposted 'Kirkgate Park'. This narrow road leads to a large car park by the Loch.
You can see a map of the route here.
Starting from Kirkgate Park, walk down to the loch, then follow the pathway to the left, clockwise round the loch. Keep walking for 11 miles, and you will return back to the park.
OK, in a bit more detail. As the path leaves the park, it rounds a building on the corner of a graveyard, with a fine view to Loch Leven castle on its island. The path then goes past Kinross House, which you might catch a glimpse of in winter but there is too much greenery in summer. Now the path contiues on past a swamp, then through some woods. At this point the walk can be a bit disappointing, as the view of the loch is obscured by a wild life sanctuary. Eventually, the walk continues along side a stream, over a bridge, then across a field to a point where the view opens up. You can get down to the loch shore, where there is a sandy beach, and excellent views of Munduff hill to the east and Benarty hill to the south.
This is the limit of my knowledge, but the path, or the Kinross Heritage Trail as it is called, was well signposted up to here, and is hopefully well signposted right around. As you come back to Kinross, the attached map takes you up the town high street, but in fact the trail crosses the Gelly burn nearer the loch.
Loch Leven may well have been formed by an asteroid impact about 270 million years ago. The Loch Leven area has been inhabited for thousands of years and the remains of a crannog exist in the shallow water near the pier. Crannogs are up to 5000 years old and are artificial islands built out onto a Loch, connected to the shore by a removable causeway. This made the crannog defensible, and it was typically inhabited by a large family.
Loch Leven Castle also featured in the wars of independence, being one of only five Scottish castles to hold out against the English after the defeat at Halidon Hill. According to Blind Harry, William Wallace captured the castle from the English and slew the garrison along with their wives. However Blind Harry was never one to favour historical fact over entertaining fiction, and it is possible that this event did not happen.
The most famous person associated with Loch Leven Castle is Mary Queen of Scots. When she surrendered to her nobles at Carberry Hill in East Lothian, she was first taken to Edinburgh, then imprisoned at Loch Leven Castle in 1567. Here she was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son, who became James VI.
Strong rumours exist that she also gave birth again while she was there, either to a daughter who was smuggled off to France where she was kept in a convent, or she gave birth to stilborn twins who are buried on the island in an unmarked grave.
Loch Leven was partial drained in 1826-36, and the water level was 4 feet higher in Mary's day, so the island was smaller, with just room for the walled castle enclosure and and a small garden, so there was not much space for burials. However, Mary's ghost is supposed to haunt the castle, looking for her lost children.
Mary escaped from the island the following year. She became friendly with a young man called Willie Douglas. As part of the May Day festivities, Willie disguised himself as the Abbot of Unreason and got the castle garrison roaring drunk. Aided by some of Mary's followers, he disabled the castle boats, leaving just one free in which he rowed Mary ashore. The Laird of Kinross had not been supportive of Mary, but her party stole some of his horses on which they rode off.
There was no happy ending of course. Mary raised an army, but was defeated at the battle of Langside. She then fled to England, but she was imprisoned and eventually executed by her cousin Queen Elisabeth I.