Kinross is a small town in Perth and Kinross, 13 miles south of Perth. With a population of 5100 (in 2016), it stands on the shores of Loch Leven, with the scarp of the Lomond Hills looming to the east and a mysterious giant golf ball to the west. The reason to visit is to take the boat across the loch to the island castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was held captive but escaped. Another island in the loch may be the place where Macbeth's theatrical fate was first set down.
The Lomond Hills are volcanic crags that force the route from the Fife coast (nowadays the M90) to pass this way before crossing the Ochil hills towards Perth. Kinross thus grew up as a market town in a fertile lowland plain. From 1890 it was the county town of the small county of Kinross-shire. In 1927 the county council adopted the sturdy slogan “For all time”, which turned out to mean until 1930 when they were amalgamated with Perthshire.
There isn't a physical tourist information centre, but see Visit Loch Leven online.
Stagecoach Bus 56 runs every two hours from Perth (the nearest railway station) to Bridge of Earn, Glenfarg, Milnathort, Kinross, Kelty, Halbeath P&R and Dunfermline.
From the P&R to town centre and on to the boat pier is only a mile. You'll need a car to get round the loch, eg to climb The Bishop.
- Loch Leven is the shallow freshwater lake east side of town: it may be the crater of a meteor impact. It’s triangular, 4 mile long by 1.5 miles wide, and is drained from its southeast tip by the River Leven, which flows east to the coast at Leven. In the early 19th C the upper river was canalised, the surrounding wetland drained for farming, and the level of the loch dropped by almost 5 foot. So its islands enlarged while new ones appeared. Much wetland remains, and the islands provide safe nesting for both resident and migratory birds, such as pink-footed geese in their thousands. The area is therefore a National Nature Reserve (NNR) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
- 1 Loch Leven Castle (10 min ferry from Kinross). Apr - Sep daily 10:00-16:15, Oct daily 10:00-15:15. Mary Stuart was only six days old when in 1542 her father James V died, and she became Queen of Scotland. Initially regents ruled the country while she lived mostly in France. Her husbands were short-lived: first Francis II of France, then Lord Darnley; Mary promptly married Bothwell who was suspected of Darnley's murder. In 1567 the pair of them were overthrown, and Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle and forced to abdicate. She made several attempts to escape and succeeded in 1568: the scene of her being rowed away has graced innumerable historical romances. She made her way to England thinking her cousin Queen Elizabeth would protect her: big mistake. The castle was built around 1300 and took up almost all of what was then a much smaller island. and an early visitor under duress was King Alexander III. In the 17th C it ceased to be used as a residence and fell derelict. It's now in the keeping of Historic Environment Scotland. You can stroll the peaceful woodlands while awaiting the return ferry. £9, best booked in advance as the ferry only has capacity for 12.
- 2 St Serfs Inch or Island is the largest in the loch. You'll probably just admire it through binoculars as there are no regular boat trips. Its ruined Augustinian monastery or priory is 12th century but stands on the site of a much older Culdee foundation. Macbeth’s theatrical fate may have been first written here, as its canon Andrew of Wyntoun related the witches’ prophecies in the Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland. This was written circa 1420 and Shakespeare drew on this source. Wyntoun also described Robin Hood.
- 3 Burleigh Castle, Burleigh Rd, Milnathort KY13 9GG. Interior Apr-Sep M-W and first Sa Su of month 09:00 - 17:00. 15-16th century tower house. The exterior and grounds are always accessible.
- 4 RSPB Loch Leven has bird hides, always open, adult £5. The visitor centre is open daily 10:00-17:00, cafe to 16:00.
- 5 Scotlandwell has been a spa and pilgrimage site since Roman times for its spring bubbling out of the hillside – Robert the Bruce is said to have been cured of leprosy here. By the 19th C it was “an almost unapproachable slough of mire and filth" but village and well were refurbished in the 1850s. They’re again becoming dilapidated.
- 6 The golf ball west of town is the radar dome of a former MOD comms base, containing a large dish antenna. Balado Bridge was an RAF airfield 1942-57 then from 1985 to 2006 was a Satcom II Satellite Ground Listening Station. From 1997 to 2014 the nearby fields hosted “T in the Park” annual music festival, which then moved to Strathallan Castle then folded. The airfield’s hard standing also supports a fine array of chicken sheds. The MOD sold the site in 2007; in 2019 it came back on the market with an asking price of £950,000. The main blockhouse is claimed to be proof against chemical and nuclear attack and chickens.
- See Leven for Falkland Palace 10 miles east.
- Loch Leven Heritage Trail circles the loch. It's firm going and barrier free. it's 13 miles to go round, so maybe one to cycle rather than walk.
- The Bishop is the scarp of the Lomond Hills that rises very steeply east of the loch. The best path starts opposite Portmoak Church 400 yards north of Scotlandwell. There are various rock formations, the most striking being the 30-foot Carlin Maggie, said to be a petrified witch.
- Glenfarg Folk Club meet every Monday night at 20:00 in the back of the Green Hotel, see "Sleep".
- 1 Kirkgate Park. Park with shoreline walks, children's play area, grass amphitheatre and wildflower labyrinth.
- 2 Milnathort Golf Club, ☏ . 9 hole golf course, clubhouse has bar and restaurant. 9 holes £15, 18 holes £20, winter 18 holes £10.
- 3 Scottish Gliding Centre, Portmoak Airfield KY13 9JJ (off B920). Gliding for beginners and the expert, launching by winch or tug plane to soar over the ridges.
- Paragliders also launch off the steep Bishop hill.
- Sainsbury's Supermarket, 65 Station Rd KY13 8FH (at P&R). Daily 08:00-22:00. Large, doesn't have a filling station, but there are charging points in the P&R.
- Caulders garden centre (formerly Dobbies), Turfhills KY13 0NQ. This garden centre with cafe is next to Kinross service station, west side of the M90 junction.
- Budget eats in town centre are La Casanova (Th-M 16:00-21:00), Raj Mahal (daily 17:00-22:30), and Mr Chans (W-M 16:30-23:00); plus several takeaways.
- 1 The Muirs Inn, 49 Muirs, KY13 8AU, ☏ . Inn opened in the 1800s with restaurant, bar and four guest bedrooms. Mains £10 - 22, High Tea (16:00 - 18:00) £15.95.
- 2 Grouse and Claret, Heatheryford KY13 0NQ, ☏ . Su Tu W 12:00-14:00, Th-Sa 12:00-14:00, 18:45-21:00. Great little restaurant just west of town, whose name correctly intuits just what you were seeking. They also have accommodation in a detached 3-bedroom cottage, sleeps six.
- 1 Loch Leven Brewery. Tap room Tu-Th 16:00-20:30, F 14:00-21:30, Sa 12:00-21:30, Su 12:00-20:30. Brews 4 different beers, with shop and tap room pub.
- 1 The Green Hotel, 2 The Muirs. 46 room hotel, which started as a coaching inn in the 18th century. Also runs the nearby Windlestrae Hotel .
- 2 Kinross House is a grand 17th C mansion just north of the park and ferry jetty. It doesn't operate as a standard hotel but you hire the lot for big events such as weddings, 24 rooms, sleeps 48. Daniel Defoe the author of Robinson Crusoe sang its praises, though he obviously decided that the islands in the loch weren't quite what he was looking for.
- 3 OYO Thistle Hotel, 25 New Rd, Milnathort KY13 9XT, ☏ . Clean well-run budget hotel, but the road outside is noisy with commuter traffic from dawn. B&B double £50.
- Lots of accommodation and other amenities near junction 3 of M90, ten miles south on the edge of Dunfermline.
- 1 Loch Leven Community Library. Tu-Th: 10:00-20:00, F: 10:00-18:00, Sa 10:00-13:00. Library with WiFi and a public computer, printer and scanner.
- South to Dunfermline, birthplace of tycoon Andrew Carnegie, to see the abbey.
- West to the lyrically-named Yetts of Muckhart, which is just a road junction. Either continue west to scenic Dollar and eventually Stirling, or branch north through Glen Devon, one of the most attractive glens of Scotland, to descend the other side via Gleneagles.
- East into Fife, especially the East Neuk with charming fishing villages such as Anstruther, and the highlight is classy St Andrews.
- North to Perth, an agreeable small city, with Scone Palace a few miles northeast.