Most people are drawn to Falkland to see the village that stood in for Inverness in the famous Outlander TV show. Few of these visitors realise that the little village sits right at the edge of a beautiful natural paradise, the Lomond Hills Regional Park. Trails into the park begin right at the famous market cross and happy hikers will quickly leave the bustling village behind for some peace and quiet in the hills. This is a guide to an easy loop trail in the glen of Maspie Den, which leads you to some amazing waterfalls and through peaceful woodlands. Put your boots on – we’re walking!
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When I first visited Falkland, I was like so many others on an Outlander Tour. Ever since the American TV show chose to shoot the scenes set in 1940s Inverness, in today’s village of Falkland, the town has been buzzing with fans of the show.
A day trip to Falkland
Falkland itself makes for a great day trip in Fife, and there is plenty to do and see in the village. First, there are all the Outlander locations. Falkland was chosen to stand in for Inverness, where Claire and her husband went for their second honeymoon after WWII. The Covenanter Hotel is where they stayed at Mrs. Baird’s bed and breakfast; the Market Cross is where the ghost of Jamie stood and watched Claire by her window; the shop window of Fayre Earth Gift Shop stood in for Farrell’s Hardware shop where Claire spotted a blue vase. Several of the back streets of the village were used throughout season 2 and with filming being done here for season 4, who knows which other corners of Falkland will be added to the growing list of Outlander film locations.
History buffs will love a visit to Falkland Palace and Gardens. It was once a palace for Scottish Kings and is now maintained by the National Trust for Scotland. Built in the 13th century, the castle was transformed into a royal palace during the 16th century. It is one of few Renaissance style palaces in Scotland (Stirling Castle is another one), and a particular highlight is the Royal Tennis Court in the gardens, the oldest tennis court in Britain. The palace fell into ruin eventually but was restored during the 19th and 20th century. Today the palace can be visited between March and October.
There are several cafes and tea rooms in Falkland, and you can dine at the Covenanter Hotel. Shopping is surprisingly good in the village with several local boutiques, such as Vintage Quine. Fayre Earth or The Wynd.
Why you should hike Maspie Den
When we looked for a suitable trail in the Lomond Hills Regional Park, we needed it to fulfill three things:
- It should be easy to reach by public transport;
- it shouldn’t be too strenuous and only last for 2-4 hours; and
- it should offer us gorgeous surroundings and views.
Hiking the trail up Maspie Den from Falkland is one of those walks in Fife that promised to have all of these and more! There are many ideas for great days out in Fife, but this hike is certainly on top of my list.
First of all, this trail actually starts in the village, rather than some random car park that might be hard or impossible to reach by bus. As my partner is not a huge fan of hiking, I work towards converting him slowly by choosing trails that are easy and quick, don’t require any particular equipment and offer great rewards. The Maspie Den loop trail is family-friendly and we saw loads of hikers with their dogs. The trail is easy to follow and clearly marked for most of the way. There are plenty of benches and scenic spots for breaks, and the surroundings change constantly, making for a hike that never gets boring!
As I said, the trail starts in the centre of Falkland village. From the market cross, with the church behind you, start walking up Cross Wynd. Soon you will leave the historical centre of the village behind, walk past some more modern flats and houses, and finally, get to the end of a small private road. From here a path towards East Lomond leads you into the woodlands.
Keep right at the fork and soon after, head up the wooden stairs on your left-hand side. This is by far the steepest ascent on this trail, so stick with me. Pass the waterworks and when you reach a fork up the hill, instead of continuing on the path to East Lomond, turn right.
Continue on this fairly straight track and take some breaks to enjoy the views back towards Falkland on the right-hand side. At the next fork keep right and descend through the woodland until you reach a minor road. Follow this road, but after a little while take a right turn through a metal gate.
The path now crosses Maspie Burn, the water that flows down the glen of Maspie Den. Just after the bridge, you will see a gap in the stone wall to your left, marked with the words Maspie Den. Turn left here and follow the path upstream, crossing a set of wooden and stone bridges (ignore the first wooden bridge you see).
You will soon reach a small waterfall, perfect for a little break and maybe a refreshing footbath. When you’ve had your fill of serenity, continue along the path, climbing further up the glen. Eventually, you reach Yad Waterfall, at the top of the glen. It might not be the grandest of all waterfalls in Scotland, but it certainly is one of the most unique places I’ve ever seen. Loop around and behind it, making your way through the recess on the cliff, and turn right at the next fork to begin your descent.
As you make your way back down the stream on the opposite side of the glen, you eventually come back to the gap in the stone wall where you entered the glen. Instead of going back across the bridge and towards the minor road, turn left and continue through the woodlands.
After walking through a stone-built tunnel, you will be able to see the House of Falkland through the trees. You cross a bridge leading towards it, but then bear left to walk around it. Finally, you will reach a tarmac road. Turn right on it and follow it all the way back to the village of Falkland.
Even though the path is fairly well-marked, I always prefer downloading a trail description in advance to make sure I stay on the right track. The most reliable source for hiking trails in Scotland is Walk Highlands, and you can find a detailed description of the walk up Maspie Den here.
What to wear
As this hike is not particularly strenuous, you don’t require any particular hiking equipment on the trail. We did this trail on a dry and sunny day, but since there is a lot of water in the glen, I recommend wearing good sturdy walking boots which you don’t mind getting dirty. The trail was quite muddy at places, especially in the forest and near the stream.
Dressing in layers is key, especially if the trail goes up and down and mixes sunny valleys with shadowy forest paths. We carried our waterproofs in a backpack but luckily didn’t need them.
The trail is well marked and easy to follow the above description, so you don’t require a map or compass.
I highly recommend bringing enough drinking water with you, as well as a little snack. There are no facilities along the way, the nearest cafes are back in the village of Falkland. There is a small cafe by the stables of the House of Falkland, which serves hot and cold drinks and sells a variety of cakes, sweet treats, and packets of crisps, but nothing vegan worth mentioning.
How to get to Falkland
Falkland is well connected by public transport and is easiest reached by bus. Most buses in Fife are operated by Stagecoach.
From Glasgow, Dunfermline or Edinburgh take a bus to Glenrothes first and change there onto another bus. There are several lines stopping in Falkland: 36, 64, 64A, 66, all operated by Stagecoach as well.
If you travel within Fife, consider getting a Fife Dayrider ticket for £9.10 which gives you unlimited access to buses around Fife all day long. We used a combination of Google Maps and the Stagecoach website to look up bus schedules and directions, which made it really easy to navigate!
By car, it takes about an hour to drive from Edinburgh to Falkland and just slightly longer from Glasgow.
Our hike at Maspie Den ended up being a perfect day out in the Lomond Hills Regional Park – just what we needed after a day of exploring Dunfermline and before returning to Glasgow.
If you’re looking for a scenic hiking trail to fit into your road trip from Edinburgh to the Highlands, make sure to swing by Falkland and stretch your legs on the trail to Maspie Den!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.