As part of a growing list of 2020 semi-lockdown outdoor day trips, we recently discovered Devilla Forest, near Kincardine. Given it’s within half an hour’s drive from home, I couldn’t believe we’d never been there before. It turned out to really be worth exploring – and maybe it was the weather or the soft autumnal light, but it was quite magical. We enjoyed it so much we went back for another visit a couple of weeks later. If you’re looking for an easy woodland walk near Edinburgh with lots to see, read on.
Devilla is one of the largest pine forests in the lowlands of Scotland, covering 700 hectares. It sits right beside the north bank of the Firth of Forth, near to historic Culross.
Planted mainly in the 1950s, Devilla sits on an area of moorland with a rich history. Dotted around the land are various standing stones with different stories attached to them, plus the site of a 17th century plague grave, and the ruins of a WWII explosives research station.
The name Devilla comes from the Gaelic meaning ‘bad farm’ or ‘place of no prosperity’. Sounds a bit spooky, but don’t worry – no spooks here. Apparently it refers to an area of land north of the forest which was not suitable for farming.
Follow the Red Squirrel Trail
One of the main attractions, especially for children, is the prospect of spotting red squirrels in the pine trees. Endangered red squirrels have made a stronghold here, leading to conservation efforts to keep them safe in the woodland.
The most popular walk at Devilla is a circular route of slightly over a mile called the Red Squirrel Trail. It’s flat and is easy walking.
A well-signposted path with squirrel-shaped markers leads you on a gentle route round one of Devilla’s four lochs, helping to keep kids interested and motivated to keep going!
Sadly we didn’t see any of the reclusive red squirrels, but we really enjoyed keeping our eyes peeled for any signs of them.
Toadstools and Dragonflies
While we didn’t spot any squirrels, we did see plenty of the resident dragonflies and damselflies, buzzing in the sun over the shores of the lochs. Apparently the lochs here are well-known for attracting them.
By far the most excitement of the day though, came from some of the best toadstools I’ve ever seen. Properly magical, fairies-in-residence toadstools were everywhere, and whenever we thought we’d found the winning specimen, better ones were round the next corner.
They were mostly the iconic fly agaric type, bright red or orange with white spots. Quintessential storybook toadstools. Among the others we saw were groups of common inkcaps all over tree stumps.
Devilla may look like nothing more than a pine plantation, but it actually has four lochs hidden throughout the forest.
The smallest and easiest one to find is Bordie Loch, which sits right in the middle of the Red Squirrel Trail.
The trail path takes a loop right around Bordie Loch, and there are picnic tables near the shore at both ends. At the south end, which is where this picture was taken, there are also some good trees for climbing, if you happen to have any little monkeys with you.
This spot is also where we saw large numbers of dragonflies buzzing about at the shallow water’s edge.
Also easy to find is the lovely area around the Keir Dam. To get here you need to take the small unmarked trail heading east just south of Bordie Loch.
When you get to the forest road, turn right onto it and then take the left back into the woods. This will take you through to Keir Dam, which is a tranquil spot full of reeds.
The one downside of Devilla, which has been voiced a bit on social media recently, is the resurfacing of some of the forest roads to a large gravel surface, which has made some areas unsuitable for cyclists and joggers. But if you’re just out for a walk, this won’t affect you. The Red Squirrel Trail is well away from these roads anyway, so if you stick to that, you won’t even see them. They’re mainly service roads for the Forestry Commission.
Getting to Devilla Forest and Facilities
Devilla is situated on the A985 Kincardine Bridge to Dunfermline road. There’s an entrance and gravel car park just off the road, about one mile east of Kincardine.
The car park tends to get really busy at weekends and in nice weather, so you might end up in the unofficial overflow car park on the grass verges by the road.
There are picnic tables in a couple of places on the Red Squirrel Trail, plus some others in the car park (although arguably that area would be better served by more parking spaces given how busy it gets).
There are no toilets at Devilla (but plenty of bushes).
Before you go, you can download a Devilla Forest map from Forestry Commission Scotland.