I love coming across scenic walks in Scotland that are hardly known outside their local area and its even better when they are steeped in history and legend. Crichope Linn near the hamlet of Gatelawbridge in Dumfries and Galloway certainly ticks all those boxes. I only came across the details of the trail thanks to local literature provided for guests during my stay at the nearby Trigony House Hotel and I was immediately intrigued. A search on Google provided some spectacular images of the waterfall and gorge, along with a few tales of the famous visitors that had once frequented this now almost forgotten about part of southern Scotland. It was time to explore this hidden gem for myself...
The entrance to the walk is easy to miss with just a rustic sign pointing the way from the quiet, minor road. A small parking area nearby is enough to accommodate a few cars and the start of the route was concealed by greenery when I visited. At the bottom of this blog I've pinned the location on a Google map to make it easier for you to find.
The first section of the trail runs through a wooded area before meeting up with a stream that flows down from the waterfall ahead. Occasional remnants of an old footpath are the only survivor of a network of tracks, bridges and viewing points that existed when Crichope Linn was a popular destination for Victorian tourists. Today it is a bit more hazardous to get around with muddy narrow paths, slippery rocks and fallen trees. The current atmosphere of overgrown abandonment makes it hard to imagine that this was once a famous and well frequented Scottish beauty spot.
After a short jaunt through the trees, the path opens up to reveal mossy covered red sandstone walls that tower upwards either side of the gorge. Countless visitors over the centuries have left their mark on the soft rock faces and it is even said that the initials of Robert Burns can be found among the stone carvings. I didn't spot them but he did live at nearby Ellisland Farm so there is every possibility that he visited here.
Other famous literary figures that definitely were inspired by the unique scenery were Thomas Carlyle and Sir Walter Scott who featured Crichope Linn in his novel 'Old Mortality'.
Much like the walk at Puck's Glen near Dunoon, the lush verdant growth creates an otherworldly setting that lends itself to mythical folklore. Perhaps that's why it was believed that supernatural beings inhabited the gorge, including elves who were said to congregate on a now destroyed stone known as the 'Elf's Kirk'.
As the gorge narrows, the path leads up to a viewing point that is almost concealed from the approaching side by shadow and damp-loving plants. Entering the narrow gap reveals a shelter of uniquely sculptured sandstone pillars and stepping beyond uncovers a fantastically dramatic view of the cascading waterfall plunging over the lip of the rock towards a dark, frothing pool below.
This view is the real highlight of the walk and I personally found Crichope Linn to be unlike anywhere else I've been in Scotland. What I would add is that the viewing point is a hazardous spot and even though I'm not scared of heights, I was still very wary of getting too close to the edge. One slip on the wet rock and it is a long drop to the blood coloured water that flows below!
This nooks and crannies of this area also provided cover for local Covenanters who concealed themselves here during times of persecution in the 17th century, known as the 'Killing Times'. Covenanters were a group that signed the National Covenant in 1638 confirming their opposition to the attempts of the interference by the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. It is estimated around 18,000 were killed during this period, with even more tortured or imprisoned so it is understandable why they would flee to a place like this for safety.
After stopping off at the viewpoint there is the option to continue the walk up a flight of worn steps to a path above the waterfall but I decided this was a good point to turn back as I had some other nearby attractions on my list for that day.
One of my missions with my blog is to write about places that I feel are worth exploring but don't normally feature in the usual Scottish guidebooks and Crichope Linn is definitely one of those places. I also made this short video for my Facebook page to try and capture the experience a bit better than photographs could. The footage was filmed on my phone so isn't the best but it should give you a better idea of how unique this place is.
This is a short but rewarding walk, although I do recommend wearing good outdoor footwear and don't forget your camera!
If you do decide to visit, this Google map should give you an idea of where to find the start of the walk. There is a small area for parking nearby.
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