Falls in the Trossachs
By Louis Stott
There are several significant waterfalls in proximity to Loch Ard. The striking Waterfall of the Little Fawn is above Aberfoyle, close to the spectacularly sited David Marshall Lodge on the Duke’s Pass. The Allt a’Mhangan, the burn from which the fall gets its name, forms several attractive cascades including an upper fall of about ten metres after which it enters a wood of blackthorn, hazel, birch and willow before falling in an abrupt gorge, long known to botanists for its rich flora. The burn turns a corner, Camadh Laidir, before tumbling over a highly attractive broken 17-metre fall, reached by a much frequented forest trail from the information centre.
The Black Linn of Blairvaich on the Duchary, is probably best approached from a bridge above the fall, shown on maps, where an awkward footpath leads to its head. The Black Linn is set in a natural birch wood, behind is Ben Lomond, seen to great effect. Action scenes were shot here during the making of the 1953 film, Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue.
Above Loch Ard on the way to Ben Venue by the charming mountain path from the farm of Ledard, the visitor encounters the Falls of Ledard, which so charmed Walter Scott that he used the site in both Waverley and Rob Roy, ‘a spot the recollection of which yet strikes me with admiration’. Beyond the farmhouse the path climbs up beside the burn until you reach the beautiful rock pool described by Scott.
The visitor who has read Scott may be surprised at the small scale of the falls and be tempted to doubt his arithmetic, but no one will doubt his skill in describing the scene.
Eas Mor on Ben Dubh, the dark mountain wall above Loch Chon in the Trossachs, is a curiosity. It is well described in Campbell Nairne’s informative book about the Trossachs when he refers to the vanishing waterfall of Loch Chon:
In his description of Loch Chon, Graham (1806) mentions a spectacular cascade which could be looked for near the upper end of the lake. The existence of this cascade has been known locally for hundreds of years yet it is rarely seen. The reason is that it appears only after a period of heavy rain. A mossy hollow on top of the mountain wall overflows and the water shoots clown into the loch, a thousand feet below. Most of the fall is spray, but seen from a distance it is like a continuous white rope. After half an hour or so the cataract vanishes.
The Avon Dhu Falls are situated in the Pass of Aberfoyle at the foot of Loch Ard. They are hidden in the woods below the stepping-stones where the Avon Dhu, the infant Forth some say, creeps out of Little Loch Ard before rushing over two falls among rocks. Above the falls, on the way in to the forest, is the site of the millpond that fed the Corn Mill.
The charming Falls of Bruach Coaruinn are situated above the elaborate deserted settlement of Bruach Caoruinn where the path from Kinlochard to Rowardennan (and to Ben Lomond) leaves the Forest road. A visit to them can be combined with a visit to the settlement.
Bracklinn Falls are a short walk from Callander. Once an information board drew attention the medicinal herbs – such as tormentil and woundwort – to be found beside the path. It was the alpine quality of an insubstantial wooden bridge above the roaring falls that caught the imagination of Sir Walter Scott who was said as a young man to have ridden his horse at a gallop across it. He frequently stayed at Cambusmore where he begun to compose The Lady of the Lake. In the poem, his memorable epithet ‘wild as Brackland’s thundering wave’ helped to popularise the falls.
The old bridge has long been supplanted. The Scottish Woodlands Trust manages the woods and access has been improved. There is a way in from Bridge of Keltie on the A84 by Auchenlaich, where there is a significant chambered cairn, and, further up, a ‘Pictish’ fort. The Burn tumbles in a series of connected falls through rock gateways in near-vertical red sandstones and conglomerates. A consequence of the inclination of the rocks is that the falls have a foursquare appearance and there are precipitous cliffs above Brackland Glen, or as Scott puts it:
‘. . . Bracklinn’s chasm, so black and steep Receives her roaring linn,‘
In the Trossachs proper The Falls of Glenfinglas, still visible below the dam, were the scene of one of the most famous seductions of the nineteenth century. John Everett Millais determined to paint a waterfall as the background to a portrait of Ruskin, comparable with Turner’s treatment of waterfalls in the Alps and elsewhere. At the beginning of their holiday Millais was an admirer of Effie, Ruskin’s wife, and worshipped Ruskin; by the end of it he was complaining of Ruskin and was hopelessly in love with Effie. When Effie left Ruskin and married Millais the scandal which broke was the greatest since Byron’s day.
The portrait was abandoned in 1853 and finished in the studio in the following year. Ruskin considered it very fine, and it is one of Millais’ most famous works. Another picture ‘The Waterfall’ which shows Effie sitting beside another spot on the Turk was completed during the holiday. The Ruskin Viewpoint is reached from the Car Park on the Brig o’ Turk to Glenfinglas road. In the vicinity there are the fine Pass of Achray Falls where the path from Loch Achray to Ben Venue crosses the outlet from Loch Katrine.
The narrow defile of the Pass of Leny is a busy place. The river gorge at the Falls of Leny is scarcely able to accommodate the river, let alone the old military road, the more modern main road and the former Callander and Oban railway line, which criss-crossed the rapids in such a dramatic fashion. The line of the old railway now provides a footpath and cycle trail west of the river, which is the best way to see the falls. There are car parks at Kilmahog and at the foot of Loch Lubnaig. The river falls in twin cataracts, five metres high, rushing over rough rocks and nearly always providing an abundance of white water.]
From Stank farm a fine forest walk leads into the hills. There are various alternative routes (to be found on the internet). The roar of the fall in spate is obvious enough, but it is hidden in trees until the last minute. Stank Falls make three impressive leaps of about eight metres each before taking a sheer leap over a 25 metre fall. Lord Esher built a chapel at the foot of the glen where he intended to be buried. The chapel has two Stevenson epitaphs. It is still possible to appreciate what a superb site it was. He wrote to his son in 1902: ‘Such a day. An absolutely cloudless day. Not a speck in the azure. Lubnaig was like Como. No movement of the deep blue water, except an occasional ripple, when the lightest of breezes touched the loch.’