Deep within the primordial bowels of Finnich Glen, lies The Devils Pulpit. An ethereal grotto, gurgling with red tinged water, 70 feet below the Earth’s surface in Killearn, Scotland.
The “River of Blood” calls to you from the bottom of a decrepit stairway. As a result, down you start to climb. Take care as you scale the steep, slippery and crumbling steps into the chasm below.
This flight of 78 steps known as Jacob’s Ladder or the Devil’s Staircase, was built by John Blackburn, the proprietor of the Killearn estate, in the early to mid 1800s. The steps are so very old, they virtually decay below your feet. So be alert as you clamber down into this tiny crag into the earth.
As you are climbing down, it is difficult not to ask yourself if perhaps you have completely lost the plot.
But then, you see it!
Blood Red Waters of Finnich Glen
Finnich Glen is rich with verdant mossy foliage. Vibrant red sandstone stands out in eerie effect, as do the waters of the blood red burn.
The walls tower above, at points blocking out the sun. Elsewhere, sun streams in, casting spectral shadows and creating tracks of magical light.
The journey down and back up again, may be perilous… but the surreal beauty of Finnich Glen is undeniable.
The Devil’s Pulpit is an uniquely featured rock formation, which is often immersed beneath the rambling waters of the gorges underbelly.
Climbing into the glen and the subsequent ascent can be outright treacherous. Even the simple act of parking and walking along the road to get to the entrance is a death defying act.
Making your way out and back to your vehicle in one piece is surprisingly joyous.
Yet once within the vivid walls of Finnich Glen, beyond the sinister name The Devil’s Pulpit, nothing at the “den of the devil”, feels ominous in the least.
Braving the disconcerting climb for a glimpse of the serene and unusual beauty below.
Is it worth the risk?
Does the challenge of getting there make it all that more enchanting?
The Creation of Ashdhu / Ashdow / Finnich Glen
Through millennia the rambling water of Carnock Burn sluiced a short but deep chasm in the terra firma, eventually creating this remarkable glen.
Scotland is greatly made up of grey basalt rock. It’s sandstone and limestone is largely tan to brown. So when the distinctive red sandstone emerges from the depths in which it was naturally honed, it tends to create a rather dramatic sight.
The actual Devil’s Pulpit is not the gorge itself. It is a circular rock found within the burn.
When the waters are low, they flow around the rock formation giving it an air of mystical powerfulness.
Most who visit Finnich Glen do not even realise that the Devils Pulpit is a simply a stone at there feet and not the actual gorge they stand within.
Quote from a 1933 book “The Campsies and the Land of Lennox”
“Down in the channel is the Devil’s Pulpit, whither he was wont to go when he had anything of importance to say to those of his minions who lived in this area. A long flight of stairs leads to the channel, and when you are there you feel remote from the world. Only the moon is required to produce the most weird and awesome effect.”
There is some Celtic lore involving Druids and even the Devil himself for this place. But most of today’s stories about The Devils Pulpit, its dodgy staircase and the “River of Blood” are of recent provenance, made up by those trying to enhance its mystery. “Cough” bloggers “cough”.
Is The Devils Pulpit a darkly enchanting natural phenomena?
Or is it of supernatural origin?
I’ll leave that up to you.
Descending into The Devils Pulpit / The Devils Steps
It doesn’t look so bad from above when you first start out, but once you descend a few steps… there is no doubt just how cumbersome this climb can be.
Built over 100 years ago, this crumbling staircase is slippery, covered in mud and moss and extremely unstable
Many steps have slipped to new positions, pushed up by an invading tree, making them less like steps and more like slides and hurdles.
There is nothing to hold on to and the rock wall sides are sharp. The offending tree juts out of the middle of the steps, forcing you to climb over and around it part way down.
One step is tilted so far forward, I had to scoot down it on my butt, covering my backend in slimy red mud. So bring towels, but leave them up above. Don’t carry much on the way down, for it is already easy to slip and fall to the unyielding rock floor below.
Once safely past the slimy rocks, over the perilous tree and past the tilted step, you come upon some actual steps still in place. Then the steps just cut off and you must jump or scamper down to the gorges muddy floor.
Yet with feet finally upon the embankment below, the glen floor is still a hazardous place. Remain cautious.
Inside The Devils Pulpit
As you climb the craggy steps into Finnich Glen, if not totally encumbered by the exertion of your descent, you will notice the air cools as you make your way down.
The atmospheric changes are similar to that of the The Glen, in Sligo Ireland.
It is as if you have descended upon a separate world.
The bewitching effect sweeps you away momentarily. A calm descends. Then some white kid with beauty salon dreads starts yelling to his bikini clad, barefoot wife (how the Hell did she climb down here?) while setting up a $6000 video rig WITH LIGHTS, in the middle of it all and you are immediately brought back to reality.
This once illusive and magical place, has been overwhelmed by those looking for locations off the beaten path.
But this path is now certainly well beaten.
Beautiful as it may be, this attraction that has managed to remain untainted for centuries is quickly sliding towards it demise.
Be gentile on your visit. Take out with you, everything you brought in and remain on the path specified.
The Devils Pulpit is always cooler and more humid than the area above and a strange dampening of sound occurs, making it quieter than the world above.
The red tinged water is clear enough to see the bottom. The trickling water is clean and cool.
Rest upon the tree that seems to have fallen just right for you to sit and rest. Kick at the water, as sunlight streaks from the sky in Godlike tendrils.
Take off your shoes and leave them to the side so that you may wade into the clear, clean water.
Then cross the stream and head to the small waterfall.
Some will wander beyond this point to the larger waterfall that flows from the rocky outcrop above which is the highest point of Finnich Glen.
Keep in mind, the Devils Pulpit can trap people in its steely grasp, as the waters quickly rise. You are now at more than 70 feet below the surface, subsequently there is no phone signal down there.
Finding The Devil’s Pulpit / Finnich Glen
Finnich Glen is located in Stirlingshire, east of Finnich Bridge on A809, about 15 miles from Glasgow. (OSGB36: NS 4961 8489 [10m precision] WGS84)
The road (A809) is busy and dangerous. The locals are sick of dealing with inconsiderate people that treat the area like their own personal playground.
Please park respectfully and keep safety in mind, for you and everyone around you.
Unlike what other bloggers advise, enter at the gate just east of the bridge. Above all, do not disturb other areas or go barreling through the trees at another spot. Finnich Glen is on private property. Therefore left in trust for all to enjoy. Please do don’t abuse the privilege.
People live here, hence it is reasonably upsetting to them to see people tromping carelessly about a long beloved place.
Do not park on the verge by the bridge. It’s an insanely dangerous place to park. Don’t block anyone in and be aware of traffic. The speed limit is 60 mph on that narrow and winding roads, subsequently there are a lot of blind spots.
Once entering the wee gate at the foot of the bridge, the slightly obvious path takes you to the left. Flanked by Finnich Glen on the left and fencing to the right, just follow the path via the swath of discarded socks and beer bottles.
” alt=”Path to jacobs Staircase and the entrance to Finnich Glen / The Devils Pulpit Scotland 2018 RootlessRoutes” width=”749″ height=”1000″ /> Path to jacobs Staircase the entrance to Finnich Glen and The Devils Pulpit Scotland 2018 RootlessRoutes
Walk along the wooded area between the Glen and the fencing and you will come upon The Devils Pulpit entrance.
You will know you are close, by the trail of discarded wet socks, discarded garbage and likely a group of people seemingly disappearing into the ground.
Take everything you arrive with back out with you and pick up any litter you might see along the way. Don’t be an ass.
Respecting The Devil’s Pulpit / Finnich Glen | The Outlander Phenomena
Due to the popularity of Outlander, along with other commercial connections the visitors to The Devils Pulpit is much increased. Hence irresponsible behavior has led to serious abuses of the landscape and littering is rampant. Consequently, minor injuries and even more, full out rescue operations have become more and more common.
A new caution sign has now been erected at the site of Devils Pulpit / Finnich Glen, so take heed, since many people traverse The Devils Pulpit without appropriate climbing gear.
Often visitors park in dangerous locations with little regard to the locals.
Blocking traffic flow and carelessly walking along a highly trafficked, high speed roadway that has no verge is not only rude it is just plane stupid.
Plan ahead and be conscientious if your surroundings.
The Future of Finnich Glen / The Devils Pulpit
Visit Finnich Glen early in the day in order to avoid the crowds, since it is no longer even remotely obscure. Dozens of people visit every day. In result, there are a lot of kids trying to climb down in inappropriate footwear such as like flip flops or even platform shoes.
Killearn Glen which includes Finnich Glen / The Devil’s Pulpit was left to the Gordon Trust in 1980, on the condition that public access would be maintained to the site in perpetuity. Because of this, overuse and dangerous behavior will inevitably cause authorities to regulate access to Finnich Glen itself. Be kind to your surroundings and attentive to others. Do your best to park safely.
Don’t be an inconsiderate ass or The Devils Pulpit might just get you!