A Scottish Stroll off the Tourist Trail

A white water rapid of the Falls of Lynn in North Ayrshire, Scotland in winter

Lynn Glen is a pleasant circular walking route around the river and falls of the same name and, like many places in Scotland, has some interesting stories and history attached to it. This is a good choice for an easy afternoon stroll if you’re in the area or looking for something a little more off the beaten track when traveling Scotland. As always I personally went around it armed with a camera and considering the place in terms of writing inspiration. So let me take you on a little journey around the glen and you can get a little inspiration of your own.

The small town of Dalry in North Ayrshire isn’t on most people’a lists of places to see in Scotland and now that the Micheline starred restaurant that used to be there has now closed, there perhaps seems like even less of a reason to visit. Like many such places I’ve been in Scotland though, I’d say that would be a mistake. The town is small and doesn’t have much available to fill your time but it’s a pleasant community in some lush, green, and gently rolling countryside.

The town is also easy to access by train from Glasgow via Paisley making it a fairly easy choice for an out of city Scottish day trip. Once in Dalry Lynn Glen, encompassing Lynn Falls, is a brief walk to the south west of the town. If you’re traveling by car then there’s parking available at the terminal point of the walk. Once at the car park you have a choice of which way round you want to walk. Leaving the car park and turning right will take you to the gate and path along the south side of the glen whilst following the path from the car park takes you along the north side. As the river is flowing in a kind of north east direction, and the north side path is higher than the south, then the former means you approach the falls from down stream and so get more of a view of the falls as you walk towards them. I personally think this is a little more impactful.

The whole glen is within a gentle, modest woodland and carved out of some very interesting geological structures. The rock is made up of the remains of shallow sea coral reef and tropical rainforest. An impressive reminder of how far this part of Scotland has moved before it collided with that mass of ancient mountain remains that now sit to the north of the Clyde. I had a bit of a look to try and find the remains of ammonites and trilobites but no luck. The stratification in the rock is fascinating and beautiful enough though. Much of it weathered into waterpark slide curves and twists by the regular west coast rainfall.

Dotted throughout the trees and rock faces are small wooden sculptures, fairy doors and miniature houses. Large wooden mushrooms twist their way out of the ground in clearances, often flanking small benches. The additions from the local community are evidently regularly updated, which is nice to see, but at times the pathways look like they are in need of some upkeep. It should be noted that this is definitely a footpath and the regular anti-cycle gates make it quite clear that cycling this short route is not tolerated. Perhaps not surprising given the additional wear and tear that the route would endure.

The falls are a selection of white water rapids with a significant, if not gigantic, drop off known as the Lynn Glen Spout. If you’re walking clockwise following the south side first this can be a dramatic, thundering, revelation through the trees. I was there after a prolonged period of storms and heavy rain so the river was particularly bloated and the falls roared against the rocks with Thor’s anger. I know that some photographers will venture down the steep slopes of the glen to get to the best position to capture the fall in all its glory, but for me it was too wet and risky. Perhaps if I return in the winter I’ll go for it.

As the river begins to calm, a little further up stream, there are a few openings and clearances in the wood with benches and more sculpture. These looked like great spots to sit and take in your surroundings. What I refer to as notebook stops. There you can while away a little time listening to bird song, reading your book or getting a little writing done. Also at this point is the small bench commemorating a woman named Bessie Dunlop.

Bessie Dunlop is a tragic tale for the area but one that’s all too common. She was a 16th century resident of the parish of Dalry, married to a local farmer. Bessie was well known throughout the area as a ‘Skeelywife’ and a ‘Howdie’ (healer and midwife in todays vernacular) people also believed her to have supernatural powers to find lost and stolen items. She was likely Lynn and Dalry’s very own Miss Marple. That was until she seems to have uncovered a case of local corruption on the part of the local Sheriff Officer, Jamie Dougall, over the matter of stolen plough irons.

Soon after Bessie was accused, interrogated and tried for witchcraft. She was taken to Edinburgh where she was tortured until providing a ‘confession’ and her trial took place before an entirely male, land owner, jury at Edinburgh High Court of Justiciary on the 8th November 1576. She was burned to death not long after on Edinburgh Castle Hill, demonstrating how important the authorities felt her case was due to her ‘confession.’ Her story had implicated a Baron Officer of the Laird of Blair who had died years previously at the Battle of Pinkie and implied that she had also been communing with fairies. Hence the woodland sculptures.

This horrific tale was immortalised in a drama written by John Hodgart and Martin Clarke first performed in 1977 with a revised version published in 1995. I personally always find these stories heartbreaking and this one in particular struck a cord as I walked this route with my sister, who’s a midwife. People can do terrible things to each other based purely on belief no matter how crazy that belief might look to others. I try to remind myself of that fact, and that I am no different, just as fallible, just as likely to fall into the traps of belief based action without deliberately questioning myself.

If you take the clockwise route there is a signpost with more in-depth information about Bessie Dunlop just before you return to the car park, or just after you’ve left the car park if going in the opposite direction. In the same spot you’ll also find a number of picnic tables and benches amongst the greenery. A calm little spot to have some lunch if you’re carrying it with you. I didn’t have anything with me though so it was time to move on and find Scotch pies and scones in West Kilbride. If you like hearing about a bit of history you can read my post about Kilcreggan and the Clyde Steamers or perhaps Coldingham.

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A J Merron

A J Merron

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I’m a writer, photographer and documentarian based in Scotland.