Must-see picturesque spots in a half-day trip from Glasgow: Finnich Glen (Devil’s Pulpit) and the lone tree at Milarrochy Bay
When you visit Scottish city Glasgow, there are some typical places you should visit, like Glasgow Cathedral, museums and galleries, George Square, Necropolis, Botanic Gardens and Kibble Palace, The Lighthouse. However, if you want more off the grid and photo-focused trip or you want to spend half a day in the countryside, then exploring this two beautiful nature’s treasures are just right for you.
This guide to Finnich Glen and the lone tree on Loch Lomond is here to inspire you and to show you how many great, awe-inspiring places there are in Scotland.
What is Finnich Glen (Devil’s Pulpit)
First stop is Finnich Glen, also known as The Devil’s Pulpit near Killearn in Stirlingshire.
It’s a 30 metres (100 feet) deep gorge known for the steep, vibrant green moss covered walls, red sandstone and the reddish coloured water (due to tannin).
The name Devil’s Pulpit referred to the mushroom shaped rock named for the similarity to the raised platform that preachers stand on in churches. There are many legends surrounding the pulpit, from that it is where the Devil addresses his followers, to that it was once the site of witch executions, and that is was once used by Druids for holding secret meetings.
I discovered this beautiful gorge a few year ago online on a Geograph web site while searching for places to photograph in Scotland. At that time it was still hidden and harder to find, but ever since it appeared in TV series Outlander his popularity has been growing. Despite growing popularity it is still a hidden gem. There are no signs or anything, but it’s likely you’ll meet other visitors.
How to get to the Finnich Glen
Location: on the A809 just south of Drymen, turn off for Killearn on the B834
Google GPS to the parking: 56°02’02.73”N 4°25’09.79”W
Due to location the best option is definitely going to be to drive yourself, as there aren’t any good public connection.
The Devil’s Pulpit is just 30 minutes from Glasgow by car.
Drive to the junction of A809 and B834 (see map below). There, at the junction, you will find a small parking space for 6-7 cars (use above GPS coordinates to the parking). There’s are also a small layby, for 2 cars, 200 – 300 metres south on the A809 where you can park (across from the entrance), but is usually full. This is a main road so please park responsibly, and watch for cars when you’re walking.
You need to walk along left side of the main road on foot from the intersection for 300 metres to the bridge. You will cross over a small bridge over Carnock Burn. On the left side, south of the bridge is a gap in the wall, which will lead you into the trees to the food path. You can see the route of the footpath in blue on the map above. Don’t go too close to the edge and follow the path for 5 – 10 minutes until you see a set of stone stairs, mark as Devil’s stairs on the map. Devil’s stairs are stone staircase, built in 1860, which runs down to the gorge below. Carefully follow the steps into the glen below, using the attached rope to help your down. Way down is very steep and in very poor condition. I advise a good walking shoes as the steps are muddy, wet and slippery. Once you at the bottom, the best photogenic spot is on the left at the small waterfalls. You need to walk upstream along the gorge until you reach the Devil’s Pulpit rock. The water gets to around knee height and can rise rapidly during rainfall.
For this trip I recommend hiring a car as there is no direct public transport to Finnich Glen.
If you don’t want to drive in the UK, you can still use public transport that will get you to Finnich Glen. From Glasgow take First Scotland East B10 to Balfron, get off at Killearn, then take the B9 Balfron Circular to Drymen and get off at Finnich Toll. However, there are only few B9 Balfon bus services and on weekday only, so you have to be organized before committing to this option.
You have also possibility to rent a private tour to the gorge and Loch Lomond, but this will generally be the most expensive way to get there.
When to go
You can visit gorge at any time, there are fewer people in the winter time. Just be aware that during period of high rainfall or snowmelt can be dangerous. Best to visit Finnich Glen is on a sunny day, as the colours of the water and the walls of the gorge will be more vivid.
– Hiking boots or shoes with good grip. I also recommend bringing wellies with you, since the water is very cold and you need to get closer to the waterfall. Also, you will get muddy, so dress appropriate.
– Camera, tripod, wide-angle lenses and filters. To take photos that turn the movement of waterfall, running river and swirls into smooth textures, you’ll need slower shutter speeds. You’ll need a sturdy tripod to be able to get quality photos within the gorge. Bring also your polarising and ND filters. A polarizer can be helpful for the glare coming off the water and wet rocks, and ND filter allows you to use long exposure without overexposing photos.
– Use fallen trees and logs for a good composition. Fallen logs can be very attractive compositional features in landscape photography, it helps to add depth and interest to your photo (see below).
– Bonus photo spot. There is another attractive spot for taking photos. Carefully climb back up the stair, turn left and walk along the gorge downhill until you reach the opening. Here are some very good spots to take photos. Water is a lot lower so you can easily walk the water’s edge up into the gorge with wellies. The green walls of the gorge are still high and you have nice twists and turns of the river in this part.
– Take litter home and stick to the path. Please treat this beautiful spot respectfully and don’t litter and don’t disturb other areas. There are some issues with disrespectful way it has been treated by some visitor.
After 2-3 hours of taking photos, make our way back to the car along the same route and continue to drive toward Drymen and take left to Balmaha, Loch Lomond, to find the famously “lone tree” and several rock compositions at Loch Lomond.
What is this lone tree at Milarrochy Bay
The lone tree at Milarrochy Bay is one of the most iconic lone trees in Scotland. A lone tree, partially submerged in the water, with the mountains in the background makes an attractive scenery. Milarrochy Bay is located on the east side of Loch Lomond and is a popular spot for local photographers.
How to get to the lone tree
Location: from the A809 continue to A811, turn left to Main St/B858, then turn left to Balmaha Rd/ B837 and continue to Balmaha, Milarrochy Bay
Postcode G63 0AL, Google GPS: 56°05’43.81”N 4°33’20.57”W
Driving from Finnich Glen (Devil’s Pulpit) takes about fifteen minutes. There is free, large car park at the beach, use postcode G63 0AL. Just note, that the car park is locked “out of hours” (check a sign with times). If you want take photos of the lone tree at sunset, then is better to park on the grass verge outside the gate (space for 2 cars).
Alternatively you can take the longer, scenic walk with great views across the loch, from the Visitor centre car park in Balmaha. It’s a 20 min walk one way. Walk begins from the Oaktree Inn (country pub with great food). Follow the path that is mark blue on the map above. From The Oak Tree pass small cottages and continue to the boatyard. The path then leads you along a narrow path and across a steel grid bridge. Then it takes you along the beach, through the woods until you reach the lone tree at the Milarrochy Bay. After photo session make our way back to Balmaha along the same route from which you set out.
Since there are no public transport connection from Finnich Glen, you would need to be very organized to take the B9 Balfron Circular to Drymen at Finnich Toll. In Drymen take 309, operated by Garelochhead Minibuses, to Balmaha Car Park. From Balmaha car park follow a 20 min trail along the Loch Lomond shore to the Milarrochy Bay (map above).
The way back to Glagow is easier. First you need to take the 309, operated by Garelochhead Minibuses, to Balloch. Once in Balloch take Scotrail train back to Glasgow Queen Street. The journey takes about 1:23 hour and cost around £9.00.
– Camera, tripod, wide-angle lenses and filters. Take the photo of the lone tree at sunset with long exposure.
– Take the longer walk. Walk from the Visitor centre car park will give you plenty opportunities to take photos of surroundings.
Since the recent popularity and issues the Finnich Glen is receiving, there is a plan in place for a new barriers footpaths and bridges that will make visiting the site safer and reduce environmental damage. However it’s still one of Scotland’s hidden gems and hasn’t been made an official tourist spot yet.