For the 50+ Traveler

From the towering peaks of the Scottish Highlands to the flowing hills of the Lowlands, buried deep within the woodlands, or in the depths of the lochs, the mysteries of Scotland abound. One legendary mystery is carved out of the crimson red waters of an ancient gorge in Finnich Glen, just north of Glasgow.

The Devil’s Pulpit gorge in Scotland.

What Is The Devil’s Pulpit?

According to folklore, the name Devil’s Pulpit was given to a mushroom-shaped rock that rests in a stream at the bottom of Finnich Glen, a place where evil “visited.” The legend of evil visitations includes the Devil himself, who is said to have preached to followers from this submerged “pulpit,” after which third-century Druids performed secret rituals here. The lore goes on to say that later, later this was a place where witch burnings occurred.

The Devil’s Pulpit gorge in Scotland.

What Makes The Water Appear Red (And When It’s Brightest)

Just imagine the Devil himself standing in a stream, the water cascading around his feet. Now, imagine the water is the color of blood, and you’ll understand the sinister-looking scene that’s behind the name “the Devil’s Pulpit.” But, as enduring as the legend is, and no matter how much it’s pushed by locals to the tourists, the Devil’s toes did not turn the water to blood, in fact, it is caused by red sandstone found in the streambed. The red waters have become a popular spot for photographers, who say the stream is at its most colorful after good rain.

The Devil’s Pulpit gorge in Scotland.

Where You’ve Seen The Devil’s Pulpit

Over the centuries, the red waters and the enduring legends have attracted visitors to Finnich Glen, but just leave it to Hollywood to turn the location into a bonafide tourist attraction. The Devil’s Pulpit was first used as a film location in 2011. Film producers were looking for a menacing, murky yet timeless location to film scenes for The Eagle starring Channing Tatum, Jaime Bell, and Donald Sutherland. The Devil’s Pulpit fit the bill.

But it was Finnich Glen’s depiction as St. Ninian’s Spring in the popular first season of Outlander that solidified the public’s interest in the Devil’s Pulpit. In the show, a drink from the stream would induce a truth-telling spell, thus legions of fans began flocking to the area to test the water’s truth-coercing capabilities.

The Devil’s Pulpit gorge in Scotland.

Know Before You Go

Because an estimated 70,000 thrill-seekers visit the Devil’s Pulpit annually, issues of access and safety have increased in the past year. Plans were announced for local investment in new access paths and parking, but COVID-19 has forced a delay. Visit at your own risk as there is no marked trail and the climb down is said to be slippery and dangerous. 

While there are some public transportation options, it is recommended that you drive to reach Finnich Glen. Travel blog Finding The Universe says, “Finnich Glen / Devil’s Pulpit is about 15 minutes drive south from Loch Lomond, 90 minutes drive west from Edinburgh and 30 minutes drive north from Glasgow.”

It’s recommended to visit early in the morning, especially after rain, as the water will be at its most colorful. The summer months tend to be the busiest, so you may want to plan a visit during the fall or spring. Planning a Scottish getaway? Read up on one writer’s search for spirits on the Isle of Skye, plus how to spend 72 enchanting hours in the Scottish Highlands.