Just a half hour from Glasgow, Scotland, you’ll find the Devil’s Pulpit, a trail down to a blood red waterfall and stream, flowing between the towering walls of a moss-covered gorge. Sounds intriguing? This trail, also called Finnich Glen, is definitely fascinating, as well as beautiful and, well, just a wee bit spooky. Here’s everything you need to know about the Devil’s Pulpit, Scotland’s most unique hike.
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Scotland is home to some pretty epic trails, from the Old Man of Storr hike to the Quiraing Walk. That being said, the Devil’s Pulpit is undoubtedly one of the coolest hikes my husband, Justin, and I have ever been on—and given that we’ve hiked a LOT, all around the world, that’s saying something!
Between the eerily-colored water, the lush walls, and the towering trees above, it’s no wonder that the gorge has been used as a shooting location for a variety of films and TV shows, from Outlander to King Arthur: Legend of the Sword to even Detective Pikachu.
About the Devil’s Pulpit
Length: 0.4 miles (0.6 km)
Elevation: 65 feet (20 meters), all of which are down a steep and sketchy stone stairway, known as the Devil’s Steps, that would be straight up treacherous in the rain
Dog-friendly? Dogs are technically allowed on the trail, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it, due to the aforementioned Stairs of Doom
How long does it take to hike the Devil’s Pulpit? The trail is pretty short and could easily be done in about 30 minutes or so, if you’re just hiking straight to the Devil’s Pulpit and back out again. That being said, Justin and I spent a couple of hours here, taking photos and videos and just drinking in the incredible views. So I’d budget a bit of extra time here so that you can take all the photos you want!
Pssst… the area around the Devil’s Pulpit hike isn’t well-marked and has LOTS of unmarked social trails that just wander off into the woods or along sketchy cliffs. Accordingly, I’d suggest having the trail map pulled up on AllTrails and navigating around using that—when Justin and I went, we had to guide another family along the right trail because they kept going down the wrong path!
Why Is It Called the Devil’s Pulpit?
I come from the Pacific Northwest in the United States, where lots of things have metal-sounding names, like Thor’s Well and Devil’s Cauldron. Many of these features don’t quite live up to theirthese intense names, but the Devil’s Pulpit, with its nightmarish blood red waters, definitely looks the part.
But why exactly is it called the “Devil’s Pulpit”?
While, colloquially, most folks refer to the hike and the entire gorge as the “Devil’s Pulpit”, this name really just applies to a moss-covered sandstone formation that looks similar to a preacher’s pulpit, near the end of the hike (the gorge is actually called Finnich Glen).
And, given the whole “blood red river” thing going on behind the rock formation, I suppose that “Devil’s Pulpit” sounded a bit more fitting to its early visitors. In fact, it’s local legend that Satan himself stood upon the pulpit and, as he ordered his followers to commit horrible acts on the surrounding communities, the water rushing through the gorge turned a bloody shade of red.
Beyond just Lucifer, there’s plenty of other folklore that surrounds this place—like it was once a meeting place for witches or Druids. Y’know- same old, same old.
Why is the water in the Devil’s Pulpit red?
Good news. The water isn’t actually blood—or even red! The water simply looks like blood, due to the color of the gorge’s sandstone and the orange-y sediment in the surrounding soil.
Still, given the spooky vibes of this place, I think I’m going with that whole Satan story.
How to Get to the Devil’s Pulpit
Located in Craighat, the Devil’s Pulpit is conveniently located pretty close to some of Scotland’s largest cities, about half an hour northwest of Glasgow or an hour and 20 minutes west of Edinburgh. It’s also generally located along the route if you’re headed from Glasgow to explore the beautiful western Highlands, like to see the Hogwarts Express train in Fort Williams or the Three Sisters in Glencoe.
There unfortunately, there isn’t a public transit option from either of these cities to the trailhead (without having to walk an additional six or so miles roundtrip from where a bus would drop you off), so you’ll generally need a rental car for this one if you’re visiting Scotland as a tourist.
There’s a pretty small parking lot, located here, about a 5 minute walk down the road from where you’ll start the actual trail. We visited the Devil’s Pulpit on a Sunday around noon in July and finding parking in the narrow lot was definitely interesting.
If you’re visiting on the weekend during the busy summertime, I’d suggest coming early so you can snag a spot—and hopefully, get the gorge mostly to yourself!
What to Expect Along the Devil’s Pulpit
From the parking lot, you’ll walk south alongside the road about 0.2 miles (0.3 km) to the actual start of the trail, which is just past an old bridge and over a doorway cut into a stone wall.
The first 0.1 mile of the trail is through a forest, along a dirt path that gently slopes uphill and offers beautiful views of the surrounding farmland. While this part of the trail definitely isn’t challenging, it can get pretty muddy, especially during really rainy periods, so I wouldn’t recommend wearing shoes that you’re not willing to get a bit dirty.
Additionally, parts of the trail are along the crumbly rim of the gorge itself—Justin tripped over a root on the path and, had he been just a few inches to the right, would have plummeted to his death in the blood red stream 70-feet below—yikes! I’ve also heard there have been a few “rescues” due to visitors falling off the rim of the gorge so be super careful along the edge here!
Soon after, you’ll reach the aforementioned sketchy Devil’s Stairs, a haphazard set of stone steps constructed in a small slot canyon leading down to the gorge. The steps were originally constructed in the 1860s and appear to not have been maintained since then. Some of the stairs are broken, while others have rotated diagonally from their original position in a way that creates something more akin to a slide than an actual staircase.
While I think hikers of any skill level can climb these stairs without any issues, you’ll definitely need to do so slowly and carefully—they’re incredibly slippery, even in the best conditions.
Accordingly, I’d recommend wearing proper hiking shoes with traction to help provide some grip on the slick surface. For example, Justin and I swear by Topo hiking boots (here’s a pair for men and here’s a pair for women) or, if you’re visiting when it’s warmer, we have a cult-like love for our Teva hiking sandals (here’s a pair for men and here’s a pair for women).
I’d also suggest avoiding visiting the trail when it’s wet or icy—it would be a steep and very rocky fall down to the bottom of a gorge!
Once you reach the bottom of the steps, you’ll officially be at the bottom of Finnich Glen! Marvel at the towering green walls and dense trees above you and the vibrantly red water flowing down through the canyon.
To see the gorge’s waterfall and the actual Devil’s Pulpit itself, you’ll need to make it across and up the stream, towards the left, about 150 feet or so (45 meters) to an embankment. There’s a few large rocks and small ledges in the gorge walls that you can step on along the way, but most people need to wade in the stream, which can be over knee-high in certain areas, for at least a bit.
Accordingly, be prepared to take off your shoes if you’re not wearing something that can double as water shoes (like my beloved Tevas) and pants that you can either roll up above your knees or that you’re okay with getting wet! Additionally, as you walk along the stream, be very careful as the depth of the water can change pretty unexpectedly—I almost face planted right into the stream, due to an abrupt dropoff!
Once you’ve reached the embankment in the back, you can stand on the Devil’s Pulpit itself, gaze at the series of gushing red waterfalls at the back of the gorge, or, if you’re a hearty soul, even swim in the chilly water or climb your way up the waterfall! When you’re done soaking up all the spooky vibes here, just retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Psssst… as mentioned above, plenty of people go swimming here, especially on warm summer days. So if you’re lucky enough to visit during a warm summer day in Scotland, don’t forget to pack your swimsuit and towel!
Best Time to Visit the Devil’s Pulpit
While the trail is open all year, the best time to visit is between May and October, when the skies are usually clear, the trail is less muddy, and the stairs are likely to be dry (and thus, slightly less treacherous). And, given that you have to wade along part of the trail, the water will be way more tolerable than if you visit during the colder months.
That being said, the gorge will definitely see the highest crowds during this period, especially in July and August. So, if you can, plan your visit during the shoulder periods of the dry summer season or visit super early or on a weekday to avoid tons of other visitors. Fall is supposed to be especially gorge-ous here (get it?!), with the floor of the canyon covered inwith bright autumnal leaves from the trees above—plus, the barren trees add to the spooky vibes!
As mentioned above, I would recommend avoiding the trail when it’s wet or icy, as these kinds of conditions can make the Devil’s Stairs straight up dangerous—-and really live up to its name.
If you’re able to visit on a clear (non-icy) winter day, you’ll likely get the gorge all to yourself—just be prepared to wade in some icy cold water!
Where to Stay Near the Devil’s Pulpit
The Devil’s Pulpit is located just south of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, so the surrounding area can be an excellent springboard if you’re planning on exploring the park, which serves as the boundary between the lowlands and highlands of Scotland.
Some places to consider include:
- Kilmaronock Manse B&B: Built in 1804, this updated Georgian mansion is now a super cozy bed and breakfast, with stunning views of the surrounding mountain and a delicious breakfast, cooked to order each day.
- Shandon Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast: This historic farmhouse, located on a farm, is the perfect place to kick off your explorations of the highlands, with spacious rooms, beautiful views of Loch Lomond, and thoughtful extras in the rooms, like a tea and coffee maker.
- Loch Lomond Hotel: Located on the shores of Loch Lomond, this updated hotel has an onsite pub (you know we love it!), friendly and accommodating staff, and an onsite restaurant that offers a Full English breakfast (with vegetarian options!) each morning.
I hope you love the Devil’s Pulpit in Scotland as much as I did! Let me know if you have any questions about this incredibly unique hike down in the comments below!