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|TYPE||Riverside walk loop with some re-tracing on route|
|DISTANCE||2.0 miles 3.2 km|
|SURFACES||Earth/gravel paths, generally in good condition|
|HEIGHT GAIN / LOSS||270 feet climb|
|Hazards||Dangerous concealed drops to river near waterfall (stay on path)|
This route starts from the Country Park visitor centre; however, should the centre and lower car park be closed, the car park on the access road should provide a suitable alternative.
The walk heads north from the visitor centre around a managed wildlife meadow. The path which loops around this area of ponds and wild flower meadows is flat and suitable for wheelchairs and those with limited mobility.
Our walk now exits the north end of the meadow and we cross the Ness for the first time.
This section of path re-opened in June 2019 after being closed for over two years as a result of flood damage, The path has now been moved completely away from the wooded riverside into the adjacent field. This route should prove less vulnerable to future floods but it is a pity that the riverside walking here has been lost.
On your left there is a protected triangle of three fields, a plan formed by the coming together of the Burntollet river and Cronkin burn. The opposite steep wooded valley sides contrast with the almost perfectly flat farmland. It is attractive to think of this sheltered meeting of waters as an ancient place of habitation, or maybe a site for meeting and fairs. Today it is overly quiet – but it may not always have been this way!
Head upstream and at the end of the fields you enter the Ness Wood proper.
There is a picnic table here by the river, but your path turns away into the ancient Ness Wood. Here you are immediately surrounded by native woodland, exposed schist rocks, and rich ferns and lush dark undergrowth. Together they bring a strong sense of difference – a stepping back in time.
Ignore the steel staircase on your left (if you can) and proceed weaving through a rocky passage under low cliffs. After about 300m the path bends sharply right and descends again to the riverside. The path here continues upstream, but there is also a less distinct path going downstream by the river bank. A short distance along this is the site of a former pedestrian bridge which once spanned the river sitting on stone built piers.
Today you will struggle to spot the remains of the bridge. However the official Country Park map (as of July 2019) still shows both this bridge and the associated paths! The route had actually been closed to the public some time previous to the Easter 2017 floods when landslides destroyed some of the wooden stairways it used.
Return to the main path and proceed upstream along the deeply enclosed valley floor – a wonderful protected place of small clearings and occasional intriguing large ‘isolate’ boulders.
After 300m you come to a 3-way path junction – choose either way – the small path which hugs the river bank, or the surfaced path straight ahead. They both go to the same place – the footbridge across the Ness river.
You are now close to the waterfalls and a number of cascades are visible upstream dropping down to the large peaty pool below the crossing point. Proceed over the river and climb up the series of elevated stairways to join the east bank high path.
The wooden steps here have been recently replaced by a metal staircase which perches even higher above the terrain.
At the top of the steps turn left and head upstream with the now largely hidden river and waterfalls audible below. Stay on the path and resist the temptation to explore – the shear drop edge is masked by scrub, moss and heather – a mistake here could be fatal!
Around the corner another bridge – this time spanning a small gorge with a series of waterfalls down below. Cross and proceed following the path as it now turns downstream. The path twists and a short loop takes you close to the cliff, but again the dense vegetation mixed with rocky outcrops hide the main event. Stay beside the railings and turn away from the river and out onto meadowland (it is confusing here as older paths going straight ahead have been closed, but this is not always obvious).
The path briefly skirts around the open grassland before turning again into the woodland and heading downstream along the high glen top. And then, just when you think you have left the waterfalls behind, on your left the waterfall proper is suddenly in view. When the river is high this is a spectacular cascade – at other times the wooded drop is still impressive.
You are on the return leg now but good things still lie ahead. Follow the path and when it starts to descend again steeply towards the valley floor, look out for the upper path heading gently back uphill again and follow this.
You are now on an excellent section of the old 1970s paths which was built in the landscape with stone and wood, rather than on top like the steel intrusions now favoured to replace them. The path here gently undulates through the rock and wood, visibility is good – you can see and hear all around – walk quietly and enjoy,
All too soon this section ends and you are abruptly returned to the lower path via another new steel staircase. Turn right to return to the entrance of the wood.
Now return along the field edge path.
After crossing the footbridge back into the meadows (and constructed play area) you have the option of returning to the visitor centre along the river. You might even get a glimpse here of dippers bobbing in the fast flowing swirls and eddies.
Route Map to Download and Print (PDF)
- Ervey / Tamnymore / Burntollet Wood from the Country Park Visitor Centre
- Ness Woods Waterfall Walks (overview)