Ness Wood waterfalls from the Ness Wood car park

TYPE Circular walk forest and riverside
DISTANCE 1.3 miles 2.1 km
SURFACES Earth /gravel paths, generally in good condition
HEIGHT GAIN / LOSS  155 feet climb
Hazards Dangerous concealed drops to river near waterfall (stay on path)

This route starts from the Ness Wood car park NOT the Country Park visitor centre.

This walk starts from the original Ness Wood car park which was first opened in the 1970s in the heyday of expansion in forest recreation. Many of the paths date from that time although significant additional work has been done More recently.

The car park is not as well signposted as the new visitor centre, but it’s easy to find if you simply turn left at the exit gates of the country park and drive along a narrow road for just under a mile. You will see the entrance to the car park on your left shortly after dropping down to cross the Ness river.

Leave the car park through the new pillars and go straight ahead with the open grassland on your left. After 100m you enter the woodland and in another 50m you will hear (unless it is very dry) and see the main waterfall dropping through a heavily wooded gap in the trees.

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.


Main Ness Waterfall


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.

Path Junction - take the Upper

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 wooden escalators on the other side of the Glen. 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 is abruptly returned to the lower path via a new staircase – presumably the old route was deemed too rough and rocky.

As you reach the riverside path turn right for a short diversion to view the damage to the banks and paths caused by the August 2017 torrential flooding. The power of nature is on view here – the river in flood reclaimed a previous route and carved a new channel deep below the level of the bank. A new chapter in the story of the glen and one which should be noted and remembered.

The picnic table survived – but not much else. It is difficult even to imagine where the path previously ran!

Turn around and head upstream along the river and don’t forget to keep looking and listening for dippers bobbing in the fast flowing swirls and eddies. You may or may not not catch a glimpse, but you will see and hear the river! It is only by looking, by paying attention, that you will begin to see what others miss as they chatter by, their minds already pulled back to other busier less happy places!

The path now cuts into the deeper Glen as you enter the Ness Wood proper – suddenly there are exposed rocks, high trees, the sound of rapid running water. The crevasses between exposed layers of deeply eroded rock are full of moss, lichen and ferns given the route ahead a verdant ancient feeling.

Fern growing in Rock

As the path bends back close to the river a short diversion to the bank-side will take you to the site of a previous bridge. The two pictures below show this spot before and after the flood! The same forked tree is visible in both pictures on the right, but in the later picture only the slightest hint of the original stone piers the bridge rested on remain!

Bridge closed – June 2017 (note forked tree)

Bridge gone Feb 2018 (note same forked tree, ruined pier and totally missing nearside river bank!)

This was the start of the now defunct east bank path which for a short time gave access via a series of raised walkways to this steeply sloping section of the glen. A landslip closed the path several years ago, but there is no indication if or when it might ever be restored. If you are using the leaflet from the visitor centre you will find that confusingly this section is still included on the map (Feb 2018).

Stay low by the river and proceed along the deeply enclosed valley floor – a wonderful protected place of small clearings and occasional intriguing large ‘isolate’ boulders.

At the end of this section, just after a flight of steps which go off to your left, you come to another bridge which is open. You are close to the waterfalls now 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.

On your right is the path which previously snaked along the steep glen-side by means of an abandoned series of elevated stairways, similar to those you have just climbed, but now closed by the landslide previously mentioned,.

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!

Ness Woods - Top Bridge

Around the corner another bridge – this time spanning a small gorge with a series of waterfalls down below. Cross and proceed and follow the path as it 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 right out onto meadowland (it is confusing here as older paths going straight ahead have been closed, but this is not always obvious).

A paths turns from the river bank and off to the right out onto the meadow land. On this occasion guarded not be Cerberus, but by a one-headed dog!

Once out in the open you will see your car park diagonally ahead and your walk is at an end.


Route Map to Download and Print (PDF)

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