South West Scotland 2021: Part Five
7 September 2021
Today I decided to try to find Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall, and nearby Jaw Reservoir. I had read that this one had a walking trail that would take me right passed it, so I hunted for, and found it, on the All Trails App. First instructions were for a small car park nearby, so I happily headed over to that. Frustration hit right at the start however, when I pulled up to a height barrier preventing me from parking there. I carefully turned round and drove up and down the narrow road for a bit until I found a spot on a verge just big enough for one or two vehicles. Although not the best start, I felt very lucky to have found that at least, or I suspect I would have had to abandon this walk, since I didn’t think there was anywhere else to park. The walk from here looked easy, simply following a small road, but then I missed my turn off to the right and ended up walking all the way along until I hit a private house. Just laughing at my poor luck today, I turned round and retraced my steps until I found the correct route, and from here it was easier to follow.
The walk to the Jaw Reservoir was not hard, it was a bit boggy in places and I did indeed pass the waterfall. It looked like getting down to the base of it might be a bit tricky though, since the sides looked very steep, and were largely covered in huge thick ferns. I briefly tried one open grassy bit of the hill, but gave up thinking I might retry on my return journey. Looking downstream, I thought I could see a possible route to try. River loved it though and bounded on ahead, confused when I couldn’t follow. It’s easy if you have 4 legs, obviously!
For now, I continued on up to the reservoir and when I got there, the water was very still with a light mist over the trees, giving a beautiful vibe to an area that might otherwise be just a bit flat and boring. I snapped a few photos before I took a gentle walk along the edge for a while, simply soaking up the incredible peace here.
With the exception of one man tidying his fishing rod away, some distance ahead, noone else was here, so this peace was very much just for me to enjoy. I ambled along the stony edge of the water until River got all caught up in some fishing wire. As I was untangling her, the fisherman came past explaining to me that it was probably lost here after the line or weight had broken. He went on to say that the water was the lowest he had seen in 30 years, and he genuinely seemed amazed at this level at the moment. As I looked closer, I could see a lot of broken bits of fishing line and where the water level might normally sit. I understood then, just why he was astounded at this – the grass line (which I assume sat just above the regular fill line) was actually quite a few feet higher than where I stood. It was hard to imagine so much extra water here, and how much it might change what I was seeing today. We chatted a while as I worked to untangle the line, and once River was freed, he went on his way. I found myself just walking the rest of the circuit around the reservoir without taking any further photographs, and only once I got back to my starting point, did I encounter anyone else.
On the way back down, I tried again to get to the bottom of the Grey Mares Tail, this time attempting the route that I had spotted earlier. Despite a huge battle through thick ferns, that had me feeling a little unnerved about what might be hiding in there (I’ve clearly been watching too many jungle movies!) this route proved to be no good after all. It stopped by a wall above the river, and had no way to get down from there. Disappointed, I retraced my steps back and then attempted a third route, a little closer to the falls. This nearly ended in disaster when River lost her footing and rolled down what evidently revealed itself to be the steep edges of a gorge! I stopped breathing for a second as she tumbled, but then her fall was broken by a tight mass of ferns and nettles. Though shocked, she was clearly unhurt, thankfully. I paused for a second to breathe again. She remained still in her shallow hammock of plants, and although I could see fear in her eyes, she trusted me totally as I then attempted to guide her back up the steep sides. As soon as she had gotten close enough, I grabbed her by the collar and gave a quick sharp hoik up the last unclimbable portion. Apologising profusely for nearly choking her, I hugged her hard and she licked me frantically as we perched where we were for a moment, not moving another step. I quickly took a handful of photos from there, which weren’t particularly good ones, and we left as soon as we could, retracing our steps back out, so as to avoid any further accidents. We were both a bit shaken but these falls, and the pictures, were not worth loosing my dog over!! I abandoned any other thoughts of further attempts at photographing this one… I think its my least favourite waterfall ever.
We carried on walking down feeling a huge relief to be back on an established and safe route, and River walked with a happy wag to her tail. Feeling a little fed up with this today, I looked at the map again and noticed that there appeared to be another set of falls that I hadn’t spotted before, and that noone had written about. They even had a name – Lady Linn Falls. I debated about whether to bother, assuming that noone had written about them because they were a bit pants, but since these looked to be close to the road and in the woods I was currently walking past, I decided to make the detour. I had been so disappointed at the Grey Mare’s Tail falls, that a chance for a second one seemed promising.
I was so very glad I did! These were really pretty, and the walk in the woods very pleasant!! River loved it, and as I worked I spotted her rolling in mud, paddling in the stream and back in the mud again until she was largely just a muddy ball. It was lovely seeing her unfazed about her fall earlier and so happy. I took photos from the top of the falls (see header), the front, and then down a step of boulders that revealed a secondary part to the fall. This spot was really gorgeous with some early autuminal leaf fall on a lush green moss covered rock. I couldn’t understand why this wasn’t mentioned anywhere.. it was WAYYY prettier than the Grey Mare’s Tail ones, and dead easy to get to!! The colours around me were stunning, and it all got helped with the occasional dash of sunlight on the scene as the sun popped out to play intermittently. Now this felt a little more like it, and I had an absolute ball here.
Once I was finished, I washed River down in the water until she was clean again, and thought that on our way back to Dumbarton, I might try and find a dog brush so I could detangle her once she was dry again. I had forgotten to bring one, although I had brought everything else for her.
I got back to camper, drove to Dumbarton, where I found a pet store without any trouble, picked up a nice brish, and some special dog treats. Then I parked up back at my spot from the last two nights, to a nice sunny evening. I took River over to the castle and we sat in the warm sun where she was able to fully dry off. She loved the hands on attention as I gave her a thorough brush through, and complete inch by inch tick check. Going through those ferns earlier, I felt sure she would have picked up at least one of these hitchhikers, but I found nothing on her at all. Clearly the spray I used intermittently on her, WAS doing its job, and the smell of the geranium oil and vinegar mix was not to their taste!
After an hour just chilling in the park, I took her back to camper, and decided to come back to quickly photograph the castle while there was nice light on it. Of course, as soon as I got back with the camera, the last bit of sunlight actually shining on the castle went, but it still looked nicer than it had so far in my trip, so I took a proper shot of it anyway.
I felt it was time to leave this place, although I felt very comfortable and safe being here. West Dumbartonshire had been completed for now, with The Dumpling, Jaw Reservoir, Dumbarton castle, and the two waterfalls, but before I thought of heading off, I looked to the left, and realised how I would very much like to photograph the castle from that side. Again, I hoped for high tide, so I looked at the timings. The next one would be in the middle of the night, but the one after was at 2pm tomorrow. Armed with these details I decided to stop another night and take the morning to scout the best position to shoot, before coming back to photograph it proper. Then I could head off to my next county on this trip. I wasn’t altogether sure where to go next either, but I had my list, and the best I could tell myself was that it would be the first of the counties south of the Clyde.