Falling for the Reekie Linn

by Keith Savage · 4 comments

The Reekie Linn, Perthshire, Scotland

Don’t believe the hype. The Reekie Linn does not stink. In fact, it’s one of the prettiest, most spectacular, and most accessible waterfalls in Scotland. I found a reference to the Reekie Linn on my trusty, tattered Collins Britain Road Atlas and decided to investigate after a drive out to Glen Clova from the bosom of Perthshire. East beyond Dunkeld and Blairgowrie, Perthshire‘s landscape calms to rolling farmlands that eventually merge with Angus. Market towns like Kirriemuir and Alyth watch these fairly nondescript marches, but go a little north and you start climbing into the gorgeous Angus Glens and the southern reaches of the Cairngorms National Park. Here you’ll find the Reekie Linn, which brings a powerful bit of the national park’s beauty into the pastoral countryside of Perthshire and Angus.

The Reekie Linn is a pair of joined waterfalls on the River Isla just north of Alyth at Bridge of Craigisla. The River Isla flows south from the Cairngorms Mountains through Glen Isla before merging with the River Tay south of Dunkeld, and when it’s in spate the double-falls at the Reekie Linn become one massive, surging torrent. That’s how it was on the brisk November day when I visited.

Regularly readers here know that I like to hike in Scotland, but I aim for mid-range difficulty (the Bone Caves of Inchnadamph was probably my most trying hike, and I realize that’s not saying much). You won’t find me wandering around munros with a map and compass blinded by freezing fog. I generally prefer a path of some quality though I’m not afraid to freestyle if the situation demands. I mention this because the hike to the Reekie Linn is probably the easiest, shortest hike with the biggest payoff I’ve yet done in Scotland.

The Beech leaf-covered trail left the car park quite obviously and hugged the river bank, and while it was level the path was cut into a slope that was steep in places, so take care and stick to the path. The deciduous woodland was beautiful in the late afternoon sun. I wasn’t the only person enjoying the Reekie Linn — locals walked their dogs and we had to step off the path to allow passage, kind of like driving on these small country roads.

Less than ten minutes from the car park I was rewarded with the Reekie Linn’s big payoff — a view back the way I’d come with the falls thundering down through the gorge. That’s not haze or reflections in the following two photos. That’s the spume created by the waterfall and its namesake. There are several places in Scotland with “Reek” or “Reekie” in their names — Edinburgh as “Auld Reekie,” for example — but it means smoke or mist, not a horrid smell (though I’m sure Edinburgh didn’t smell too good back when they dumped sewage from their windows into the street). The Reekie Linn was named by Victorian travelers in the early 19th century for the smoky appearance of these powerful falls.

Contrary to my advice, I did leave the path and hedged out onto the rocks at the apex of the falls. I don’t recommend doing this as the footing was a bit precarious, but it was fun getting level with the river and immersing myself in the fall’s roar. This is a steep drop 45m down to the gorge bottom, and the kind of photos you don’t tell loved ones you’re going to take.

It wouldn’t be Scotland if there wasn’t a good story associated with the Reekie Linn. A large cave called the Black Dub is scoured out of the rock at the base of the falls. Folk wisdom tells how a local laird who killed a man hid from the law here. That night he saw a huge black dog that he assumed was the devil, and the next day he turned himself in. The lesson here, folks, is if you’re going to be an outlaw hiding in the Black Dub, the night is for sleeping.

If you find yourself in eastern Perthshire, consider a stop at the Reekie Linn. It’s hard to find a better value “hike!”

Maria AldrichNo Gravatar May 11, 2017 at 7:04 AM

I always like your blogs and pictures.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 11, 2017 at 7:25 AM

Thanks Maria!

Teresa CallahanNo Gravatar May 10, 2017 at 7:51 PM

Reekie Linn is on Walkhighlands list of best waterfall walks, along with several other waterfalls you’ve mentioned on your blog. I hope to add Reekie Linn to our itinerary in our upcoming trip to Scotland. We leave this Sunday!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 10, 2017 at 8:04 PM

I love Walk Highlands! Such a magnificent resource.

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