NS4984 : The Devil's Pulpit

taken 7 years ago, near to Craighat, Stirling, Great Britain

The Devil's Pulpit
The Devil's Pulpit
NS4984 : Finnich Glen was carved through the red sandstone by NS4985 : The Carnock Burn, and features steep walls and dramatic overhangs. Before the name Finnich Glen came into use, the gorge had been known by the name Ashdow, perhaps for the Gaelic "uisge dubh" [ɯʃɡʲə du] "black water"; modern large-scale OS mapping gives Ashdhu as an alternative name for Finnich Glen.

Nowadays, people often refer to the glen itself as the Devil's Pulpit. However, that name, in its original usage, did not refer to the glen, but to a feature within it: more specifically, it was the name of a particular rock:

"Deil's Pulpit: this name is applied to a rock, situated in a very deep chasm on Carnock Burn. The origin of the name is not known. The rock cannot be seen unless when the waters of the stream are very low" [OS Name Book].

For those who know the glen itself as the Devil's Pulpit, it would be natural to think that the name was inspired by one of the prominent rocky overhangs. However, the original "pulpit" is a rock located in the Carnock Burn itself, as noted above.

Neither the OS Name Book nor the maps themselves are very specific about where the pulpit is. However, in the present photograph, it is the prominent green-topped stone that can be seen not far ahead in the bed of the burn, just where the burn turns out of sight (and which is also shown in another contributor's earlier picture, NS4984 : Finnich Glen - The Devils Pulpit, and, from above, in NS4984 : The Devils Pulpit).

That knowledge eventually passed from (most) living memory; it is therefore worth providing some additional information here: first, that the pulpit was a "large tubular mass of rock", although clearly not a tall one, in light of the Name Book's comment that it is only visible when the water level is low; second, that the Carnock Burn divides to flow around the pulpit.

In fact, large-scale OS maps do show this feature: it is depicted like an islet within the burn. These maps also show the name "Deil's Pulpit" somewhere in this general area, but, probably on the account of the mapmakers' uncertainty about its application, it is not placed beside this particular feature.

The area from which this picture was taken can be reached by means of a flight of steps which has been nicknamed NS4984 : Jacob's Ladder or, by association with the rock, the Devil's Staircase. That flight of steps was made between 150 and 200 years ago(*) at the behest of Mr Blackburn, the then proprietor of the Killearn estate.

Iain C Lees, in his 1933 book "The Campsies and the Land of Lennox", gives the following explanation for the name of the stone (where I have corrected the incongruous word "moor", clearly a misprint, to "moon"):

"Down in the channel is the Devil's Pulpit, whither he was wont to go when he had anything of importance to say to those of his minions who lived in this area. A long flight of stairs leads to the channel, and when you are there you feel remote from the world. Only the moon is required to produce the most weird and awesome effect."

- - - -

(*) For anyone who might like some authority, other than my own say-so, for the age of the stairs, the following quotation is from the 1861 volume of "The Geologist; A Popular Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Geology" (edited by Samuel Joseph Mackie). Specifically, the extract is from page 303; it is part of an article describing an outing by the Glasgow Geological Society:

"... the excursionists ... proceeded to Finnich Glen. ... The walls of the glen are nearly vertical, and it would have been next to impossible to descend safely to the bed of the stream, had not the proprietor, Mr Blackburn, of Killearn, considerately made a stair of about ninety steps through a rift in the rock ...".

We thus have notice that the stairs existed in 1861. Also, the Blackburn family first came into possession of the Killearn estate in (according to most sources) about 1814: J.G.Smith's 1896 work "Strathendrick and Its Inhabitants from Early Times" gives the year as 1812, but the entry for Killearn in the "Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland" (1884) gives 1814, as does the New Statistical Account (1845).
Finnich Glen

This glen, which used to be called Ashdow, is a chasm up to 70 feet deep, and, in places, no more than 15 or 20 feet wide at any height. It was carved through the Old Red Sandstone by the Carnock Burn. The burn flows around a prominent stone called the Devil's Pulpit, whose name is now often applied to the glen as a whole. Near that stone, a steep stairway, built long ago in a crevice, descends into the gorge: Link

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NS4984, 46 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Thursday, 5 September, 2013   (more nearby)
Monday, 21 October, 2013
Geographical Context
Rivers, Streams, Drainage 
Place (from Tags)
Finnich Glen 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4956 8488 [10m precision]
WGS84: 56:1.9868N 4:24.9590W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4958 8489
View Direction
Southwest (about 225 degrees)
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Other Tags
The Carnock Burn 

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