About Gray Mare’s Tail
The Gray Mares Tail (or Gray Mare’s Tail) was a dramatic 60m waterfall said to be the fifth highest in the United Kingdom.
While the waterfall itself was very impressive, what stood out to us were the steep-walled valley along with the Loch Skeen further upstream, which really gave us the sense that Nature really mattered here.
That feeling was something rare the further south you go in the UK, let alone Southern Scotland.
Our excursion not only allowed us to experience the impressive waterfall in a few different ways, but we also got mindblowing views over Moffat Valley.
Moreover, we were also treated to mats of heather that gave the immediate hillsides a shade of purple during our August visit.
Regarding the ways that we managed to experience the Gray Mares Tail, we did a trail to a frontal view of it as well as a much longer trail to Loch Skeen, which provided us more views of the falls along the way.
Both trails were pretty easy to follow from the National Trust car park at the mouth of the valley (see directions below).
Hiking to the Frontal View of Gray Mare’s Tail
This trail involved a short 10- to 15-minute uphill walk that led us to a closer view of Gray Mares Tail near the base of its main sections.
This was a pretty straightforward trail that both Julie and Tahia were able to do.
However, we had to make sure we had a firm grip on Tahia given how narrow and exposed to steep dropoffs the trail was.
Once we got towards the end of the trail, there was a sign warning us not to go further so we contented ourselves with the views from there.
It looked like many people have managed to get past this barricade and get even closer to the base of the main drops of the Gray Mare’s Tail.
That said, nobody (including us) tempted fate from what we could tell during our visit.
Hiking past Gray Mare’s Tail to Loch Skeen
This trail was a much longer 2.5-mile round trip out-and-back hike that also went steeply uphill clinging onto the steep-walled valley containing Gray Mare’s Tail.
From this trail, I was able to get even more views of the waterfall as well as its full context as the Tail Burn funneled its way over the roaring linn into the even narrower depths of the gorge below.
When surveying the scene at each step along the way, I was able to look back at the lovely Moffat Valley with all the cars and people looking small given how high up the trail went.
Moreover, I was able to see large mats of purple heather blooming on the uppermost slopes of the valley.
Again, I had to be careful while on the trail because it was narrow and exposed to steep dropoffs.
That said, as long as care was taken, I felt it was a pretty safe hike, especially since I noticed erosion-prevention measures had been taken to ensure the trail would persist for others to enjoy.
For the purposes of waterfalling, the hike all the way up to Loch Skeen was optional, and it was not reflected in the hiking difficulty rating on this page.
If it was included, then the hiking difficulty would be more like 3 instead of 2.
Nevertheless, even though the distance of this trail was modest, it was the amount of climbing that I had to do that really took a bit out of me.
And even after I finally climbed up above the Gray Mare’s Tail, the trail revealed other hidden tiers of the falls and cascades on the Roaring Linn.
Beyond these waterfalls, the trail then flattened out and still went another mile or so through moorish terrain before finally reaching the tranquil Loch Skeen.
I was content with the views of the loch from its southern shores, but I saw that the trail kept going around the lake before climbing some more.
So perhaps it might be possible to climb even higher towards the White Coomb, which was one of the prominent hills backing Loch Skeen.
In any case, I’d ultimately get my fill of Loch Skeen and return to the car park after spending around 100 minutes or so to do this side excursion.
Since the shorter trail to the waterfall took all of us about 30 minutes round trip, the total amount of time I had spent away from the car was around 2 hours and 10 minutes.
If I wasn’t in a rush to keep Julie and Tahia from waiting for me for too long (I actually tried to hasten my pace during the Loch Skeen excursion), the time commitment could very well be more like 2.5 hours.
Gray Mares Tail resides near Moffat in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. It is administered by the National Trust of Scotland. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
We arrived at the Gray Mare’s Tail after leaving the Housesteads Fort at Hadrian’s Wall near Bardon Mill.
Hadrian’s Wall was a stopover on the way as we originally started our drive from Kendal across the border in England sandwiched between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.
So we’ll describe our driving route in these terms.
From Kendal, we took the A684 road (about 5 miles), which ultimately connected us with the high-speed M6 motorway.
We then went north for about 40 miles on the M6 where we then exited the motorway to go onto the A69 and do the optional detour to the Housesteads Fort at Hadrian’s Wall (about 25 miles from this exit near Bardon Mill).
Continuing north on the M6 (becoming A74 when we entered Scotland) for another 40 miles, we then exited to get onto the A701 towards Moffat (1.6 miles).
Once in Moffat, we then followed the signs to go onto the A708 road, which continued further to the east.
We’d follow this road for just under 10 miles to get to the car park for Gray Mare’s Tail.
Overall, this route that we took between Kendal and Gray Mare’s Tail (including the detour to Hadrian’s Wall but excluding the time spend visiting it) took us about 3-4 hours to cover the 145 miles.
If we didn’t do the detour to Hadrian’s Wall, the drive probably would have taken about 2 hours to go about 97 miles.
Going in the other direction from Edinburgh, it would be about 48 miles (say about 90-120 minutes) on a combination of B and A roads to get to the Gray Mare’s Tail. For additional context, it was about 68 miles or 90 minutes drive southeast of Glasgow to the falls.
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