Gray Mare's Tail

Moffat Valley, Scotland, UK (Great Britain)

About Gray Mare’s Tail


Hiking Distance: 2.2 miles round trip (to view and top of falls); 3.2 miles round trip (to Loch Skeen)
Suggested Time: 60-90 minutes (to view and top of falls); 2.5 hours (to Loch Skeen)

Date first visited: 2014-08-20
Date last visited: 2014-08-20

Waterfall Latitude: 55.4217
Waterfall Longitude: -3.29359

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.

Gray_Mares_Tail_072_08202014 - Gray Mare's Tail
Gray Mare’s Tail

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.

Gray_Mares_Tail_028_08202014 - View of Gray Mare's Trail from the end of the short trail leading to its front side
View of Gray Mare’s Trail from the end of the short trail leading to its front side

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.

Gray_Mares_Tail_027_08202014 - Hiking up to the frontal view of the Gray Mare's Tail
Hiking up to the frontal view of the Gray Mare’s Tail

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.

Gray_Mares_Tail_075_08202014 - The ascending trail on the other side of Tail Burn, which leads up above the Gray Mare's Tail to the Loch Skeen
The ascending trail on the other side of Tail Burn, which leads up above the Gray Mare’s Tail to the Loch Skeen

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.

Gray_Mares_Tail_092_08202014 - Hiking up higher past the Gray Mare's Tail, which reveals some hidden tiers not readily visible from within the Moffat Valley and the lower trails
Hiking up higher past the Gray Mare’s Tail, which reveals some hidden tiers not readily visible from within the Moffat Valley and the lower trails

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.

Gray_Mares_Tail_141_08202014 - View over Loch Skeen, which was the lake sourcing the Gray Mare's Tail
View over Loch Skeen, which was the lake sourcing the Gray Mare’s Tail

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.

Gray_Mares_Tail_065_08202014 - Looking down towards the Moffat Valley from the trail leading to or from the Loch Skeen on the far side of the Roaring Linn downstream of the Gray Mare's Tail
Looking down towards the Moffat Valley from the trail leading to or from the Loch Skeen on the far side of the Roaring Linn downstream of the Gray Mare’s Tail

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.

Authorities

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.

Gray_Mares_Tail_012_08202014 - This was the view of the Gray Mare's Tail from the lookout near the bridge over the Roaring Linn
Gray_Mares_Tail_014_08202014 - Zoomed in on the upper part of the Gray Mare's Tail from the lookout near the bridge over the Roaring Linn
Gray_Mares_Tail_016_08202014 - A closer examination of someone on the short but narrow Waterfalls Trail to the front of Gray Mare's Tail
Gray_Mares_Tail_019_08202014 - This part of the trail to the front of Gray Mare's Tail amongst the low bush was a potential spot of confusion given the false trails and overgrowth, but we knew which direction to go given how quickly the trail would climb above the valley, which we'd see from down here
Gray_Mares_Tail_020_08202014 - Continuing up the steps on the short trail leading to a frontal view of the Gray Mare's Tail
Gray_Mares_Tail_021_08202014 - Looking back down towards Moffat Valley and the National Trust Car Park with someone going down the trail for a sense of scale
Gray_Mares_Tail_025_08202014 - Additional context of the narrow trail leading to a closer view of Gray Mare's Tail as it was about to go around a bend
Gray_Mares_Tail_034_08202014 - This was about as close to Gray Mare's Tail as we were going to get at the end of the official lower trail
Gray_Mares_Tail_036_08202014 - A closer examination of the 60m drop of Gray Mare's Tail from the end of the short waterfall trail
Gray_Mares_Tail_046_08202014 - Looking back at the context of the narrow trail leading up to the front of the Gray Mare's Tail, but these people here give you an idea of how tight the trail can be
Gray_Mares_Tail_050_08202014 - Julie and Tahia headed back down to the car park after having had their fill of the front of the Gray Mare's Tail from the end of the official trail
Gray_Mares_Tail_052_08202014 - Crossing the bridge over the Roaring Linn in pursuit of the upper trail to Loch Skeen
Gray_Mares_Tail_053_08202014 - Looking back at the context of hikers on the short waterfall trail leading to the front of the Gray Mare's Tail
Gray_Mares_Tail_057_08202014 - From this side of the valley, Gray Mare's Tail already revealed most of itself
Gray_Mares_Tail_059_08202014 - From this high up on the trail to Loch Skeen, I was able to look back towards Moffat Valley for views like this
Gray_Mares_Tail_067_08202014 - Context of Gray Mare's Tail and the narrow valley it's in from the Loch Skeen Trail
Gray_Mares_Tail_077_08202014 - Gray Mare's Tail and the Waterfall Trail in context as seen from the Loch Skeen Trail
Gray_Mares_Tail_081_08202014 - Looking back down the valley from further up the Loch Skeen Trail as the Roaring Linn curves and joins the Moffat Water
Gray_Mares_Tail_090_08202014 - Looking across a steep field of heathers fronting the Gray Mare's Tail on the way up to the Loch Skeen
Gray_Mares_Tail_096_08202014 - The trail continued climbing above the uppermost (and hidden from view from down below) tiers of Gray Mare's Tail on the way up to Loch Skeen
Gray_Mares_Tail_099_08202014 - More hidden tiers of Gray Mare's Tail as I climbed higher up the trail to Loch Skeen
Gray_Mares_Tail_105_08202014 - This was probably the most dramatic drop of the hidden upper tiers of Gray Mare's Tail as seen from high up the Loch Skeen Trail
Gray_Mares_Tail_111_08202014 - This was the uppermost cascades of Gray Mare's Tail with some knobby hills in the background
Gray_Mares_Tail_112_08202014 - The Loch Skeen Trail now was going past the waterfalls and into the moors
Gray_Mares_Tail_113_08202014 - Following along the Roaring Linn in the moors amongst purple heather with some bumpy mountains in the distance
Gray_Mares_Tail_114_08202014 - This moorish section was surprisingly longer than I had anticipated
Gray_Mares_Tail_115_08202014 - Finally at the southern shores of Loch Skeen, which was the lake that sourced the Gray Mare's Tail
Gray_Mares_Tail_145_08202014 - Last look at Loch Skeen as the waters got choppier thanks to the sudden breeze
Gray_Mares_Tail_152_08202014 - Re-entering the gorge containing Gray Mare's Tail after having had my fill of the Loch Skeen
Gray_Mares_Tail_155_08202014 - This was what the descent back down into Moffat Valley looked like as you can see I had to be careful not to slip and fall into the steep slopes on the right
Gray_Mares_Tail_159_08202014 - The narrow Loch Skeen trail skirting the slopes and dropoffs as I was headed back down into the Moffat Valley
Gray_Mares_Tail_162_08202014 - Looking down over a patch of heather with the Moffat Valley in the background
Gray_Mares_Tail_163_08202014 - Passing through a scenic patch of purple heather on the hike back from Loch Skeen to the Moffat Valley
Gray_Mares_Tail_164_08202014 - Another look at the narrow Loch Skeen Trail on my way back down into Moffat Valley

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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).

Gray_Mares_Tail_003_08202014 - Looking towards the National Trust exhibit at the trailhead for the lower trail to the Gray Mare's Tail
Looking towards the National Trust exhibit at the trailhead for the lower trail to the Gray Mare’s Tail

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.

Top down sweep from the end of the short but narrow waterfalls trail showing the falls as well as the precarious gorge beneath


Right to left sweep of the uppermost tiers hidden from view further below in the valley. Loch Skeen was still another good 30-45 minutes further upstream from this spot.


Top down sweep of the impressive falls from the trail to Loch Skeen showing the entirety of the waterfall as well as the beautiful valley further downstream

Tagged with: moffat, dumfriesshire, scotland, uk, united kingdom, waterfall, loch skeen



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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