Den Finella Waterfall – An absolute chore to get down to, but one of my favourite hidden Scotland waterfalls. Reaching this photo spot requires a backwards abseil down the muddy route, way-marked by ropes left by previous visitors. Before we get started, it’s worth highlighting, the Den Finella descent is not for young children or people with mobility difficulties.
Den of Finella Waterfall directions
The thundering falls are located under a small bridge between St Cyrus and Johnshaven. Blink and you might miss it; the bridge sits flat with the road and you may not even realise you’re driving over the river. You’ll find the bridge on a corner of the main road, heading north to Johnshaven from St Cyrus.
When looking for nearest postcode for Den Finella waterfall, we zoned in on DD10 0DN. This actually takes you a tiny bit further north, but will send you in the right direction.
Parking for Den Finella Waterfall
The only place you can park to get to the waterfall (without walking from one of the nearby villages) is on the bridge itself. This can be a tad dangerous, as it lies on the main road, so do so with caution. Locals ask that you don’t attempt to park on the nearby driveway. This is private land and the owners require 24-hour access (the way anyone would for the driveway to their home).
Getting down to The lost waterfall of Scotland
Rushing over the land and dropping around 75 feet under thick, looming woodland, the waterfall is incredible, but the climb down can be dangerous. I recently read that the walk way has now been confirmed as closed. Visitors would be attempting the descent at their own risk and locals advise that doing so in heavy rain or wet weather (autumn/winter) should be off limits.
Those unpreturbed be these warnings should take the gap in the wall (on the bridge) into the woods. There, you will find a footpath in the grass that you need to follow. This quickly changes from a reasonably steady path to a steeper drop, at which point visitors will need to use a series of ropes and branches to steady themselves down the cliff edge.
The route is slippy, many of the ropes are worn and/or broken in parts, and the path down in badly deteriorated. There is no fencing and little natural foliage to break a fall, and the drop is a steep one down to the rocks below.
Reaching the bottom, explorers are welcomed by a green canopy that shelters plunging pools and sheer drops. A final, small, descent (also supported by a few ropes and carved out foot holds) will take you down to the pebbled mouth of the waterfall, where the river continues its journey.
The story of Den Finella
The Secret waterfall of Aberdeenshire, with the den below, is shrouded in folklore and mystery. Rare orchids flower here for no particular reason and it has a FernGully-like charm to it (90’s movie reference).
However, the site is said to have received its name from a rather sinister tale (aren’t they all?) about mother/huntress named Finella. It’s told that her son was sentenced to death by King Kenneth II for failing to arrive at Scone to explain himself, following a “carry on” at a castle at an earlier time.
Enraged and seeking vengeance, Finella pretended to forgive the king, inviting him to her home to view a new piece of weaponry. However, unbeknownst to the monarch, she had a crossbow sprung and ready in the room – which was triggered when she opened the door to let him in.
With the king dead, Finella fled the scene, chased by his men. There are numerous stories to how the chase ended: one tells of the huntress bounding through to trees and leaping to her death down the falls. The other, less dramatic tale, sees Finella escape her predators and flee to Ireland to live out her days.
The word den (meaning hollow/ravine with sloping sides), was brought into the title to honour the tale and the location.
Busses to Den Finella waterfall
You can get to Den Of Finella Waterfall by Bus or Train.
These are the bus lines that have stops nearby: 107 (Stonehaven – Montrose) , X7 (Aberdeen – Perth)
Den Fenella Viaduct
Alongside the magical falls, visitors to the area should also explore the old viaduct that runs along near the top path. This route is still open and considered safe.
The old tracks make for a great extra side exploration. Opening in 1865, the line was supposed to form an alternative route between Montrose, Aberdeen, and the north. However, it closed after only 5 years, never being fully completed due to the challenging geography of the Aberdeenshire’s coast.
Looking for more Scotland waterfall inspiration? Check out my post on my favourite stop on the NC500: How to get to Wailing Widow Falls, Loch na Gainmhich
For East coast NC500 exploration, head to: How to find the Whaligoe Steps and Waterfall – North Coast 500