A MOUNTAIN rescue boss has urged caution after a dangerous gorge in a patch of scruffy woodland, made famous as a film set, was named as Scotland’s best “walking trail”.

A survey based on internet data found Stirlingshire’s Finnich Glen, which has no proper trail at all and little parking space, surpassed world-renowned walks such as the West Highland Way and the climb up Ben Nevis.

The survey by clothing company Damart also found that the problem site, often accessed by climbing over a barbed-wire fence, was second to only the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland in the whole of the UK as a place to walk.

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Finnich Glen has been the scene of nine mountain rescue incidents since 2021, including one last Sunday and has been plagued by litter and anti-social behaviour after taking off as a social media phenomenon, attracting 70,000 people a year.

It first attracted attention ten years ago when it featured in the first series of TV’s time-travel Scots epic tale Outlander, which has won a global audience, and it has been used for several other films and shows.

The main way into the 70ft deep gorge, on the south side of it, is down a set of badly collapsed sandstone steps built in Victorian times. Visitors have had to attach ropes to trees to get down.

Paths beaten by walkers through the surrounding woods go dangerously close to the edge of the vertical drop.

The owner, farmer David Young, is trying to sell the site to be turned into a tourist attraction. He has complained of abuse and threatening behaviour from visitors, as well as severe littering and damage to the woodland in which the gorge sits.

The most commonly used parking area is on a triangle of roadside tarmac about 300m away from the main access point, along a busy road with no pavement.

Much of the triangle is supposed to be reserved for emergency services, on their frequent calls to the glen, but visitors’ cars often fill the whole area, blocking the way for fire engines and mountain rescue Land Rovers.

The survey appears to have been a desk-top, internet-based exercise. Publicists say the survey used data from a website, AllTrails, and from respected walking campaigners the Ramblers. The distance and time for the walk, and the number of Instagram hashtags and Google searches, were also factored in to arrive at the final results.

Although publicity material from Damart accompanying the survey acknowledges it is a “steep climb down” to reach the bottom of the gorge, it also says: “The ‘easy’ Scottish trail in West Dunbartonshire has a 4.3 rating on AllTrails and is 0.6km which would take an average of 10 minutes to complete, making it ideal for young children.”

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The Damart publicists describe the site as dog-friendly: at least two dogs have died in recent years from falling into the gorge.

They add: “An additional bonus is that the nearby Tidenham Chase car park boasts free parking.”

Tidenham Chase car park is in the Wye Valley on the England-Wales border, a 380-mile drive away. A site nearby, close to the River Wye, is also known as the Devil’s Pulpit.

The survey has already attracted publicity in London’s Evening standard newspaper website, in a Scottish national newspaper, and a field-sports magazine website.

But David Dodson of the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team, which is regularly called to incidents in the gorge, said of the listing: “It’s nonsense.”

He said visitors frequently try to access the gorge down a steep gully on the north side, which has a short vertical section, get stuck and then need to be rescued.

He added: “If they are going to publicise [Finnich Glen] it should carry a health warning.”

He said anyone going there should exercise caution, recommended sturdy footwear, and described it as unsuitable for young children or anyone who is not fully fit.

A Ramblers Scotland spokesman said: "We have had no involvement with the creation of this list. No Ramblers data suggests that Finnich Glen would be appropriate to promote as Scotland's best walking trail."

Local Labour councillor Gerry McGarvey said: “Finnich Glen and the Devil’s Pulpit are places of immense natural beauty as well as of national geological significance.

“It is understandable why so many wish to visit this place of outstanding beauty, but those who do so really need to be mindful of the dangers therein … unless care is taken it also presents a hazard risk to life and limb.”

In response to the survey, Bridget Jones of government countryside agency NatureScot said: “We all want to be able to visit and enjoy special places, but we must do so in a way which doesn’t have a negative impact on these beautiful areas in the long term. Visitors are often not aware of the cumulative effects of many people gathering in the same place over a concentrated period of time.”

After being contacted by the Sunday Post about the flaws in the survey, the organisation said in a statement: “Despite using researched and previously published data to form this article, we are sorry that we made a mistake with some of the key facts for this particular walk and we are looking into this.

“In the meantime, we have paused sending out this copy while we correct the mistakes to include the correct information about parking and suitability for children.”