Walk: Queen's Well & a hunt for Balnamoon's Cave

Angus | Angus Glens | Half day walk | ★★★

[Glen Mark from near Balnamoon's Cave]

This linear but interesting walk amidst the wonderful Angus glens visits Glen Mark's worst and best kept secrets. The Queen's Well is a popular landmark: a stone well built at a spring to commemorate Queen Victoria's passing through in 1861. Invermark Castle is also just off-route near the start - worth a look too. So far, so easy - but reaching Balnamoon's Cave is a more challenging prospect. Multiple potentially tricky burn crossings, some pathless terrain and two miles later, you'll hopefully arrive in the area where the cave is vaguely marked on OS maps. Now you just need to find the actual cave where Lord Balnamoon successfully hid from the English for a whole year: a tiny entrance amongst bouldery mountainside. Good luck! Perhaps worth taking a copy of the foolproof instructions at the bottom of this post...

[Queen's Well]

📌 Walk: Queen's Well & an expedition to Balnamoon's Cave ★★★
Start / finish at car park near Glen Esk minor road end, 4 mi west of Tarfside, G.R.: NO 447804 ///clattered.hoofs.blazed

▶ 14 km / 9 mi | ▲ 170 m | ⌚ Half a day | Moderate
Features: Invermark Castle ★★; Queen's Well; Burn of Doune waterfall; Balnamoon's Cave; Water of Mark waterfalls
Terrain: Good track to just beyond Queen's Well. Several potentially dangerous burn crossings follow (no bridges) - not passable during high water levels. The most serious ford can be avoided by omitting the alternative return route. There is a faint path most of the way to Balnamoon's Cave, intermittent and rocky in places.

Route & map

Start - Queen's Well - Burn of Doune waterfall - Balnamoon's Cave and Water of Mark waterfalls - return by outward route until G.R.: NO 430815 - Invermark Castle by south bank - start. There is an alternative return route described below.

1. From the car park, continue along the road past a church. Keep right at the next track junction, and follow the track up the glen for two miles to Queen's Well. The track forks soon after the well; keep left to remain close to the Water of Mark. A major tributary soon needs to be forded.

2. At a second major ford - this time over the Water of Mark itself - check the water level. If it looks low enough, the crossing can be waded on the return route.

3. For now, do not cross the river, but instead remain on the right (north) bank. There is a narrow path. A series of waterfalls on the Burn of Doune tributary is reached after a further mile. Cross the tributary below the falls.

4. Continue up Glen Mark along the northern side of its flood plain for about 300 metres. As soon as the burn bends directly west (looking upstream), follow its bank more closely. Very soon a section of rapids in a little gorge should be visible ahead. Cross the Water of Mark again on boulders just below the gorge, then continue upstream, now following the south bank past lovely water-sculpted rock shapes.

5. After a few hundred metres, a grassy plain devoid of heather is reached, with a large boulder sitting near the bottom. This is directly below the cave. Look up the slopes (south) from the boulder - you should be able to make out the cave amongst the heather and jumble of rocks above, with evidence of the entrance having been "bricked up" at the sides to make it narrower. You probably won't want to stay very long in the cramped interior (its history is more interesting than the cave itself).

Tip: Most difficulties in locating the cave come from pinpointing it on OS maps in the first place. The 1:25000 scale maps don't show the cave clearly - it's marked as a black circle, unhelpfully identical to the numerous other circles marking all the other rock features in the area. However, 1:50000 maps don't show the other features, clearly identifying the cave at G.R.: NO 396833.

6. Before heading back the way you came, continue upstream a further few hundred metres to enjoy the rapids and waterfalls just beyond here. For the return, river levels will normally dictate returning by the outward route as far as Queen's Well (jump to stage 8). However, it is possible to instead remain on the south bank for now if the water level at the ford in Stage 2 was low enough to cross safely.

6a. Alternative return route: if water levels are sufficiently low, remain on the south side of the glen (in green on map below), following the Water of Mark downstream. The path soon becomes a track, eventually reaching the ford in Stage 2, which must be crossed.

7. Whichever route you have returned by, now continue downstream to a bridge (at last!) about a mile after Queen's Well. Cross the bridge and continue on the south bank, keeping left at a junction just short of Invermark Lodge. The track soon reaches another junction, with ruined Invermark Castle worth visiting on the right. Keep straight ahead to cross a final bridge, with the car park a short distance beyond.

Route credit: Scotland Off the Beaten Track
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On our visit

Wildlife: Red deer, guinea fowl and white rabbits around Invermark; sheep.
Weather: Blue sky to the southeast, overcast to the northwest. Dry, moderately windy.

Chronological photo guide

[Glen Mark approaching Queen's Well]

[Queen's Well]

[Glen Mark beyond Queen's Well]

[Burn of Doune waterfalls]

[Crossing the Water of Mark below the gorge]

[Crossing the Water of Mark below the gorge]

[Glen Mark from near Balnamoon's Cave]

[Grassy plain and large boulder below Balnamoon's Cave]

[Balnamoon's Cave from the grassy area]

[Zoomed view of the cave]

[Waterfall on the Water of Mark above the cave]

[Invermark Castle near the finish]


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