Hidden away in the Cairngorms, lies the Burn O’Vat, an ancient place once used by the notorious outlaw known as “Gilderoy”. Found in the Muir of Dinnet National Natural Reserve, this wonder of geology is only a short walk from the closest car park but does require a bit of a scramble to actually get inside.
“The Vat” is a glacial pothole that was formed around 14,000 to 12,000 years ago when a rock became lodged in the river bed allowing water to carve out the underlying granite bedrock. The “burn” or stream that made it now runs through the vat and out the other side at varying levels of strength depending on the weather. It’s been a tourist attraction since Victorian times but before that was used for decidedly nefarious purposes.
Local legend has it that the famous Rob Roy Mcgregor used the vat as a hideout – but that wasn’t actually the case. It is quite likely, however, that notorious outlaw Patrick Gilroy Macgregor aka Gilderoy did use it to seek shelter in the 17th century.
Gilroy was a bandit leader, murderer, and cattle thief and, Like Rob Roy and Robin Hood, was the subject of many poems and songs. Although the tales are romanticised and fantastical, the real Gilderoy was not a steal-from-the-rich-give-to-the-poor type. He committed many crimes against common folk, including murder, and was executed in 1636. His head and right hand were removed after he was hung and displayed on the eastern side of the port of Edinburgh.
Gilderoy hid from pursuers in the vat, the water from the burn providing cover. Indeed when you first walk up to the entrance, it appears there’s no way through. However, if the water is low enough you can use stepping stones over the stream and slip through an opening in the rock to see inside.
The vat is midgey and damp and not somewhere you’d want to hang around in unless you were on the run from the law. But aside from tales of outlaws and murder, the place certainly has an otherwordly vibe. There could definitely be an entrance to another realm hidden somewhere in it. If you happen to be in the vicinity and can do a bit of clambering, it’s worth a visit.
What do you think? Does this place inspire you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.