colour walks

Alec Finlay has imagined walks between some colour place names in the landscape (Alec Finlay: Some Colour Trends ). Alec was interested to know how the names relate to reality in nature, and if walks between them were actually possible. So I went to explore.

Blue Cairn

thigh-deep heather

piles of bluish-grey stones

why was this one

given a name?

snow patches

white hares

under a bridge

by a ford

two burns meet


One of Alec’s conceived walks around Glenbuchat was between two burns: Allt na Greine to Blacksnake Burn.

Alec researches the meaning of place names through multiple sources:
OS, Blacksnake Burn; Milne gives G., snàig, to creep or crawl, for a slow-maundering burn, but, according to Watson, the name is Black Sneck, from the Sc. sneck, a notch between two hills, or, in Alexander, a cut on the horizon. In the Peak District sneck is used in a similar topography to refer to a latch.

On a misty dreich day, I went to find the Blacksnake burn.



an idle stream

that crept along

curled  in a  cleft

bend by bend   up to

the notch  of the loch

that unlocks the latch

of the watershed   which

feeds the divide  I looked

on as the mouth opened

into the dark head

of a snake



snake  is snaig

to creep, or  crawl

Watson  gives sneck,

a notch  between hills

Polmadie’s sneck’s a lock

and  Russell  gives  snake

whose  head she  has

seen  in the  shape

of  the  wee

loch itself

 Alec Finlay, Some Colour Trends


Another walk Alec and I created connects ‘breac’ place names. Breac means 'speckled' or 'spotted'. It is a common feature in the natural environment-from trout to scree. Alec had found two hills in quite close vicinity with breac place names: Dubh Breac and Breagach.

I  had walked there before, but set out to explore Dubh Breac more closely. At first sight it seemed just another amorphous lump with no distinguishing features, but on the top I found the most unusual circular white patches of stones.

wetted feet fording

Allt Chuirn Deirg

secret pools

& soundscapes

tracking the burn

to its source

where deer shelter

among wild-flowers

keep on till the last

patch of green leads

up the bleak slope

Dubh Breac

breac’s universal speckle

bright white stones

in dark heather

dubh’s black peat bogs

on the summit

I created a circular walk from Corriebreck to Breagach Hill via Dubh Breac, which Alec translated as: ‘a circular walk from Splotched Corrie to Speckled Hill via Darkly Pockled’

Click to enlarge

We have also created routes and maps for some of Alec's other colour walks:

Blue Cairn to the Garnet Stone

White Well to Well of Cul-dearg

Ca-du ford to Bridge of Avon

Detailed walking routes can be found on (soon)

Alec Finlay, 'Some Colour Trends'  
Gill Russell, 'Lorg-coise'