Lower section of the Ailnack gorge at very low water

Gorges

Gorges reflect rapid down cutting by rivers into rock. In many parts of the world, down cutting is induced by rapid uplift as part of mountain building but in the Cairngorms the main gorges were probably cut by glacial meltwater.

The small gorge section at Bridge of Brown shows a series of waterfalls, chutes and plunge pools. The continuing significance of fluvial erosion is indicated by the smooth potholes drilled in flat rock surfaces by the grinding of trapped cobbles at periods of high flow.

The finest gorge in the Cairngorms is that of the Water of Ailnack. Along a 9 km section of valley lie three gorge sections, each with a slot-like canyon set within steep valley sides cut into schist and smooth pelite. The power of water flow through these canyons at high flow is huge - sufficient to move boulders up to 1 m long. Water levels rise rapidly in response to rain in the headwaters of the Water of Caiplich.