Whilst no reiver towers can be seen from the river, Black Burn Falls are in the heart of reiving-country. Once a popular Liddesdale excursion, now a quiet, secluded spot, the tumbling waters of the confluence of the Black Burn and the Lang Gill once served as a renowned reiving hideout. One legend in particular (as recounted by ex-Langholm Cornet Billy S. Young in his book A Spot Supremely Blest) tells of how Archie of Mangerton, brother to the Caerlanrig reiver John Armstrong of Gilnockie, fled the scene of John’s execution, using his local knowledge of the bogs and waterways around the Black Burn Falls to take refuge by Tarras Moss, thus escaping a similar fate.
In the upper-reaches of the Falls, miniature cascades add to the rugged, defiant beauty of the main spill, which is at its most spectacular after heavy rains, or when spring melts the winter snows. In Liddesdale, John Byers describes the Black Burn most eloquently. “It is vigorous and impulsive, fighting pugnaciously every obstacle that opposes its free passage; huge boulders are scattered along its rough channel, and trees, overpowered by the weight of years, lie decaying in its hurrying stream… and its song has the flavour of the old riding ballads that cheered the hearts of the mosstroopers.”
Locally, the name of the falls is pronounced ‘Bleakburn’, as in David Anderson’s poem concerning the spot.
‘Looking up the rugged dell,
Where the mountain ravens dwell,
Wildest grandeur – Nature’s sel’ –
Is seen i’ bonny Bleakburn’
- taken from Musings by the Burns and Braes of Liddesdale, by David Anderson