Ben Gunn's Cave – Bridge of Allan, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

Bridge of Allan, Scotland

Ben Gunn's Cave

A carved bench marks the Scottish cave that inspired the classic adventure novel "Treasure Island." 

Midway along a wooded walk on an ancient road connecting the towns of Bridge of Allan and Dunblane, you’ll find a small dark cave featured in Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson’s beloved adventure novel “Treasure Island.”

Closer inspection will reveal a bench beside the cave, adorned with carvings relating to the book. On one side you’ll find images of a treasure box and a shovel. On the other side, a parrot and skull and hook are depicted. Etched into the back is a treasure map carved with the ubiquitous “X.”

The cave and bench are located along the Darn Walk, a scenic path that hugs the Allan Water river. Behind you, near the swiftly flowing stream, a plaque on a fence describes the significance of the site.

Stevenson was an Edinburgh native who came to this area many times with his parents in the 1860s, and it’s easy to imagine him meandering through these woods and exploring the river before finding the cave. Legend has it this cave served as inspiration for a section of the novel in which a sailor named Ben Gunn hid dried goat meat and obsessed over cheese.

While there are indications that this cave did indeed inspire the author’s iconic tale, it’s impossible to trace any evidence directly. But Stevenson did write lovingly about the area in his journals and in letters to friends and family. There are many records of his time in Bridge of Allan, where many wealthy inhabitants of the United Kingdom (Charles Dickens included) came to take in the restorative waters of this little spa town.

Know Before You Go

The Darn Walk is an old trail that connects the spa town of Bridge of Allan to Dunblane further north. Its original function was as an ancient Roman road and footpath, but today it serves only as recreation. If you go, be warned that it can be quite muddy and there is a small river crossing.

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