Words: Lucy Grewcock (Wild Guides Author)
Plunging over precarious drops, thundering through gorges and rippling over rocky steps, Scotland’s waterfalls cascade in every corner of the country. Imbued with myths, legend and fairy stories, they have inspired poets, writers and artists throughout the centuries: when Robert Burns visit the Falls of Foyers near Loch Ness, he took out his pencil and wrote a poem on the spot.
While some take several hours to hike to, others are a short stroll from pretty villages or parking spots. To make the most of each one and experience more of the local area, consider wild camping (permitted in most unenclosed areas of Scotland), stay in a bothy, or cosy-up a remote cottage, far removed from everyday life.
Falls of Foyers – Loch Ness and Glen Affric
Known as ‘the smoking waterfall’ the Falls of Foyers is one of Scotland’s best. Set in a dramatic gorge near to Loch Ness, these surging waters have inspired many-a poet, including Robert Burns. It’s a five-minute walk from the centre of Foyers, where you can spot red squirrels, buy picnic supplies at Foyers Stores, or tuck into tea and cake at Camerons Tea Rooms and meet their pair of tame roe deer. Camp beside Loch Ness at Inver Coille Campsite, or spend the night at Morag’s Lodge Hostel, where the rustic bar serves local Loch Ness beer.
Eas a’ Chual Aluinn – Ullapool and Assynt
The highest waterfall in the UK, the ‘Fall of the Beautiful Tresses’ plunges 200m (650ft) to the valley floor where it flows into Loch Beag in northwest Scotland. A two-hour walk from the car park at Loch na Gainmhich takes you through the rocky landscape of Assynt to reach the best viewpoint at the top of the falls (bring a map). For a bigger adventure, add an overnight stay in remote Glendhu Bothy, north of the falls – hike there along the shore of Loch Gleann Dubh from Kylestrome.
Falls of Unich – Angus
Over on the east coast, just above Dundee, Angus offers a serene Scottish experience that is often overlooked in favour of the better-known west coast. Hidden from view until you’re almost upon them, these beautiful falls are a real delight – and their tranquil setting makes for a perfect wild camping spot. It’s a two-hour walk here from Loch Lee, which is set in a rolling glen. You can also wild camp by the river in the nearby hamlet of Tarfside.
The Fairy Glen – Easter Ross and the Black Isle
North of Inverness, these twin falls flow through a magical wooded glen, which is rich in ash, rowan, beech and oak, and is alive with primroses and bluebells in spring. Well-dressing ceremonies used to take place here, when the local children would decorate the springs with flowers to encourage the fairies to keep the water clean. It’s a half hour walk to the falls from Rosemarkie. Stay at Fortrose Bay Campsite and light your campfire on the pebble beach.
Lettermay Burn – Lochgoilhead, Argyll
Wild and remote, the Ardnamurchan peninsula is the most westerly point in the UK. Just back from the southern coastline, the refreshing falls on Lettermay Burn have rock slides and pretty cascades, as well as calmer pools for dipping, plunging or paddling. It’s best to visit before June or after August when the water levels are high enough to jump and the midge count is low. The falls are a 20-minute walk from Lettermay. To fully appreciate the peninsula, seek out a wild camping spot or spend a couple of nights in The Seashell holiday cottage – a timber, stone and glass eco-cottage set by the seashore.
Ferociously powerful or simply spellbinding, Scotland’s waterfalls make a fantastic focal point for any hike or adventure. From forest-fringed lochs to snow-topped mountains and salty seashores, magical settings or epic scenery are guaranteed.
Just take care around slippery rocks, don’t forget your towel and think about packing a notebook or sketchbook – when you’re gazing at a ribbon of white water, showering yourself in the spray or listening to the thundering roar of a flowing torrent, you never know when inspiration might strike.
For more inspiration on wild adventures this Autumn take a look at Wild Guide Scotland and other Wild Guides.
About the Author:
Lucy Grewcock - Travel Writer & Author
Lucy Grewcock is an award-winning travel writer and author of Wild Guide – Southern and Eastern England, which won ‘Travel Guide Book of the Year’ at the 2015 Travel Media Awards. She has worked on several other books in the Wild Guide series as a researcher and proofreader.