Soothing…invigorating…relaxing…enlivening. Beyond our basic human needs, there’s something very uplifting about being in, on or near water. It’s good for our well-being and our spirit.
Blending spectacular settings and tumbling torrents, Scotland’s waterfalls are ideal for improving your wellness. Whether you’re just listening to the soothing sounds of cascading falls, or taking an invigorating dip in a linn beneath them, their draw is almost bewitching.
As part of our Year of Coasts and Waters 2021, we’ve pulled together a list of quiet waterfall walks to enjoy. Walk by them when they’re in full flow with winter snow melt or after heavy rainfall to witness their drama, or take a lazy day’s saunter in summer, when water levels are lower, and enjoy their gentler side.
1. Ramnahol Waterfall, Shetland
Where: Between Aith and East Burrafirth, Mainland, Shetland
Distance: 1 mile/1.5 km
Terrain: Well-constructed core path, with some steps and muddy sections.
Ramnahol Waterfall, or ‘pool of the ravens’ in Norse, is the perfect place to start your Scottish waterfall walks journey. It’s easily reached by a short path near the B9071 road, just beyond The Original Cake Fridge and Tea Shop, an ideal option for a ‘peerie’ post-walk snack.
Take the well-constructed path alongside the Burn of Lunklet, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, until you reach the lovely falls, which are fed by the Loch of Lunklet further up. Extend the walk onto moorland beyond the falls, for fantastic views over the area.
2. Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, Highlands
Where: Near Kylesku, Sutherland
Distance: 6 miles/10 km
Terrain: A rough and, at times, faint path through rugged country. The route is boggy in places.
This is a wonderful waterfall walk to savour. At 200m, not only do you visit the UK’s highest waterfall, a short detour, near the start of the walk, takes you to the hauntingly-named Wailing Widow Falls, at the outflow of Loch na Gainmhich, giving you two waterfall ‘ticks’.
The walk continues on along increasingly rough terrain, beyond the loch, leading to the top of the Eas a’ Chuil Aluinn. Linger awhile and absorb the dramatic views over the falls and down Glen Coul to lochs Beag and Glencoul. When this cascade is in full flow, especially after heavy rainfall, it dwarfs Niagara Falls, which are only 51m in height!
3. Eas Dubh a’ Ghlinne Ghairbh, Highlands
Where: Gruinard Bay, Wester Ross
Distance: 2 miles/3.2 km
Terrain: Rough terrain on a path that is muddy and faint for some sections.
The coastline of Wester Ross must be one of the UK’s finest if you’re looking to rebalance your Chi amidst some of Europe’s finest scenery.
Set behind stunning Gruinard Bay, a short and steady climb up the Inverianvie River reveals the Eas Dubh a’ Ghlinne Ghairbh waterfall. From above the waterfall, the views back towards the bay are breath-taking. Relax here for a while and let the soothing sound of the falls crowd your senses.
If the bay is busy, there are a number of lovely beaches nearby to explore, or visit Inverewe Garden close by. Remember to take care when driving on singletrack roads and park responsibly at Gruinard Beach.
4. Linn of Ruthrie Falls, Moray Speyside
Where: Charlestown of Aberlour, Moray Speyside
Distance: 2 miles/3.2 km
Public transport: Bus services run to Aberlour from Elgin Bus Station.
Terrain: A good woodland path with some wooden steps.
This short walk, starting and finishing in Aberlour, takes waterfall walkers along the Aberlour Burn leading to the double-cascade Linn Falls. It’s not the biggest waterfall by any means, but its lovely setting will undoubtedly do wonders for your well-being.
The route is signposted from Aberlour Distillery – ideal for a post-walk dram to round off your walk! This is also a great rest-day walk for those walking the Speyside Way, which runs through the town.
5. Plodda Falls and Dog Falls, Highlands
Where: By Cannich, Highlands
Distance: Dog Falls – 2 miles/3.2 km; Plodda Falls – ½ mile/1 km
Terrain: Uneven gravel paths with some steep slopes, rocky sections, steps and a narrow bridge.
With remarkable mountain, loch and riverside scenery, Glen Affric is regarded by many as one of Scotland’s most beautiful glens. This magical landscape is further enriched by two dramatic waterfalls, which are perfect for a wellness walk.
Dog Falls, within Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, is a series of falls in a splendid setting of gnarled old Scots pine trees. Go quietly and you might see crossbills, wood warblers and other small birds singing in the trees above. Follow the red way markers from the car park for a circular walk, at first along the River Affric and then climbing into the forest beyond. A slightly longer walk is available if you want to extend your time here and why wouldn’t you?
On the south side of Glen Affric, and only nine miles from Dog Falls, Plodda Falls are surely one of Scotland’s hidden treasures. Falling straight for 46 metres (over 150ft), this is the tallest waterfall in the region and a viewing platform offers dizzying views over the top of the falls. This walk can be extended to 1.5 miles/2.5 km and explores more of lovely Guisachan Forest.
6. Hallaig Falls, Isle of Raasay
Where: Isle of Raasay, Highlands
Distance: 4 miles/6.5 km
Terrain: A good waymarked grassy path, care required near the clifftop falls.
The Isle of Raasay is a fabulous place to escape the everyday – don’t miss the distillery! This waterfall walk offers stunning views towards the Cuillin mountains on Skye, towards Dùn Caan – the highest point on Raasay, and to the Scottish Highlands.
A short detour off a wonderful clifftop walk from North Fearns to the ruined crofting township of Hallaig, takes walkers to Hallaig Falls which tumble directly into the sea.
Hallaig township is immortalised in local poet Sorley Maclean’s most important work, Hallaig. Maclean was born on Raasay in 1911 and wrote the poem to commentate on the clearance of the township 100 years earlier. Imagine how tough, and rewarding, life might have been, in this special place during these times.
7. Black Spout Waterfall, Perthshire
Where: Pitlochry, Highland Perthshire
Distance: 3 miles/5 km
Grade: Easy (moderate if extending to include Moulin, then back to Pitlochry)
Terrain: A good woodland path, which can be muddy in places, pavement and minor roads.
Public transport: There are regular train and bus services to Pitlochry.
This circular waterfall walk starts in the popular holiday town of Pitlochry, and makes its way up through lovely woodland beyond Blair Athol Distillery. The route leads to a platform perched over the Edradour Burn looking over to 60m Black Spout waterfall. It’s a stunning setting, especially in autumn.
The walk continues along a narrow and sometimes muddy path to Edradour Distillery – Scotland’s smallest distillery, where you can join a tour and enjoy a dram.
8. Loup of Fintry, Stirlingshire
Where: Near Fintry, Campsie Fells
Distance: ½ mile/1 km
Terrain: A good, if sometimes muddy, signposted footpath.
Rising from the Gargunnock and Fintry hills, the Endrick Water snakes through some lovely Stirlingshire countryside, before dramatically dropping 94 feet over the Loup of Fintry and continuing on past Drymen and into Loch Lomond.
This very short walk is well signposted not far from the village of Fintry and the falls are best seen after heavy rainfall. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery of the Campsie Fells.
Car parking is limited, so if it’s busy, the Pots of Gartness, also on the Endrick Water near Killearn, are close by and are a great spot to watch salmon jumping during the autumn months.
9. Greenock Cut, Inverclyde
Where: Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, near Greenock.
Distance: 7 miles/11 km
Terrain: Well-maintained vehicle tracks and footpath.
Public transport: Train services between Glasgow Central and Drumfochar stations – the Greenock Cut Visitor Centre is 3 miles from Drumfochar.
Drink in stunning views over the River Clyde, savour the rough beauty of the regional park’s moorland, and tread the ancient cobbles of more than 20 beautiful stone bridges on this epic circular walk.
The undisputed highlight of the walk is the Greenock Cut itself – a 6.5-kilometre-long aqueduct built in the 19th century to carry water from the nearby Loch Thom reservoir to the town’s burgeoning industries. Now a designated Scheduled Monument, the Cut ends in a jaw-dropping waterfall that’s worth the walk all by itself. The Coig offers more information about this quieter part of Scotland.
10. Greeto Falls, North Ayrshire
Distance: 2.5 miles/4 km
Terrain: Good tracks and steep hill paths.
Public transport: Regular train and bus services run between Glasgow and Largs.
From the town, follow a good footpath above the Gogo Water until you reach the falls, high above Largs – a popular local picnic spot and a great place to unwind.
The route is steep, but rewards with stunning views across the Firth of Clyde to the isles of Cumbrae, Bute and Arran and to Cowal and Kintyre. Return to the town for a well-being boost from Nardini’s or Geraldo’s! There are more walks to enjoy around the Largs area too.
11. Glenashdale Falls (Eas a’ Chrannaig), Isle of Arran
Where: Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran
Distance: 6 miles/10 km
Terrain: An uneven gravel and earth surface with some muddy sections.
Public transport: Regular bus services run between Brodick and Whiting Bay.
This mystical route takes walkers through lovely woodland, and an area full of Iron Age and Neolithic history, to the 140-foot double-drop falls of Glenashdale on the Isle of Arran. A viewing platform offers fantastic views over the falls.
The mysteries continue through woodland beyond the falls to take in lovely views of Holy Isle, before reaching the intriguing Giants’ Graves, set in a clearing. These two large and impressive Neolithic chambered tombs are over 5,000 years old, but were giants buried here, or is this where they buried their victims?! There’s also an Iron Age fort to explore not far from the falls.
12. Grey Mare’s Tail and Loch Skeen, Dumfries & Galloway
Where: 10 miles north-east of Moffat
Distance: 3 miles/5 km
Terrain: A good hill path with a steep climb; care needed above the ravine.
It’s easy to see how this spectacular waterfall got its name as you gaze upon the shard of white frothing water, as it plunges into the Moffat Water Valley.
Set within a dramatic upland landscape, this waterfall walk follows the Grey Mare’s Tail path, which runs very close to the falls, allowing you to get close enough to feel the spray on your face when it’s in full flow.
Reaching the top of the falls provides an almost theatrical reveal of lovely Loch Skeen, overlooked by the peaks of Lochcraig Head, Mid Craig and the Corbett of White Coomb. For the adventurous, this walk can be extended to climb the hills of the White Coomb horseshoe.
Of course, waterfalls are just one amazing aspect of Scotland’s renowned landscapes. There are many more secluded and off-the-beaten-track places to discover, to help you re-connect with nature and revitalise your senses.
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