Take the plunge: Wonderful waterfall walks
Rushing water. A glint of silver as salmon leap and swim upstream. Sunlight filtering through tall trees catches droplets of moisture, casting rainbows everywhere you look. There’s no denying it - waterfalls make for spectacular destinations, some of the most incredible wild places looked after by Forestry and Land Scotland.
With good weather on the way soon, get ready to hit the road and check out some of the most spectacular waterfall destinations in the country. 2020 is the Year of Coasts and Waters, and we’ll be looking at some of our best water-based destinations and activities over the coming months, from watersports to coastal trails. First up, ten of our favourite wonderful waterfall walks!
At Glenbranter, the Waterfall Trail follows a narrow (but not too steep) route through a gorge, past several waterfalls and rows of native oak trees. The falls at Glenbranter are much, much louder when in full flow. The awesome, thundering noise has to be heard to be believed.
There are two more walking trails to explore here, as well as two cycling loops, which offer a 90-minute jaunt, or a challenging full day of riding. Climb the Glen Eck Trail for spectacular views across Glen Eck to Beinn Bheula and Beinn Mhôr.
- Our favourite trail: Waterfall Trail
- Nearest town: Strachur
- Look out for: Bridges cross the gorge in several places - how many can you count?
An ancient woodland home to red squirrel, red deer and pine marten, Barnaline is a quiet forest where the shaded trails echo with the sound of rushing falls. The path up to the viewpoint leads past several stages of the fast-flowing Avich Falls.
Barnaline’s un-waymarked trails are popular with mountain bikers and horse riders alike, with links into the Oban to Campbeltown National Cycle Route. There are also fine views over Loch Awe.
- Our favourite trail: Avich Falls Trail
- Nearest town: Dalavich
- Look out for: Rare species of moss and fern, plants that are absolutely essential to forest ecosystems.
The Grey Mare’s Tail. Image: Alan Reid / Geograph
The famous Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall is the fifth highest in the UK. The hanging valley is a fantastic nature habitat, home to dozens of species of rare upland plants and wildlife. The sky at night here is among the darkest in Europe, with very little light pollution, making Talnotry one of the best destinations for a night-time visit to Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.
Follow the strenuous trail past the towering Murray’s Monument commemorating a local hero, the 19th century Scottish linguist and scholar Alexander Murray. At the top, you’ll find an incredible viewpoint, with the option to go off-trail and climb even higher for the brave and the bold.
- Trail: Talnotry Trail
- Nearest town: Newton Stewart
- Look out for: Constellations glittering in the night sky.
An island waterfall on Arran...One of the most popular walks on Arran is the Glenashdale Falls Trail at South End. The walk takes around an hour and a half, and is incredibly impressive, especially after a few days of rain. The dramatic viewing platform is perfect for taking in Arran’s tallest waterfall. South End is easily accessible from the ferry terminal at Brodick, with a regular bus service passing by.
Rogie Falls is one of the best places to experience the exhilarating rush of standing next to a waterfall. An impressive suspension bridge, itself a very photographic feat of engineering, gets you up close and personal with the thundering rapids and plunging falls. Like the Falls of Shin, these are prime breeding grounds for Atlantic salmon in the autumn.
The number of viewpoints makes Rogie Falls one of the best places to photograph waterfalls in Scotland, with both trails offering their own unique perspectives on the site’s natural beauty. After heavy rain or snow, the falls look particularly dramatic.
- Trails:Both trails take you to the falls.
- Nearest town: Contin
- Look out for: Salmon leaping through the falls in autumn.
Waterfall trails near GlasgowNear the Erskine Bridge, between Dumbarton and Clydebank, you’ll find two peaceful forest walks within a short distance of Glasgow. Windyhill is a popular picnic destination with views of the Brandyburn waterfall, perfect for a brisk walk on a sunny day. Take time to explore the Kilpatrick Braes, where smaller waterfalls line the tracks and paths.
The waterfall-fed river after heavy rain. Image: Bert Kaufman / Flickr
Like Barnaline, Glen Orchy has lots to offer besides the rushing waters of the Eas Urchaidh waterfall. There’s a picturesque picnic spot at Catnish beside a glittering river, and the slopes of several Munros overlook the forests. The West Highland Way https://www.westhighlandway.org/ passes nearby.
A popular destination for sports enthusiasts, Glen Orchy is a brilliant spot to start your adventure whether you are mountain biking, cycling, hillwalking, horse riding, or even kayaking. Accessible but wild, there are no waymarked trails here, but loads to explore.
- Trail: No waymarked trails, but paths lead uphill into the forest and to the riverside picnic benches at Catnish.
- Nearest town: Bridge of Orchy
- Look out for: The steep slopes and sharp peak of Beinn Mhic Mhonaidh https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/argyll/beinn-mhic-mhonaidh.shtml, one of the most scenic hill climbs Scotland has to offer.
Waterfalls near Fort WilliamWithin easy reach of Fort William, Glen Righ has no less than eight waterfalls tumbling down the mountainside next to the trail, with the big daddy of them all, Inchree Falls, at the top. Not too far away, Loch Arkaig has a beautiful picnic spot at the base of a waterfall, known as the Witches Cauldron. Those up for a more challenging walk can visit the exquisite Allt Muich Butterfly Reserve at the top of the hill.
Allt na Crìche
Just north of Fort Augustus, Allt na Crìche offers a spectacular vista over the forests and waters of Loch Ness, with a fine view of Fort Augustus Abbey, a beautiful nineteenth-century monastery.
The climb to the small but perfectly formed waterfall is challenging, with steep sections, but the view over Loch Ness is unparallelled. As a stop-off on the road to Inverness, it’s the perfect place to stretch your legs and relax by the sound of the rushing falls.
- Trail:Allt na Crìche Trail
- Nearest town: Fort Augustus
- Look out for: Sunlight glittering on the waters of Loch Ness.
Falls of Shin
The Falls of Shin sit at the top of the Achany Glen, surrounded by ancient woodland. Atlantic salmon use them as a breeding ground in the late autumn, and that’s just one of the iconic species you might spot here, with regular visits from buzzards, woodpeckers, and other rare birds.
As the destination is at the foot of the falls, all of the trails circle around it, with some fabulous views. Popular with locals, in the summer months you will find kids racing around on the grass, and families picnicking in the sun. All the trails are fairly easy to negotiate, with no steep sections.
- Trail:All the trails will let you see the falls.
- Nearest town: Fort Augustus
- Look out for: Birds of prey soaring overhead, looking for their next meal!
Image: Alex Berger / Flickr
The un-waymarked trails at Victoria Falls let you explore an area of incredible natural beauty and biodiversity. The viewpoints over Loch Maree are spectacular, and the loch itself is protected as a National Nature Reserve https://www.nature.scot/enjoying-outdoors/scotlands-national-nature-reserves/beinn-eighe-and-loch-maree-islands-national-nature-reserve.
Ferns, mosses and other flora that grow here are both unique to the area and exceptionally rare; as are the insect species who make the gorges and valleys here their home. Caledonian pines grow on the rocky slopes of Beinn Eighe. The waterfall tumbles down from the brooding, craggy peak, which overlooks the viewpoints along the trails.
- Trails: No waymarked trails, but plenty to explore.
- Nearest town: Slattadale
- Look out for: The delicious smell of wet pine needles after a burst of rain.
Wild waterfalls in the northThe north of Scotland is waterfall country, with too many to visit on a single trip. The more accessible falls are spectacular, but some of the most breathtaking you will see in the world are in Scotland’s more remote parts. Divach Falls, near the Great Glen Way, has no waymarked trails, but is incredibly atmospheric, with a forest full of wildlife. Plodda Falls meanwhile has waymarked trails leading up to an incredible, cascading waterfall that drops nearly 100 feet straight down into the Abhainn Deabhag. It has to be seen to be believed!
The Lodge at Aberfoyle is the gateway to the luscious woodlands of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The Waterfall Trail is fully accessible, and the visitor centre has mobility scooters available to borrow free of charge.
More than just an easy-to-access forest (both Edinburgh and Glasgow are a little over an hour’s drive away), The Lodge is a place where visitors can learn about history, take in some public art, and even enjoy high-adrenaline treetop thrills with Go Ape https://goape.co.uk/locations/aberfoyle. Plus, there’s always time for tea and cakes in the Lodge Cafe after your adventure.
Stop to take in the various artworks hidden along the trails, including bewitching mirrored silhouettes by artist Rob Mulholland; a family of sculpted bronze deer frolicking in the shade, and a breathtaking statue dedicated to the ‘Lumberjills' - the Women’s Timber Corps, whose contribution to the war effort is celebrated with some on-site, interactive information points.
- Trail:Waterfall Trail (Easy)
- Nearest town: Aberfoyle
- Look out for: Red squirrels and pine martens dashing through the trees.
We’ve written about Puck’s Glen before - it featured in our blog about fantastic forests you can visit by ferry. A mossy, narrow glen set in on all sides by waterfalls tumbling down a picturesque gorge, there’s a reason why this jewel of Argyll Forest Park is one of our most photographed destinations.
The effect of walking up the steep but well-managed trail is nothing short of magical. The moist, humid air, the smells of moss and the deep, loamy soil produced by fallen trees all create an air of unreality. No wonder they named the place for the mischievous sprite in A Midsummer Night’s Dream! At the trail’s top, impressive views over the Benmore Estate reward committed climbers.
- Trail:Puck’s Glen Gorge Trail
- Nearest town: Dunoon
- Look out for: Benmore House was a training school for foresters in the 1960s. Now it is home to rare and exotic plants at Benmore Botanic Garden.
Come back soon for even more features celebrating the Year of Coasts and Waters!