From its music to its history and folklore Scotland has always been one of the world’s epicenters for the mystical and magical. It is an ethereal place which seems both a part of modern times and lost in the mists of romanticized visions of bygone eras. Cleared of trees thousands of years ago, the Scottish landscape has adapted, evolved, and transformed into a land of wonderful valleys, waterfalls, breathtaking lochs, and mountains. Mountains that are sometimes brutal, harsh and primitive with a naked majesty and elegant beauty unlike their cousins in the ranges of Norway, the American and Canadian Rockies, the South American Andes or Europe’s Alps. This post seeks to showcase and share a sampling of Scotland’s incredible waterfalls. Some are small – you’ll notice that one is more a rapid than waterfall – while others are related to waterfalls such as the flowing water inside Smoo Cave. All were taken during a 6-day solo driving trip I made in August 2013. Enjoy!
This location was made famous a year ago by Reddit when several photos of the “Fae Pools” on the Isle of Skye were posted. It is a wonderful spot situated in the southwestern part of Skye and sits at the base of imposing cliffs with sheer walls that look straight out of the Lord of the Rings. This waterfall is part of a series of falls that make up the fairy pools.
Located about 10 minutes outside of Ullapool, Corrieshalloch Gorge is a mouthful and a bit difficult to find on the map but an incredible location. This imposing waterfall crashes down into a narrow gorge with near-smooth walls heavily laden with rich green ferns and gorgeous moss. The suspension bridge that crosses the gorge just above the falls is free floating, allowing both an incredible view of the falls and a hair-raising experience.
While far less famous than its big sister in south-central Africa, Scotland’s Victoria Falls is also well worth a brief stop. A beautiful waterfall located along Loch Maree about an hour’s drive outside of Ullapool, this lovely waterfall was ringed by blooming flowers, heather, and thick ferns. An added perk were the fresh raspberries which could be found along the path to and from the falls.
While the primary fairy pools are located along the main stream which is fed by runoff from the area’s craggy cliffs, there is a second smaller stream that feeds a series of petite falls and cozy pools which are located just beside the start of the hiking path.
This is the third photo from the fairy pools in this series. This shot captures the incredible power of water as a cutting tool. Note the smooth but abandoned channel immediately to the right of the jet of water currently cutting its way into the ancient bedrock. A simple feat of natural engineering or an illustration of fae magic? It’s hard to say!
A random waterfall situated near the road on the Isle of Skye. The water from this stream flowed down across the grasslands before winding its way through orange, gold, and yellow- hued kelp and sea moss to the nearby sea loch.
Located just outside of Perth, there is a wonderful nature reserve and brief hike. Commonly called “The Hermitage” it is home to this gorgeous waterfall. Perched overlooking the falls is a Georgian Folly – which is to say a semi-modern building built during the Georgian period for decoration with the goal of appearing much older than it actually is. If you’re lucky you can find massive Scottish Salmon running the waterfalls during their spawning season.
One of my favorite places in Scotland, this photo is of Smoo Waterfall situated deep inside Smoo Cave. The cave sits at the end of a small inlet carved over centuries of wear and tear. It is easy to imagine that Smoo Cave, situated right outside of Durness, is the source for numerous myths and stories. Of these, Beowulf comes to mind. Over the years the tides, harsh coastal winds, and the constant onslaught of nature have carved out a large cavern which opens onto the ocean. At the same time a nearby stream has gradually cut and tunneled its way towards the sea creating a series of caves. As the flow of water changed, the stream periodically would carve holes in the roof of the chamber which at times caused it to collapse. At other times it created stunning portals such as this one where a small waterfall crashes down into a large pool.
If the weather cooperates and the falls are not raging, it’s possible to take a small inflatable raft across to the main chamber where the waterfall is, under a low hanging stone arch, and to a human-sized tunnel that winds into the hillside 100 feet or so before dead ending at a second small pool and series of small stalagmites. While the path stops, the water’s source does not. Testing done on charred ash which has been found in the water dates back thousands of years and indicates that humans have likely been exploring the cave system since before the rise of the Roman Empire.
One of the wonderful things about Scotland is the wealth of picturesque streams which line the bottoms of the area’s countless glens. This photo captures one such spot along the road just outside of the tiny village of Ratagan near the famous Eilean Donan Castle. A photo cannot convey the tranquility and rich scent that permeates the air, but I hope as you look at these photos you take a moment to close your eyes and imagine.
The final photo in this series is from the fairy pools. This pinned boulder easily weighed as much as I do. It was a not-so-subtle reminder about the potential for harsh floods and thunderous water flows that no doubt happen several times a year during the heavy rains that keep the Isle of Skye and Highlands so alive and covered in a thick blanket of rich green foliage.
I’ll leave you with this final photo of the Corrieshalloch Gorge situated just outside of Ullapool. There’s something wonderfully dramatic about these falls which adds a sense of grandeur to them. Perhaps it’s the confined space they exist within and the way the gorge frames them. If you’re a waterfall fanatic like me, they’re a must-add to any Scottish itinerary.
Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the black and white photos I shot during my visit.
These photos were taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera using a Canon 50mm f1.4, Canon 18-135mm, and Canon 55-250mm lens. A special thank you to www.carrentals.co.uk who partially sponsored my car rental and helped make this trip possible.