Scotland’s dramatic scenery is not limited to Munros and Lochs – we have many of the largest and most beautiful waterfalls in the UK. These are fantastic places to visit, whether for a day trip or as places to stop off on a longer hike. And one thing we love about waterfalls is that they make a great trip out in any weather! Waterfalls look so much more dramatic in the snow and the rain, so walking out to see them can be excellent outdoor activities during the winter months. It was difficult to choose just ten, when Scotland has hundreds of stunning waterfalls of so many different sizes, but we managed to narrow it down. So without any further ado, these are our 8 favourite waterfalls which we hope will inspire you to plan a trip to see them in person!
Bracklinn Falls: Bards and Firs
A turbulent waterfall in Perthshire, Bracklinn Falls has a drop broken up by jutting black rocks, creating several frothing streams of water. Its drama is only enhanced by the towering Douglas firs that line the bank, with some of the trees amongst the tallest in Britain, and an 18th century folly on its banks that has a spectacular view of the rushing falls. This waterfall is part of an excellent two hour walk which sets out from Birnam and takes you past a totem pole crafted by native Canadians, a stone bridge spanning a deep gorge, and Birnam Oak – one of the remnants of the ancient Birnam Wood. Birnam Wood is famous for its part in Macbeth, in which Macduff’s army disguises itself with branches, making it look like Birnam Wood itself was advancing on Dunsinane. Keep an eye out on your walk, not for an approaching army, but for red squirrels which can often be spotted in the trees.
Falls of Bruar: Steep Cascade
Outside Pitlochry, and hidden behind the House of Bruar, you can find a series of steep cascading waterfalls called the Falls of Bruar. The water’s edges are surrounded by shady pines, birch and aspen trees that shelter the path. The walk is short but strenuous, taking about an hour to traverse the falls – though you can dally much longer if you want to take a picnic to the top. The route weaves steadily uphill, over two stone bridges with fantastic views down the gorge, and past pools at the base of the waterfalls, where you can swim if you’re feeling brave. The walk has been popular for hundreds of years, with famous visitors like Robert Burns, who successfully petitioned the Duke of Atholl to plant trees around this previously clear section of land, thus creating this stunning walk.
Fairy Pools: Wild Swimming
These waterfalls on the Isle of Skye may not be tall, but they are spectacular – flowing into a series of deep turquoise and green pools. The otherworldly colour and clear waters of these pools give them their name, especially when contrasted with the often snow-capped Black Cuillin Mountains in the background. The water is icily cold for most of the year, but still attracts many wild swimmers who brave the cold to take a dip in Scotland’s most beautiful waters. They can be reached in a 20 minute walk, but you could also incorporate them into a 3 hour round walk if you want to take in more of Skye’s beautiful views. It is a relatively flat and easy route, though you need to watch your step on the slippery river crossings. The pools do get very busy at peak times, and you may want to visit them early in the day or out of season to really experience the quiet magic of these beautiful locations.
Rogie Falls: Summer Salmon
Save this roaring waterfall for the summer, as this is an excellent spot to see salmon leaping up the falls to spawn in the upper part of the river. There is a suspension bridge built overlooking the river, providing an unparalleled view of the falls. You have several choices of walks in the area, from a brief 20 minute walk up to the bridge, to a two hour walk that loops through the surrounding forests. All of these walks include rocky, muddy, and steep uphill sections, making this waterfall moderately more difficult to reach than some of our other choices. There is some seating overlooking the falls, and this can be a great place to bird watch too, with dippers being a common sight in the area.
Glenashdale Falls: Seeing Double
It is unusual to find great waterfalls on islands, but the Isle of Arran has one of the best in Scotland. The double cascade waterfall falls 45m over an exposed staircase of slick black rock before crashing into the pool below. A wooden observation platform juts out opposite the waterfall to provide an excellent spot for taking photos of the entire falls in all their glory. It is a longer walk to reach the falls; two hours in total on a fairly steep path that takes you past an Iron Age fort and a Neolithic burial site known as the Giants’ Graves. As you ascend, you can catch great views of Whiting Bay and the Holy Isle. This can be an excellent walk in the winter months, as wetter weather causes an impressive volume of water to cascade over the falls, making for a dramatic scene.
Loup of Fintry: Stormy Spectacular
This waterfall may be the most weather dependent, but when the conditions are right, this becomes one of the most stunning waterfalls on our list. The Loup of Fintry is made up of four plunges which the river tumbles down in frothing white streams to reach the river bed 28m below. The best time to view this fall is after a period of heavy rain, as the upstream Carron Valley Reservoir normally blocks most of the burn’s catchment, so we would recommend planning your trip around the weather. The walk to reach the Loup is brief and a little muddy, but you could combine your trip with a walk along the reservoir for a longer day out.
Falls of Falloch: Photogenic Views
The Falls of Falloch is a beautiful waterfall situated in a peaceful part of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. This is a changeable fall, appearing huge and fierce when in spate, then turning into a peaceful trickle when the river is low. It is easy to get fantastic views of the waterfall, as a viewing platform of woven steel rods juts out over the river opposite the falls. This installation is designed to enhance the experience of the falls, and includes a quote from Dorothy Wordsworth’s diary, recalling her experience of the waterfalls in what she calls ‘The Vale of Awful Sound’. The walk to the falls is an easy 20 minutes and includes an ideal spot for picnics overlooking the falls. If you wish to add in a longer walk, you can see the Falls of Falloch as part of a six mile stretch of the West Highland Way from Inverarnan to Crianlarich. This walk takes you through Glen Falloch, where you can spot red deer and golden eagles if you are really lucky.
Clashnessie Waterfall: Beachy Keen
We had to choose a waterfall from Assynt, as it is well known to be home to many spectacular ones. However, our favourite waterfall in Assynt is not the highest, but a 15m roaring fall at the head of a shallow glen. This wide waterfall feels powerful and full, with fast flowing water that cascades over the rock face beneath. It sits a short walk away from Clashnessie Bay where you can find a beautiful sandy beach. As it faces the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream, the area has mild weather compared to other parts of Northern Scotland, making this an excellent location for a summer trip. The walk to the fall can be completed in less than an hour, though some caution is needed due to the boggy ground and river crossing. While you’re visiting Assynt, you can also explore some of its other beaches and waterfalls, like Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, the highest waterfall in the UK.
So, those are our picks for the 8 best waterfalls in Scotland. Would your list be different? Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments, we’re always keen to hear new recommendations.