The Nevis Gorge is a remote, stunningly beautiful place, it’s been said, where Scotland paid tribute to the Himalayas. The majority of people who come to experience Scotland’s nature drive to Fort William with a few stops for taking photos. But Nevis Gorge, a popular hiking destination, gets a little attention from tourists.
Steall Falls is one of the most spectacular walks in Scotland, used as a filming location in the Harry Potter series (mainly the Half-Blood Prince). An Steall, cascading from a hanging valley (Coire A’ Mhail)is about 120m high and is one of the finest waterfalls in Scotland.
Fed by the Allt Coire a’Mhail (translation: River of the Corrie of the Rent), which comes from the surrounding peaks that are commonly known as The Ring of Steall, it creates the third highest waterfall in Scotland and walk there makes the best half-mile in Scotland as WH Murray said, famous Scottish mountaineer.
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This is a very impressive short walk with much geological and botanical interest, as well as stunning mountain views of the slopes of Ben Nevis.
“Its distinctive character is not Alpine but Himalayan, this despite its relatively small scale. At its top end, on either side of the glen, Ben Nevis and Sgurr a’Mhaim project spurs of rock seeming to pinch off the higher from the lower reaches. Through this rock barrier the river Nevis has carved a deep and tortuous channel. Above the rampart it flows level, but now has burst through the gut, its white fury gouging pots and cauldrons out of the rock bed, churning past gigantic boulders in a fall of 400 feet. The gorge resounds to its thunder. The walls are wooded in old scots pines, rowans, birches and oak. Through them a footpath winds up the true right bank .It gives clear views of the wild river, of the natural wood on the far side, and in itself is a path of extraordinary interest and beauty. The throat of the gorge is v-shaped. Through its cleft can be seen the wide flash of the Steall waterfall. WH Murray
The best half-mile in Scotland
It was a dry, sunny mid-April weekend when we went to Fort William. This time, we decided to take a walk to the spectacular Steall Falls.
To get there is an adventure. First, you need to drive Glen Nevis Road with the views you can’t take your eyes off, then take a narrow, winding road up to the top
The sign reads “Danger of Death” and the path becomes increasingly uneven as it climbs. For the most part, the path was wide enough to keep us from being too nervous about drop-offs. The powerful stream of the Water of Nevis tumbles over the rocks, spilling into the gorge below.
Strangely shaped rocks are in the entire length of the gorge. You can hear the sound of the falls throughout most of the walk, but towards the last third, they come into view, which makes it all worthwhile.
After 45 minutes of hiking through a narrow and rocky gorge, we found ourselves in a hidden sanctuary of a lush meadow. A single drop of Steall Falls is 120 metres high and there is another attraction for those with an adrenaline rush – a three-wire crossing bridge, high enough that a fall here would most surely result in a bad injury. Quite a few tourists of all shapes and sizes were waiting to cross the bridge.
The Three Wire Bridge
The three-wire bridge is made of three steel cables over a deep pool. One wire for your feet, and two for your hands. It is roughly 10 feet above the water of Nevis and roughly 20 feet in length. It gets wobbly in the middle, and it’s hard to turn around. With the water flowing beneath you and possibly a small crowd of tourists watching, the pressure is definitely on for you not to fall off.
You can get a good view without crossing the river, but you get right up to the falls if you do. If the bridge looks too dangerous for you, you can find enough large pebbles to step across the river without getting wet. Apparently, the weather and the season will determine the height of the water in the river. In the summer months, the water is at its lowest.
From the wire bridge, the driest path runs alongside the main river for one bend before heading up to the foot of the waterfall. The view from directly beneath is even more spectacular.
Unfortunately, the waterfall isn’t as spectacular during the summer or on hot days. On the other hand, I’d imagine that doing the walk after recent rain might be a bit hazardous as several parts of the track are a bit narrow over rock blocks.
How to Get to Steall Falls
From Fort William, you take the road to Glen Nevis and drive past the Ben Nevis visitor centre. Keep going for another 10 minutes, over the river, and onto a single-track road.
From now on, you can choose between two options depending on your walking availability. You can choose a longer walk, which is about an 8 mile round trip from the lower falls, or walk the last mile from the top car park
For the first option of the long walk, stop at the Polldubh car park. The first waterfall (Lower Waterfall) is hidden underneath the road bridge
Walk the path marked Paddy Bridge, which is 1.6 miles long. Cross the bridge to the other side of the road and continue up the road to the second car park where the Steall Falls walk starts.
The rock below the car park has become an informal ‘symbolic cemetery commemorating those killed by the mountains they loved. From there, there are about 45 minutes to get to the flat valley where the waterfall is
For the second option and a shorter walk, continue to drive up the windy road until you reach the second car parking. There are lots of passing places when driving up to the waterfalls, unfortunately, some people selfishly park in the passing places on the way up to the car park. Please do not park in passing places as this causes major traffic issues on the road!.
The walk seems popular, so if you don’t arrive early, you may struggle to find parking. The road is not suitable for motorhomes.