Eas a' Chual Aluinn

Loch Beag / near Kylesku / Assynt Parish, Sutherland, Scotland

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 1
The Eas a' Chual Aluinn Waterfall seen from Loch Beag

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INTRODUCTION

The Eas a' Chual Aluinn was the bastardized Gaelic name of what has been widely reported to be Great Britain's highest above-surface waterfall at 658ft (about 200m). The actual Gaelic name was said to be "Eas a' Chuil Alainn" meaning waterfall of the beautiful tresses. The guide on the boat who pronounced it "es-a-KOLL-a-LOO-un" told me a different meaning translating into something like "the waterfall of the beautiful Glencoul". Whatever the meaning and translations may be, it turned out that there were two main ways of visiting this waterfall - by trail or by boat. As you can see from this web page, I made the choice to do it by boat as the logistics and uncertainty of the long hike to get to the top of the falls wasn't feasible.

From my pre-trip research, I almost tried to fit in a 5th night's stay in Inverness just so I might have the possibility of doing a very long 13-mile out-and-back solo hike to get from the A837 road to the top of Eas a' Chual Aluinn. But given that I had already set out to do another long hike to Falls of Glomach, making Julie and Tahia wait another whole day without me just didn't seem very practical. Plus, I had been getting feedback from locals on the boat tour as well as in the literature that this was not an easy hike, and it could also be quite dangerous as it involved scrambling around the cliff-exposed top of the falls to attain a better view.

A gray seal resting besides Loch Glencoul So in the end, we managed to arrive at the Kylesku Hotel (see directions below), then wait for one of the boat tours that tended to leave every two hours (10am, 12pm, and 2pm). We happened to join the 12pm boat since we had just missed the 10am boat tour by a few minutes. In any case, they wouldn't run the boat tours unless there was a minimum of 4 passengers. Fortunately on the beautiful day that we showed up, there was way more people than that. Unfortunately, our daughter couldn't go on the boat because they didn't have life jackets small enough for her, and the boat was too small to dampen out any choppiness in the loch. So that was a real bummer, and it caused Julie to have to kill time with Tahia at the hotel's restaurant while I went on the boat tour. I paid about 25 pounds in cash to go on.

The boat tour began pretty much as a loch cruise cruising about the Loch Glencoul where we spotted numerous seals (gray seals and the misnamed common seal) as well as some birds of prey that seemed to have been familiar with this boat. We also spotted many mussels clinging to the loch walls throughout this body of water, showing that it was a feasible industry as long as algal blooms didn't conspire to poison would be consumers of them. In addition to the wildlife, we also saw a few abandoned houses or farms in the remote ends of both Loch Glencoul and Loch Beag as well as the beautiful landscapes that were revealed to us given the rare beautiful weather we had been experiencing.

As the tour continued on, we then spotted a few seemingly significant waterfalls. One of them seemed to have heavy flow as it was said to have come through a hydropower scheme before the high-flowing stream spilled into Loch Glencoul. According to my maps, this stream might have drained the Loch an Leathaid Bhuain so that might explain why the falls flowed as well as it did. As we got to the end of Loch Glencoul and into Loch Beag, that was when we started seeing the Eas a' Chual Aluinn Waterfall, but what surprised us was that there was a companion waterfall opposite the valley. Although this companion waterfall didn't quite have the volume of the more famous one across the valley, it might be fed from Loch nan Caorach so its flow might be more permanent than at first glance.

Indeed, overall this was a relaxing way to experience the stunning beauty of the Assynt Parish at Glencoul. With the combination of wildlife, landscapes, a little history, and of course waterfalls, it had all the makings of a really great family outing, especially on a beautiful day. I've been told that just a week ago, the guide did a similar tour under stormier conditions, and given the relative lack of shelter in the boat, he had to stand in the rain as the rest of the paying customers crammed near the boat driver. Nonetheless, there was no need to do the very long and arduous hike to earn a closer view of the falls though I'm sure that could've yielded a more intimate and closer-to-Nature experience than doing the boat tour. Now if only our daughter could have done this trip, she would've really enjoyed seeing all the wildlife, and only then would I say it could very well have been the perfect spontaneous waterfall boat tour.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

While on the boat tour from Kylesku, we spotted many seals such as this group chilling before the companion waterfall across the valley from Eas a' Chual AluinnWhile on the boat tour from Kylesku, we spotted many seals such as this group chilling before the companion waterfall across the valley from Eas a' Chual Aluinn
Just 4.1 miles south of the trailhead of the difficult hike to Eas a' Chual Aluinn (or about 8 miles south of Kylesku) was the beautifully-situated Ardvreck CastleJust 4.1 miles south of the trailhead of the difficult hike to Eas a' Chual Aluinn (or about 8 miles south of Kylesku) was the beautifully-situated Ardvreck Castle
About 36 miles north of Kylesku was the town of Durness, which featured the Smoo Cave as well as this surprisingly beautiful 'award winning' beach beneath the visitor centerAbout 36 miles north of Kylesku was the town of Durness, which featured the Smoo Cave as well as this surprisingly beautiful 'award winning' beach beneath the visitor center
Just 16 miles west of Kylesku (give it 45 minutes to drive the dangerous single track road) was the community of Clashnessie, which featured this beautiful sandy beach as well as a waterfallJust 16 miles west of Kylesku (give it 45 minutes to drive the dangerous single track road) was the community of Clashnessie, which featured this beautiful sandy beach as well as a waterfall
Before arriving at the Kylesku Hotel, we were able to get this view of Loch GlencoulBefore arriving at the Kylesku Hotel, we were able to get this view of Loch Glencoul

Looking back towards the mountains backing the village of KyleskuLooking back towards the mountains backing the village of Kylesku

This was some interesting rock formation near where I suspect the trailhead for the hard hike to Eas a' Chual Aluinn wasThis was some interesting rock formation near where I suspect the trailhead for the hard hike to Eas a' Chual Aluinn was

The boat and rampThe boat and ramp

Looking back towards a bridge and mountains backing Kylesku.  Notice the cascade tumbling beneath the mountainsLooking back towards a bridge and mountains backing Kylesku. Notice the cascade tumbling beneath the mountains

We noticed quite a few seals with pupsWe noticed quite a few seals with pups

This was the fairly high-flowing cascade that I suspected came from Loch An Leathaid BhuainThis was the fairly high-flowing cascade that I suspected came from Loch An Leathaid Bhuain

This diagonal layer of rock essentially rewrote the geological texts at the time as a fault from great upheavals in the earth's crust caused a reshuffling of gneiss and quartzite rocks, which were contrary to the layered theory at the timeThis diagonal layer of rock essentially rewrote the geological texts at the time as a fault from great upheavals in the earth's crust caused a reshuffling of gneiss and quartzite rocks, which were contrary to the layered theory at the time

A house said to be abandoned was situated on the shores of Loch Beag dwarfed by mountains behind itA house said to be abandoned was situated on the shores of Loch Beag dwarfed by mountains behind it

Quite possibly our closest look at Eas a' Chual Aluinn against the midday sunQuite possibly our closest look at Eas a' Chual Aluinn against the midday sun

Contextual view of Eas a' Chual Aluinn on the right and a companion waterfall on the leftContextual view of Eas a' Chual Aluinn on the right and a companion waterfall on the left

One of the birds of prey who hunt in the Loch Glencoul area who happened to be flying at the same speed as the boatOne of the birds of prey who hunt in the Loch Glencoul area who happened to be flying at the same speed as the boat

Examining the knobby mountains surrounding Loch Beag and Loch GlencoulExamining the knobby mountains surrounding Loch Beag and Loch Glencoul

Those cluster of shells clinging to the bottoms of the rocks were musselsThose clusters of shells clinging to the bottoms of the rocks were mussels

Our last look at Eas a' Chual Aluinn before we headed back towards the boat dockOur last look at Eas a' Chual Aluinn before we headed back towards the boat dock


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


View of the waterfall from the Loch Beag on a boat tour


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The boat tour began from the Kylesku Hotel in the village of Kylesku. Driving here from Inverness involved taking the A9 towards Tore (a little over 8 miles), then taking the A835 (becoming A837) towards the A894 (about 74 miles). Finally, we'd follow the A894 for about 1.7 miles to the turnoff on the right for Kylesku. The Kylesku Hotel and boat ramp was at the end of the 0.3-mile spur road. Overall, this drive took me about 2.5 hours.

Even though I didn't do the long hike, I did enough research (in the event that I would do the hike) to tell you that the trailhead was at a hairpin turn on the A894 just 4.1 miles north of Ardvreck Castle or 3.8 miles south of Kylesku.

For additional context, our base of Inverness was 57 miles (90 minutes drive) southeast of Ullapool, 155 miles (3.5 hours drive) north of Edinburgh and 169 miles (3.5 hours drive) north of Glasgow.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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Canyons and waterfalls (Eas a' Chual Aluinn) 
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