About Falls of Glomach
The Falls of Glomach (perhaps Eas a’ Ghlomaich in Gaelic?; maybe pronounced “es-a-GLO-makh”; meaning gloomy falls) had to have been one of those waterfalls that I needed to earn with a bit of an adventure. Not only did I have to partake in a long and nearly all-day hike full of hazards and obstacles, but the variable weather in Scotland also meant that I had to be both flexible (I wouldn’t want to be doing this hike in misty or rainy weather with poor visibility) and fully prepared to even make a visit to the falls happen. Since we were staying several days in Inverness (both for reasons of flexibility and price), that also meant that I would have to drive nearly two hours just to even get to the trailhead! Indeed, just seeing this remote waterfall with my very own eyes was far from a sure thing, and perhaps that’s what also made this one of the most (if not the most) memorable experiences throughout our four-week trip to Great Britain (let alone Scotland) in 2014.
So besides the adventure to get here, what was it about this waterfall that was so compelling to visit? Why even go through that much trouble in the first place? Well for starters, this was one of the tallest waterfalls throughout Britain at a reported 113m or 371ft. Now while that height figure alone wouldn’t be enough to impress our jaded waterfalling tastes (it wasn’t even the tallest waterfall in the country), I believe it was its remote setting deep in the northwestern highlands of Scotland that made me feel like I was truly in a special place fit for an excursion and reward like this.
After all, these highlands were dominated by hauntingly forbidding moors, deep and seemingly inaccessible gorges and valleys, and tall weather-worn mountains with their wrinkled gullies, and all of these features could be seen in person on the long hike to get here. This kind of Naturesque experience was very rare in Great Britain where most of the land was developed, grazed, owned, or just exploited. And the moment I alone was fortunate to have a late lunch in front the falls and its cliff-exposed lookout, that was when I knew I could zen out as I let Nature clear my mind and remind me of what was really important in the world.
The way I did this hike was actually not the official way the authorities wanted me to do it from the Morvich Car Park (see directions below). It turned out that I followed a National Trust website suggesting I could do a shorter hike from the Dorusduain Car Park roughly 2 miles from the Morvich Car Park. What I found out later in the field was that the road to Dorusduain went through a private farm. So while it appeared that the car park was still there and used by people in the know, it could also be cut off by a simple act of the landowner deciding to close the gate on his property that would thereby cut off the road leading the rest of the way to Dorusduain Car Park.
So I’m going to describe the 8-mile round trip hike from the Dorusduain Car Park since that’s how I did it. I don’t know where some of the literature out there got the idea that the hike was only 2.5 miles in each direction because it’s not. Anyways, if one were to do the official route from Morvich, then the overall hike would be more like 12- to 13 miles instead of the 8 that I did. I ended up spending about 5.5 hours to do just the eight miles, but I’d imagine this could easily be a full eight-hour hike to go the full distance.
From the humble Dorusduain Car Park, I went uphill on an unpaved road past the red sign and eventually up to some sheep gates. Then, aided by a few strategically placed directional signs, I’d continue on the road-turned-trail through some sheep pastures surrounded by some impressive mountains of the valleys cut forth by both the Abhain Chonaig and Allt Choinneachain (both Gaelic names for the streams responsible for these valleys). As the trail descended then ascended beyond the pasture to the north, I noticed an impressively tall but thin cascade off to the side to my left about 30 minutes from the car park.
Eventually, this part of the trail would descend to a footbridge spanning a side creek (possibly called Allt an Leoid Ghaineamhaich in Gaelic) coming from a valley (which turned out to be the same valley I was about to hike into) before beginning a steep and persistently long climb to rise up above this valley, then continue climbing alongside it until I would eventually find myself climbing even more to reach the head of this valley and beyond where the barren tundra-like moors awaited.
This long stretch of climbing dominated the next hour or so of hiking. This stretch was where I observed the wrinkling of the neighboring mountains flanking the valley, attesting to how rainy it gets here as these wrinkles were undoubtedly water gullies channeling the rain to the creek below. Also to further keep my mind occupied, I noticed side cascades across the valley as well, including a Y-shaped one near the head that looked interesting but turned out to be nothing compared to what was further ahead.
When I got up into the moors (also called a bealach in these parts or more formally the Bealach na Sroine or “pass of the nose”), I was surrounded by mostly muddy grasslands. Cairns were set up alongside the trail to help ensure that I would stay on the trail. As I got to the apex of the elevation gain on the hike (just under 2 hours from the car park), that was when I could start seeing hidden valleys further below (I knew one of these valleys contained the Falls of Glomach) as well as knobby mountains around me. The air was refreshingly cool up here as there was a breeze that was largely absent when I was hiking in the valley. In fact, there were also the odd persistent midge trying to get into my eyes, ears, or nose or perhaps even trying to get a bite out of me. It turned out that my 100% DEET worked ok against these guys since they didn’t bother me as much once I had it applied.
At about 20 minutes from the apex of the elevation gain, the trail then descended steeply as it entered the next valley cut forth by the Allt a’Ghlomaich, which turned out to be the stream responsible for the Falls of Glomach let alone the valley. Once I made it down to the bottom of this descent, the trail then degenerated into a muddy scramble in the grassy bog as the trail became less defined. That said, I knew where the Falls of Glomach was as I could hear it from further downstream, and I knew the trail would take me to the top of it. So once I got past the muddy scramble, I regained the trail near the top of the falls, then I continued following the narrow and now steep trail alongside the cliffs as it carefully switchbacked its way further down the cliffs.
It was at this point that I frequently stopped to take pictures while marveling at the raw beauty of the place. While the bottom of the falls could not be seen from any of the first few vantage points, I was able to capture the setting that the falls was in with the hint of the cliffs and mountains closing in on the Allt a’Ghlomaich suddenly dropping into an abyss. After passing by what I counted to be the first three views of the Falls of Glomach (none of which could be a full view because the falls were too tall to capture in one go from this close), the trail continued to descend steeply towards the last pair of unofficial lookouts.
This was where I found myself atop a precarious rocky outcrop where I got as close to the dropoffs as I felt I could safely tolerate (believe me, the butterflies were definitely flying in my stomach at this point), and I was able to enjoy peering down at most of the entire drop of the Falls of Glomach. Again, the falls was simply too tall and the views were too close to fully capture this twisting multi-tiered waterfall in one frame. However, I did take some movies to perhaps better convey the forbidding yet alluring nature of this gloomy waterfall, which you can see below. This was my turnaround point of the hike, and it took me about 3 hours to get here.
After having my late lunch while zenning out to the falls and the scenery before me, I finally made the arduous and steep climb back out of this gorge, then across the muddy bog above the falls, then up the long and steep climb back up into the moors or bealach before finally getting across it and going mostly downhill when I re-entered the valley. It would end up taking me a little over 2 hours to return to the car park from the Falls of Glomach, as I was definitely able to go faster given the mostly downhill terrain (after the hard initial climb) along with the fact that I already had a pretty good idea of where I needed to go next having gone up the way I came previously.
From Inverness, I took the A82 west then south along the northern shore of Loch Ness for about 27 miles towards Glenmoriston. I then left the A82 and followed the A887 for the next 15 miles before turning right once again to go onto the A87. Then, I followed the A87 for the next 22 miles or so before there was a signposted turnoff to the right for the Morvich Car Park (there was a Falls of Glomach sign as well, I believe) inland from the Loch Duich.
From this turnoff, it was another 1.2 miles of single-lane road to get to the village of Morvich and the official car park to start the Falls of Glomach hike.
Back on the A87, I actually went another 0.8 miles beyond the Morvich turnoff to the obscure single-lane Dorusduain Road, which I then followed for the last 2.3 miles (veering left at the fork at 0.8 miles then passing through what appeared to be private land). The car park was basically a small and humble space with a red sign indicating that the falls was 4 miles walk from here. The road kept going past this clearing, but it became grassy and rougher so I didn’t push my luck with the rental car to keep going from here.
Overall, this entire drive took me about 1 hr 40 minutes though I’m sure this would depend on how much traffic there’d be on the two-lane roads to get here since there were very limited opportunities to pass slower moving vehicles.
Finally for some geographical context, the Kyle of Lochalsh, which was like the gateway town to the Isle of Skye, was 15 miles (about 30 minutes drive) west of Morvich (passing by the beautiful Eilean Donan Castle en route). Kyle of Lochalsh was also 79 miles (about 2 hours drive) southwest of Inverness, 74 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Fort William, 183 miles (over 4 hours drive) northwest of Glasgow, and 200 miles (4.5 hours drive) northwest of Edinburgh.
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