About Steall Falls
Steall Falls was a very beautiful waterfall ostensibly tumbling 120m into a wide open scenic valley backed by tall mountains of the Nevis Gorge.
It’s said to be Scotland’s second highest waterfall, which (if true) would be fitting considering it is in close proximity to Ben Nevis, which is the tallest mountain in Britain.
This waterfall may be called Eas an Steill (meaning Steall Waterfall) or An Steall Ban (the white spout) in Scottish Gaelic.
I’ve also heard it pronounced like “shtowl” (like it rhymes with “towel”) instead of like “steel” though I’ve heard it both ways.
In any case, the hiking experience to access Steall Falls was truly back to Nature as the area was owned by the John Muir Trust.
Their aim was to restore the area to a state as if people hadn’t interfered with Nature.
The only thing that kept us from lingering longer and basking in this sublime naturesque place was the swarm (more like clouds) of midges.
These bugs apparently had an itchy bite, which really conspired to take our minds away from the late-Summer beauty of this place.
The Hike to Steall Falls
We began our hike at a car park at the end of the road passing right near the head of Glen Nevis (see directions below).
From there, we went on a well-established trail that before long started to climb as well as get rockier as it clung to ledges on the north side of the Nevis Gorge.
For the most part, the ledges were fairly wide enough to keep us from being too nervous about dropoffs.
However, the dropoffs were significant enough to induce butterflies in our stomachs if we were to step closer to the edge.
Even though we had some concerns about Tahia falling in some of the trickier spots, she seemed to do quite well.
Other hikers who noticed our three-year-old on the trail seemed quite impressed by her fearlessness.
Speaking of the tricky spots, we helped her hop across some of the unbridged gullies flowing with water, and we also helped her with the odd high and awkward rock step.
Anyways, this uphill climbing would persist for about the first 45-60 minutes (we probably were slow because we let Tahia do the hike with minimal aid).
That said, we also had opportunities to look back towards Glen Nevis as well as back towards the trailhead where we saw an impressive sliding cascade tumbling on the slopes of Ben Nevis.
As we continued on the now-seemingly-unending climb, the valley then narrowed to a point where we were in a gorge as the rocky walls closed in on both sides.
Meanwhile, the Water of Nevis (the stream passing through the valley) could be heard even louder.
The midges were also starting to get increasingly more annoying at this stage of the hike.
Eventually after getting through this narrow and rocky gorge section, the climb leveled out and we found ourselves in an open valley.
By now, we caught our first satisfying views of Steall Falls as the Allt Coire a’Mhail made its dramatic tumble beneath 800-1000m peaks.
That creek eventually joined with the main Water of Nevis watercourse that we had been hiking alongside the whole time.
The views were already good from the start of this open-meadowed valley, but we hastily continued further to get a closer look.
Unfortunately, this meadow was also where the midge swarms were really at their worst as we would suddenly be surrounded by them.
They looked for any orifices to fly into while the females looked for a way to draw our blood.
We wound up lingering for probably 15 minutes or so at a point where the trail branched in a couple of directions within view of Steall Falls.
One path continued further east within the valley as the mountains would start pinching it off.
The other path headed straight towards the Water of Nevis, where there was a three-wire bridge traversing it.
Since the view of Steall Falls was already good at this trail junction, this was the turnaround point for Julie and Tahia, where they ultimately finished the hike in about 60-90 minutes round trip.
However, I stuck around to do a little more exploring, including traversing that three-wire bridge.
The Three-Wire Bridge and the Base of Steall Falls
So taking the trail that led to the three-wire bridge over the Water of Nevis, I had a choice.
I could take the three-wire bridge over the stream, or I could just cross it the old-fashioned way (i.e. using the waterproofing of the Gore-tex boots and get across with some nifty roch hopping).
I wound up doing the crossing both ways (unbridged crossing on the way there and three-wire crossing on the way back).
Regarding the three-wire crossing, the bridge was high enough that a fall here would most certainly result in a bad injury (especially given how rocky the stream was).
It was also high enough to really mess with your mind and add that sense of fear.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by how stable having three anchor points at a time was.
You basically use both arms to hold onto the upper wires while tightroping one foot in front of the other on the lower wire.
As long as you concentrate on the task at hand and block out the distractions, you’ll do fine.
Of course, you also have to adhere to the rule (and hope others do so too) that no more than two people in the same direction can go on at a time to keep the wires from being too bouncy.
Given the novelty of the three-wire bridge, it was quite popular and there was definitely a queue to use it.
Anyways, on the other side of the Water of Nevis, the path continued past some house before degenerating into a really muddy walk.
The combination of grass and water saturation from the frequent rains here really forced me to be selective about where to make my next steps (or else end up shin-deep in the mud).
Eventually after 10-15 minutes of hiking, I’d eventually scramble towards the middle of the base of the Steall Falls on an “island” surrounded by the Allt Coire a’Mhail.
Even though getting past the three-wire bridge wasn’t necessary to get a good experience of Steall Falls, I was glad that I got to have this unusual perspective.
After having my fill of the bottom of Steall Falls (where the midge swarms weren’t actually that bad), I then went back the way I came.
Even though the overall trail was about 2.5 miles round trip, I ended up spending about 2.5 hours away from the car.
This included all the resting, picture taking, and hiking, including the added adventure of going to the bottom of Steall Falls over the three-wire bridge.
Steall Falls and Harry Potter
While we were preparing to visit this waterfall, Julie alerted me in her spontaneous browsings of the web that Steall Falls also happened to make a cameo appearance the Harry Potter movies.
That would mean millions of people would have at least seen this waterfall (albeit not in person), and they might even recognize it without having even been there.
Since I wasn’t much of a Harry Potter fan, I wouldn’t be able to tell exactly where in the movies that Steall Falls made its appearances.
That said, I’m sure if ever catch a TV-syndicated re-run on cable or some streaming service (time permitting), then I’ll be sure to look out for it.
Steall Falls resides in Glen Nevis near Fort William in the Inverness-shire, Scotland. It is administered by the John Muir Trust. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Driving to Steall Falls from Fort William, we headed east on the A82 towards a roundabout shortly past the town center for Bedford Road on our right.
We then left the A82 and took the Bedford Road for about 6.5 miles through the scenic valley of Glen Nevis.
Along the way, we passed by the Ben Nevis and Visitor Centre as well as a handful of campsites and trailheads.
While most of this road was already narrow yet still supporting two lanes, the last two miles to the very last car park at the head of the Glen was on even narrower single-track road.
We parked at the very last car park, in which this drive was about 15-20 minutes from the town centre of Fort William.
However, we did see there were other car parks preceding the final two miles of single-track road.
These included the Lower Falls Car Park or even further down into Glen Nevis at the so-called Braveheart car park.
And while it may not be necessary to walk the entire Glen just to start the hike for Steall Falls, I could totally understand why someone might want to do so given how scenic Glen Nevis was as we were passing through.
That might mean parking at the Ionad Nibheis Centre at the very start of the Glen.
Just for a sense of reference, the town of Fort William was about 64 miles (90 minutes to 2 hours drive) southwest of Inverness, about 108 miles (roughly 2.5-3 hours drive) drive north of Glasgow, or 133 miles (over 3 hours drive) northwest of Edinburgh.
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