On our second day in the Highlands – and our first day of hiking -, we decided to take this easy hiking route up to Scotland’s second highest waterfall, the Steall Falls. The problem was, it was quite the walk from our hostel to the starting point of the route, and since it wasn’t summertime yet, no buses were running. (The lack of public transportation in the Highlands would prove problematic on the next day too, but more on that later!) Our easiest option was to take a taxi from the hostel to the parking lot where we’d start our day.
The route we walked proved quickly to be quite cute. There were lots of small streams flowing from the hills, and we stopped to admire almost every single one of them. It was incredibly invigorating to breathe in the fresh air and jump over streams like a little kid! At points, the path was pretty rocky and narrow with a steep drop to our right, and I was a tiny bit apprehensive when one stream flowed through the path in a place where we had to climb upwards in a particularly narrow spot. The path was covered with water and I was afraid I’d slip on the stones, but with good shoes and care it turned out to be reasonably easy.
When the path started to descend again, we could hear the roar of the Nevis Gorge below us. The river was surrounded by gigantic rocks, the size of which couldn’t really be captured in photos! We stopped for a while on the banks of the river, in a spot where the river ran tamer and narrower than further off. Around the corner, we could already see the waterfall itself flowing from the hills.
As we walked closer to the waterfall, we entered a wide and beautiful valley with the river running in the middle. The water level of the river was probably not as high as it might be at times, since we walked over a vast area of smooth little stones that looked like they might normally be at the bottom of the river. We sat down to have our packed lunch and admired the waterfall in the distance. The only way to the waterfall seemed to be over a rope bridge hanging over the river.
We were all thinking it: do we dare take the rope bridge? None of us are the daredevil type, but we were all feeling a bit adventurous and since there were other people crossing the bridge too, we decided to go for it. Also, the river in that spot was very calm and even though falling would feel terrible, we judged it wouldn’t be too dangerous since the water wasn’t very deep. Nina crossed first. When she got to the other side and shouted out in encouragement, I got on to the rope.
I was very tense at first, and as I’m quite short, grabbing the handrails at my head’s level made my crossing perhaps a bit more unstable than a taller person’s. The worst part was the middle, where the rope was a bit wobbly and at some point flipped to its side under my feet. Despite everything, I found myself enjoying the exercise – it was exhilarating, and not at all as scary as I’d thought it to be. Still, getting to the other side was a relief.
Ida crossed last, and she seemed to be doing great, taking longer steps than me or Nina had done. When she got to us, though, she was trembling and jumped straight into Nina’s arms! We laughed off the excitement together and made our way towards the falls.
After a very muddy walk, we finally reached Steall Falls. I’d never been that close to a waterfall before, and I just loved breathing in the damp but fresh air. The flowing water was a beautiful sight to behold, and for a while, I just stood there watching, mesmerized. Soon, we started jumping on the rocks to get photos of each other with the waterfall (don’t worry mum, I took care – even though I did manage to get one of my boots full of water).
After we’d had our time playing at the falls, we headed back towards the parking lot we’d started at. Tired, peckish and me with one wet boot, we made our way back. Once we got to the parking lot, there was still one matter to be resolved – how would we get back to town? Worst case scenario, we could walk, but none of us felt up for it. That’s when we gathered up the courage to ask a Scottish couple for a ride. We knew there was only one road to be followed from the parking lot, and it led back to Fort William, so it wouldn’t be a great favour to ask. And sure enough, the super friendly couple let us into their car and immediately started joking around with us about how they never normally pick up hitchhikers. When they stopped along the way and the lady had a look at a starting point of a different hiking route up a hill, the man told her she could leave him in the car with us without a care in her mind – us three girls were, after all, unlikely to beat him up.
Our trip to the waterfalls was a good one, and a pretty memorable one at that. In the course of one day, I saw my first real waterfall, crossed a river on a rope bridge without any safety gear, and hitchhiked (kind of) for the first time. The Scottish Highlands had already proven themselves a place of adventures!