Eas a’ Chual Aluinn is a waterfall tucked away in remotest Assynt, Scotland. A rugged trail through a breathtaking wilderness awaits those who venture to the lip of the highest waterfall in Scotland. Heck, it’s the highest waterfall in Britain! This majestic 200m plunge drops far below into Loch Beag and Loch Glencoul. It can be viewed, in part, by either a hike to the top or a boat to the base. But of course, we’re here to tell you about the hike!
In this guide, we’ll explain where Eas a’ Chual Aluinn is, and provide a map and trail description. We’ll also cover the safest spots to view the highest waterfall in Scotland from, as well as how to get there, where you can stay nearby and alternatives to hiking. Lastly, we’ll show you other hikes, waterfalls and attractions in the area and provide some fun facts about Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall.
NOTE: Caution should always be exercised near the lip of the waterfall. The drop is long and the area can be dangerous. Hike at your own risk.
To see footage of the Eas a’ Chual Aluinn hike and waterfall, please watch our NC500 Hikes production.
For other epic waterfalls in Scotland and along the North Coast 500, read our posts on Rogie Falls, Falls of Kirkaig, Wailing Widow Falls, Steall Falls and the Falls of Glomach. Otherwise, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 epic NC500 hikes.
Where is Eas a’ Chual Aluinn?
Despite its size, Eas a’ Chual Aluinn is a relatively hidden waterfall in the Assynt area of Sutherland, Scottish Highlands. Sometimes known as Eas Coul Aulin, this splendid waterfall is notoriously difficult to see in total completion. But, that doesn’t mean it’s any less worth the effort to get to.
As an easy stop along the famous NC500 (North Coast 500) road trip, the beguiling Assynt landscape surrounding Eas a’ Chual Aluinn will leave you utterly enchanted. For a hike that feels a little more off the beaten track to other NC500 waterfalls, and sitting within the shadows of the impressive Quinag massif, Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall is a big ticket item.
How Long is the Walk to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn?
The total out and back hike to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn is 10km and takes 2.5–3 hours to complete. The trail is boggy in sections, especially at the start, before finding a much rockier and sturdier path to follow. If you have a few hours to spare on your NC500 road trip, Eas a’ Chual Aluinn is a great addition.
The hike to the waterfall is not signposted and so access to a GPS or OS map is highly recommended.
How Tall is Eas a’ Chual Aluinn?
The height of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn is 200m (656ft). It’s the highest waterfall in Scotland, and in Britain for that matter. It drops into the beautiful vast valley below, where it then flows into Loch Beag followed by the larger Loch Glencoul.
- Trail Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 10km
- Time: 2–3 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 305m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Layby on A894 (200–300 metres south of Loch na Gainmhich Waterfall Car Park)
- Map: AllTrails
Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Hike
After parking in the small car park at the trailhead to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, the hike begins across a flattish and open terrain or boggy ground. Heading around the northern end of Loch Na Gainmhich, you’ll soon arrive at the steep gorge of Wailing Widow Falls.
At this point, you’ll need to cross the stepping stones that allow passage across the channel of water. This is the same water that flows over the cliff edge to become Wailing Widow Falls. If the weather has been particularly wet, occasionally the stepping stones can become unusable. If that’s the case, there’s another trail from the car park that leads around the south side of Loch Na Gainmhich. Then, it rejoins the trail to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn a little further down.
Dan and I had already visited Wailing Widow Falls a couple of days before. However, it’s possible to park at the Wailing Widow Falls Car Park and start the hike from here (the above All Trails map shows this). This way you’ll see two of Scotland’s best waterfalls on the same hike. Although, to see Wailing Widow Falls and continue, this option involves a steep climb up the side of the waterfall. It then joins the Eas a’ Chual Aluinn waterfall trail at the top. See the map below.
Glas Bheinn Views
After crossing the stepping stones, the route continues to run alongside Loch Na Gainmhich. With that being said, you should take the trail that begins to climb the hillside, rather than the one that hugs the shoreline of the loch.
The trail is immensely boggy, so prepare to get a little muddy at this stage. Dan and I had less than favourable weather conditions. With the addition of a packed NC500 schedule, we got our speed hiking on. But you know us, it’s what we live for.
What’s speed hiking? It’s our passion and was the perfect activity to see more of Scotland in the week we had on the NC500! Find out more about speed hiking here.
Views out to your right, across Loch Na Gainmhich, to Glas Bheinn, are wonderful. Especially on a clear day. You’ll have views of the road, disappearing into the mountain landscape the further you walk. And Quinag, of course, looks outstanding in the background.
As the path climbs higher along the mountainside, Loch Na Gainmhich gets left behind. As you eventually join a rockier trail, you should notice another trail joining from the right. This is the alternative trail around the south of Loch Na Gainmhich that I mentioned earlier.
Continue straight along the stoney trail (not the joining trail). The rocky ground is a welcome sight after the initial bog fest. Soon enough though, you’ll reach the tranquil shores of Loch Bealach a Bhuirich.
Loch Bealach a Bhuirich
Reaching Loch Bealach a Bhuirich feels like a million miles from civilisation. It’s peaceful and secluded. Yet, it manages to leave you with a thrill of excitement at being a mere tiny dot in the wilderness, all at the same time. This is remote Scotland at its finest.
The trail passes the north side of Loch Bealach a Bhuirich before a sharp ascent up the pass. This is the highest point of the trail. Certainly, the views looking down across the landscape ahead are some of the best views I’ve seen in Scotland. It’s remote and rugged. The trail weaves in and out of the Lewissian Gneiss (some of the oldest rocks found on earth). In the distance, views of neighbouring Eas-an-t-Strutha Ghil and Loch Nan Caorach can just be made out.
Safe Passage to the Top of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn
As you descend the wilderness, you’ll reach a small stream, flowing from the tiny Loch Poll Amhlaidh on your right. From here, you have two options.
- Option One: don’t cross the stream, and follow the trail to the left, which leads down to the top of the falls. It follows the path to the left of the stream. This is the trail Dan and I took. It’s an easy-to-follow trail that passes close by to a lovely set of cascades before arriving, directly, at the lip of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall. Be warned though, there is no direct view of the waterfall by arriving at this point. Additionally, great care must be taken at the top of the waterfall.
- Option 2: at the stream, cross over and take the next left turn. From here, you’ll follow a faint trail to the right of the stream. This path stays on a slightly higher plateau as you descend toward the falls. You should be able to see the option one trail to your left as you look down toward the river. This trail leads to the cliff edge, from where you can scramble a short distance down to a natural viewing platform. At this platform, you’ll have much better views of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall as you look back to your left. In addition, there’s a fantastic view across Loch Beag and Loch Glencoul in the valley below.
Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall
As mentioned, Dan and I took option one. That was the most obvious trail on the day and well, we took it. Simple as that I guess. Admittedly though, there is no clear view of the waterfall from here. This is where our drone really came into its own, and it was exciting to view the footage later that day. In addition, Dan and I were in a hurry to utilise the break in bad weather. Getting the drone up and back down before another shower was vital.
If we didn’t have the drone, and the weather had been kinder, we would have continued across the top of the falls to access the viewpoint mentioned in option two. This is really your best chance to see the overspill of water as it begins its lengthy 200m drop to Loch Beag below.
Whichever option you take, the hike alone makes the journey worthwhile. But, arriving at Scotland and Britain’s highest waterfall feels incredible.
Views of Loch Beag and Loch Glencoul
At a safe distance from any edges, sit back and take the views in through the valley below to Loch Beag and Loch Glencoul. You’ll see that Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall doesn’t cascade directly into Loch Beag, but rather tumbles into a river system below. This in turn flows out towards Loch Beag, and then onwards to the much larger Loch Glencoul.
Across the valley, you’ll see a twin waterfall to that of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn. Although I’m not sure of its name, it flows from Eas-an-t-Strutha Ghil, a small burn, or stream, on the opposite mountainside, flowing from Loch Nan Caorach. It doesn’t look very powerful, but it does look incredible dropping down the cliffside and gives you a good impression of how Eas a’ Chual Aluinn must look. Again, this waterfall meets in the same river channel at the base and flows out to meet Loch Beag.
You can get an alternative partial view of the Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall by taking a boat tour across Loch Beag and Loch Glencoul. More on that below.
Returning From Scotland’s Highest Waterfall
To return, simply retrace your steps. Don’t try and access any other viewpoints or makeshift trails for better views of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, it’s too dangerous. And, simply put, there aren’t any. Instead, just enjoy the hike back to the trailhead. This time you’ll be hiking toward the mighty Quinag. And, if you haven’t hiked that yet then, well… what are you waiting for.
How to Get to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn
If you’re enjoying the popular attractions along this leg of the NC500, then accessing Eas a’ Chual Aluinn is very straightforward, since you’ll be driving by anyway.
Access to the falls is along the A894. You can get there from either direction and it’s straightforward to pull into the small parking area. See the map here, where Google Maps labels the spot, ‘Quinag Viewpoint Car Park’.
FYI – the Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Car Park postcode is IV27 4HW.
If travelling from Unapool and Kylesku direction, you’ll pass Wailing Widow Falls first, to the left of the roadside, before ascending the steep bend in the road to the Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Car Park. If you’re heading there from the Loch Assynt and Ardvreck Castle direction, then the car park will be to the right of the road, before it descends the bend.
Dan and I drove the NC500 in a clockwise direction from Inverness. We squeezed in a visit to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn and enjoyed views of Loch Beag and Loch Glencoul, on day seven of our road trip. We’d visited the delights of Rogie Falls, Sgurr a Chaorachain, Beinn Alligin, Beinn Eighe NNR, Suilven, Stac Pollaidh and Quinag in the preceding days.
Of course, some of you might be travelling to Scotland and Britain’s highest waterfall as part of a shorter trip, and not as part of the NC500. Following are some more direct driving options.
Inverness to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn
The drive from Inverness to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall is around 2 hours, with a distance of 80–86 miles (128–138km), depending on the route chosen. Given the distance, it makes for a great day trip option. Still, as it covers some of the NC500 route, why not just arrange to do the full thing? You’ll not regret it.
As far as I can tell, there is no public transport option to get you to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn. Your own transport is necessary. But, if you have done the hike using public transport, let your fellow hikers know in the comments below.
Of course, if you don’t have access to your own set of wheels, then we recommend hiring something. When hiring a car, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.
Alternatives to Hiking Eas a’ Chual Aluinn
Of course, it’s easy to hear differing opinions on whether hiking to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn is worth it since views are not full and the trail is a little tricky in parts. Having completed the hike, I can attest to the fact it’s completely worth it. In short, reaching Scotland and Britain’s highest waterfall is just the icing on the cake to what is a fantastically wild and adventurous hike.
Still, if you’re interested in an alternative way to see Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, or perhaps want to do both, then you can take the Eas a’ Chual Aluinn boat trip From Glencoul.
Visiting Eas a’ Chual Aluinn by Boat Trip From Glencoul
Boat tours to view Eas a’ Chual Aluinn travel along the picturesque Loch Glencoul and into Loch Beag to marvel at Scotland’s highest waterfall from below. Still, from here, you’ll not see a full picture of the waterfall. The Loch waters of Beag only get you so close, as Eas a’ Chual Aluinn drops into a river that flows down into Beag Loch. Binoculars are recommended to aid with full enjoyment of the waterfall.
Boat tours can be arranged from the Kylesku Hotel and typically last just over an hour. They leave four times a day from 10:30am, 12pm, 2pm & 4pm (commencing in April), enjoying the scenery of Loch Glencoul and Beag from the comfort of the boat. Though, warm clothing is advised, whatever time of year. In addition, you’ll get the chance to spot some pretty incredible wildlife whilst on the boat tour. This includes seals, razorbills, cormorants, puffins, sea eagles, and golden eagles. For inquiries, click here.
Nearest Accommodation to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall
We’ve broken down some of the top hotel options in the area into the best budget, mid-range and luxury options.
- Budget – Bonnie Haven: set in pretty Lochinver, Bonnie Haven has a shared lounge, garden and terrace for guests to enjoy. The views across Loch Inver are particularly special.
- Mid-range – Lavender Hut: for self-catering accommodation, the Lavender Hut provides a tranquil escape for guests. Watch the wild deer first thing in the morning over coffee before heading out to hike in Assynt.
- Luxury – Newton Lodge: the picture-perfect Newton Lodge is a solitary white house on a green hill. So fairytale! The views in every direction are nothing short of breathtaking. The location and facilities are truly excellent.
Dan and I stayed at Ardmair Point Holiday Park in Ullapool. Our tent pitch was great and the facilities top notch. For a spot of glamping, you can’t go far wrong with a stay at West Coast Hideaways. Units come with a hot tub, so a stay here would be perfect in summer and winter.
Of course, wild camping is permitted throughout Scotland. So, if you don’t mind roughing it in a tent with no facilities for the night or snuggling down in your camper on the roadside, then you can park right at the trailhead of the falls if you wish. We met a couple on the return of this hike doing just such. They’d enjoyed watching us rug up in our waterproofs at the crack of dawn and set off in the rain, as they relaxed over coffee in the comfort of their camper. Perhaps they had the right idea.
A special stay close to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn is Glencoul Bothy. The Bothy lies at the meeting of Loch Glencoul and Loch Beag and provides a truly remote getaway. Access is gained via a trail from Kylestrome. From the bothy, it’s likely you can access even better views of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall.
For more information about Glencoul Bothy, you should check with the Mountain Bothy Association.
Facts about Eas a’ Chual Aluinn
- The pronunciation of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn is ‘es-a-kohl-a-loo-un’.
- In English, the Gaelic name translates to ‘waterfall of the beautiful tresses‘, which kinda makes sense when you see the splendid 200m drop cascading down to meet Loch Beag and Loch Glencoul at its base.
- Is it really the highest waterfall in Britain? Yes, that’s right. Eas a’ Chual Aluinn isn’t just the highest waterfall in Scotland, but it’s the highest waterfall in Britain. England’s highest cascade waterfall, above ground, is Cautley Spout (guide coming soon). You can find this very cool waterfall along an excellent walk around Howgill Fell in Cumbria.
Other Nearby Hikes and Attractions
Luckily, there’s an absolute wealth of hikes, waterfalls and attractions in this relatively small area of Assynt encompassing Eas a’ Chual Aluinn. Let’s take a look.
- Wailing Widow Falls: as mentioned, Wailing Widow Falls are at the very start of this hike, and an extremely popular stop along the NC500. Don’t miss it!
- Quinag: The huge form of Quinag dominates the landscape in this part of Assynt. Indeed, it follows behind you like a huge shadow as you hike to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn. It’s an incredible hike to three Corbetts and is easily one of the favourites along the NC500.
- The Bone Caves: the short circular hike to see The Bone Caves is one of the easiest and most history-filled hikes in the area.
- Ardvreck Castle: it’s not just Loch Beag and Loch Glencoul to enjoy around here. Make sure to stop in on the banks of Loch Assynt and enjoy a wander around the castle ruins of Ardvreck.
- Kylesku Bridge: this is one of the most photographed bridges in the UK. There are even two car parks on either side of the bridge in which to pull in and admire. Given it’s so close to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, it’s well worth a stop.
Five Hiking Essentials For Eas a’ Chual Aluinn Waterfall
These are our five hiking gear essentials for visiting Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, the highest waterfall in Scotland and Britain! For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Scotland and the North Coast 500, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
You should also pack water, snacks and sunscreen.
- Appropriate attire: the trail to the waterfall can be muddy pretty much year-round. Sometimes, as we found, it’s just one big bog pit! Avoid wearing your best footwear, gaiters are a great addition and so are trekking poles. Also, remember to take care.
- Eddrachilis Bay: On a clear day, look out for views of the Islands of Eddrachilis Bay, beyond Kylesku Bridge.
- Leave no trace: remember, what goes on a hike with you must come back with you. To that end, keep an eye on your gear, and if you see any litter, bring it back with you.
Bookmark this hiking guide to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn for future use, or share it with your NC500 hiking buddies!