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Falls of Kirkaig: The Complete Hiking Guide

Falls of Kirkaig: The Complete Hiking Guide

Nestled within the devastatingly beautiful region of Assynt in Scotland is the spectacular Falls of Kirkaig. A picturesque 7km walk from Inverkirkaig, along the serene River Kirkaig, brings you to the thunderous falls. Also known as Inverkirkaig Falls, the trail is just a short distance from remote Fionn Loch, and is a must do along Scotland’s NC500.

In this guide, we’ll firstly tell you a little about the Falls of Kirkaig, followed by a trail preview, map and description. Then, we’ll cover other waterfalls and hikes in the area, run through some hiking essentials, and let you know how to get there and where to stay.

To see footage of the Falls of Kirkaig hike, please watch our NC500 Hikes YouTube production.

For other incredible waterfalls along the NC500, be sure to check out our guides on Rogie Falls, Wailing Widow Falls and Eas a’ Chual Aluinn. Otherwise, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 excellent NC500 hikes.

About Falls of Kirkaig

The Falls of Kirkaig is a spectacular waterfall located within the Assynt-Coigach National Scenic Area in Sutherland, northwest Scotland. The Falls of Kirkaig is about 20 metres high, and you can expect a gushing plunge of water pretty much all year round.

Inverkirkaig Falls are accessed via a pretty woodland trail along the River Kirkaig, just outside of the small settlement of Inverkirkaig. Inverkirkaig lies south of Lochinver, Assynt and north of Ullapool, enjoying super picturesque views across Loch Kirkaig.

The 7km out and back route is a worthy half day affair in this beautiful part of Scotland and definitely a big tick along the NC500.

Falls of Kirkaig flowing from Fionn Loch

Falls of Kirkaig Trail Preview and Map

  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 7km
  • Time: 1.75 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 215m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Inverkirkaig Car Park
  • Map: Wikiloc

Falls of Kirkaig Walk Description

From Inverkirkaig Car Park, situated next to the bridge over the Kirkaig River, the trail to the Falls of Kirkaig begins. You’ll initially follow along the tarmac road, and pass a memorial to the poet, Norman MacCaig. Be sure to take the lower of the two roads here. The higher, left-hand side road, leads to Achins Coffee and Book Shop. As the road eventually veers to the left, you’ll join the woodland trail by continuing straight on.

Here, you’ll walk alongside the pretty River Kirkaig, which flows from Loch Fionn, surrounded by the peaceful glen and general serenity that comes with it.

Soon enough, the trail begins to ascend and you’ll leave the dense woodland behind and arrive at heather moorlands and open vistas. From here, you should be able to spot Suilven and Stac Pollaidh on the horizon.

At a fork in the trail, you’ll take the right-hand path to continue to the Falls of Kirkaig. The left trail continues on to Loch Fionn.

Falls of Kirkaig, Inverkirkaig

Arriving at this top lookout of Inverkirkaig Falls offers some pretty excellent views. But, for the best look at the Falls of Kirkaig, you will need to descend the trail on the right.

The trail to the base of the falls and banks of the River Kirkaig is extremely steep and usually wet and rather muddy. You must take great care if you decide to go down. If you’re unsure, it’s best to remain at the top and enjoy the views from there.

Around halfway to the bottom offers, perhaps, the best views of the Falls of Kirkaig. That being said, the base provides a flattish platform from which to view and photograph the Inverkirkaig Falls. It’s utterly beautiful and packs a real punch. 

Returning Via Fionn Loch

To return, take your time ascending back up the embankment. From here, you can then retrace your steps back to the car park. Alternatively, you can add a short out and back on to visit Fionn Loch and enjoy more fantastic views of Suilven across her unusually shaped waters.

Dan and I enjoyed speed hiking the entire out and back trail to the Falls of Kirkaig (minus the steep descent, of course).

What’s speed hiking? It’s a great way to cover a trail faster, for fun! Find out more about speed hiking here.

How to Get to Falls Of Kirkaig

Inverkirkaig and the Falls of Kirkaig are fairly easy to access. Though, I do remember driving down the single track C1003 and getting stuck behind Highland Coos, a lot! They don’t call it the ‘wee mad road‘ for nothing.

Dan and I travelled from the direction of Ullapool, since we were completing the NC500 in a clockwise direction. Inverkirkaig is 27 miles (43.5km) from Ullapool and takes around an hour to reach.

If coming from Lochinver, the drive time is a much quicker 10 minutes.

If you don’t have access to your own car/motorbike/camper, then we really recommend hiring something. It’s by far the easiest way to complete the NC500 and discover some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland.

When hiring a car on any trip, we always get the ball rolling with a search on Booking a car with is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.

Public Transport to the Falls of Kirkaig

There is no direct public transport to take you to the Falls of Kirkaig. From either Ullapool of Lochinver, the closest you can get is to Badnaban, a little south of Lochinver. From here, you’ll have to walk around 30 minutes down to Inverkirkaig and back out to the trailhead. Doable, but much less convenient.

If you opt to use public transport and walk, you’ll need to pick up bus 809 from either Ullapool or Lochinver and alight at Road’s End bus stop in Badnaban. Please see the route here.

Mountain Weather, Inverkirkaig

When hiking in the Scottish Highlands, you’ll want to know the weather forecast. I lost count of how many times Dan had to rearrange our itinerary to fit in with the best weather.

To get the most out of the views of the River Kirkaig, Fionn Loch and the Falls of Kirkaig, you can check the mountain and Inverkirkiaig weather forecast here.

Of course, even though hiking in rain isn’t the most enjoyable, the Falls of Kirkaig are absolutely incredible after a downpour. Unlike mountain trails in Scotland, the walk to Inverkirkaig Waterfall is fine to do in poorer weather conditions. But of course, you should exercise your own judgement on this, and I would never recommend the trail down to the base of the falls in bad weather. 

Falls of Kirkaig near Inverkirkaig and Loch Fionn

Inverkirkaig Accommodation

Despite being a small settlement, Inverkirkaig does offer a few accommodation options. In addition, they’re all excellent stays.

The Kirkaig Lodge is an outstanding barn conversion on the banks of Loch Kirkaig. Whether you choose to book their self-catering apartment or go with one of their B&B options, you’ll no doubt have a wonderful stay. Expect to be greeted by wild deer first thing in the morning.

I’ve already made a note of staying at Kirkaig Lodge for when we return to this part of Scotland.

Inverkirkaig Self Catering

Inverkirkaig has some truly excellent self-catering options. Given the settlement’s location, nestled between Loch Kirkaig and Loch Fionn, and sat within the watchful eyes of both Suilven and Stac Pollaidh, expect your stay to be one of pure relaxation. Some of the best options are shown below.

Inverkirkaig Chalets

The Kirkaig Chalets, Balsfjord Chalet and Lazy Bed Accommodation at Inverkirkaig all make for the perfect place to unwind after a day enjoying the local scenery, with superb, uninterrupted views across Loch Kirkaig. All three chalet options are within excellent reach of the Falls of Kirkaig, meaning a most relaxed day meandering the River Kirkaig and Fionn Loch, or, potentially adding on the longer hike to Suilven.

Other Nearby Waterfalls, Ullapool

There are a few other waterfalls worth visiting in this area around Ullapool in Assynt. Because who doesn’t love a waterfall?

  • Falls of Measach: located in the incredible Corrieshalloch Gorge, the beautiful Falls of Measach can be viewed from a very cool suspension bridge.
  • Clashnessie Falls: perhaps a little less visited along the NC500, the Clashnessie Falls involves a quick hike from Clashnessie Bay, arriving at a fairly impressive 15m drop of water.
  • Wailing Widow Falls: one of the most popular waterfalls along the NC500, and for good reason. Reaching Wailing Widow Falls is a quick walk from the car park, and easily one of the most beautiful.
  • Eas a’ Chual Aluinn: Britain’s tallest waterfall is surely a must, right? The adventurous trail to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn leads to the top of a magnificent waterfall, with views for days!

Other Walks and Attractions Nearby

  • Suilven: easily one of the greatest mountain hikes in the UK. In fact, Suilven is calling from wherever you are in this part of Assynt, with its unmistakable form visible from every direction. This is a hike you need to do.
  • Quinag: a thoroughly enjoyable, great bang-for-buck hike. You’ll knock off three Corbett summits during the 15km Quinag trek. In addition, the views are sublime.
  • Hermit’s Castle: northwest of Lochinver, at dreamy Alchmelvich, is Hermit’s Castle. This small castle is an unusual find with an even more unusual story as to how it came to be here. Often overlooked, it’s worth the short exploration from Achmelvich Beach.
  • Ardvreck Castle: this castle ruin may be small, but its position on Loch Assynt makes it one of the most picturesque, with photography fantastic.

Five Hiking Essentials For Falls of Kirkaig

These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Falls of Kirkaig walk in Scotland! 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.

Bonus Tips

  • Additional hike: although not the traditional starting point, you can complete the hike to Suilven starting from Inverkirkaig. Initially, the trail takes you along the River Kirkaig to the Falls of Kirkaig, before traversing past Loch Fionn and then onwards to scale the south face of Suilven. Overall, it’s a great way to turn the walk to the Falls of Kirkaig into a full-day affair.
  • Dress code: as mentioned, the trail to Inverkirkaig Falls can often be muddy and slippery. With that said, don’t wear your best gear on this hike. Those white trainers won’t be returning that way. Hiking boots at the ready.
  • Leave no trace: whatever goes out on the trail with you, must come back with you. Therefore, remember to check and pack up any litter and keep our trails clear.
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For more UK hiking content, check out our West Highlands, Cornwall and Brecon Beacons guides.

Beck Piggott

With an art and design based background, Beck uses photography and writing to help inspire readers to climb mountains, hike coastal trails and chase waterfalls around the globe.

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