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How To Visit Wailing Widow Falls (Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall)

How To Visit Wailing Widow Falls (Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall)

Wailing Widow Falls in Assynt is easily one of the most outstanding waterfalls in Scotland. Also known as Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall, named after the loch it flows from, this beautiful waterfall is a must-see along the epic North Coast 500 scenic drive. From the Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall Car Park, it’s just a short walk to marvel at this incredible 30-metre drop of gushing water. Wailing Widow Falls may well become your new favourite waterfall.

In this guide, we’ll look at where Wailing Widow Waterfall is located, provide a map of the hike as well as a trail description. Afterwards, we’ll discuss how to get there, where to stay and the best time to visit. Then, we’ll finish up with some other incredible waterfalls to visit and provide a few bonus tips for visiting Wailing Widow Falls in Assynt, Scotland.

To see footage of the Wailing Widow Falls in Assynt, 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, Steall Falls and Falls of Glomach. Otherwise, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 excellent NC500 hikes.

What Are the Wailing Widow Falls?

Wailing Widow Falls is a breathtaking waterfall located in Assynt, Scotland. The falls can be viewed from both above and below. The view from above is particularly outstanding, showing the waterfall plunge below from Loch Na Gainmhich, with the peak of Glas Bheinn standing mightily in the background.

There’s conflicting information online as to how tall the waterfall is. But, according to our GPS trail recording, the verticle scramble up the side of Wailing Widow Falls is around 30 metres. So, we’ll go with that. Wailing Widow Waterfall in Scotland is around 30 metres high.

Where Did the Wailing Widow Falls Get Its Name From?

The Wailing Widow Falls story is that of tragedy. The most commonly told legend is that of a deer hunter, who, during a rainy day with poor visibility, fell from the top of the falls. The following morning, his mother came to the place of his death. Filled with grief, she threw herself from the same place.

Wailing Widow Falls Location

So, where are the Wailing Widow Falls in Scotland located?

You’ll find this splendid waterfall along the A894 on part of the NC500 route in the Scottish Highlands. Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall lies very close to Unapool and Kylesku, sitting within the wild and enchanting landscape of Assynt in northwest Scotland. The surrounding mountain outlook of Quinag as well as nearby Eas a’ Chual Aluinn – Britain’s highest waterfall, make Wailing Widow Falls just one of many exceptional things to do in this area.

See our How to Get to the Wailing Widow Falls section below for more information on how to get there.

Wailing Widow Waterfall from above

Wailing Widow Falls Map and Hiking Preview

  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.7km
  • Time: 30 minutes–1 hour
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 55m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Wailing Widow Falls Car Park
  • Map: Wikiloc

The Wailing Widow Falls Walk

The short walk to Wailing Widow or, Loch Na Gainmhich, makes this waterfall one of the most easily accessible in Scotland. Although the terrain is rough and rocky, and in wet weather, extremely muddy and slippery, it’s essentially a quick hike to a great reward.

Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall Car Park

The Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall Car Park is a small parking area located to the side of the A894. After pulling in and grabbing a spot in the somewhat limited parking area, the hike begins.

Note: there is additional parking to be found a little further back up the bend in the road at the Quinag Viewpoint Car Park (as marked on google maps below). The address is A894, Lairg IV27 4HW. From here, you can walk down to Wailing Widow Falls.

Getting to the Base of the Wailing Widow Falls

The trail to the base of the falls heads straight into the gully from the Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall Car Park, following along the left-hand edge of the stream. The trail is well worn but quite crude and so although not technically difficult and flat, care should be taken. There are some interesting rock formations to enjoy as you wander through, as well as a wealth of flora lining the edges of the rock walls and riverside.

Dan hikes along the trail to Wailing Widow Falls in Assynt, Scotland

The Wailing Widow Falls, Scotland

After around 400m, you’ll reach the base of Wailing Widow Falls. Despite the poor weather conditions Dan and I experienced during our visit, we were hugely impressed. Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall plunges enthusiastically into a small pool below. Prepared to get peppered with spray the closer you veer to its thunderous drop. The water that flows from Loch Na Gainmhich, just above, cascades over multi-level platforms on its way down the 30 metre plunge. It’s an extremely handsome waterfall.

Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall From Above

After enjoying Wailing Widow Falls from the base, it’s possible to scramble up the left-hand side to discover views of the falls from above. This path is short yet very steep. The faint trail up is a near-vertical climb. Dan and I hiked this in wet weather and to be honest, would not recommend this trail to those less experienced with hiking. Purely from a safety point of view.

Luckily, there is another way to access the top of the falls. From the previously mentioned Quinag Viewpoint Car Park, you can walk across the boggy terrain to the top of the falls. Alternatively, if you’re already parked at the Loch Na Gainmhich Car Park, and don’t want to move your car, you can walk an out and back to the base of the falls. Then, you could walk out and back, up the road, to the top of the falls, via Quinag Viewpoint Car Park.

Loch Na Gainmhich

From the top of Wailing Widow Falls are spectacular views across Loch Na Gainmhich and towards Glas Bheinn. Although, Dan and I weren’t so lucky with the weather and the complete white-out at the top shrouded any views more than 10 metres in front of us. Fingers crossed you have better luck!

The water that spills from the northern lip edge of Loch Na Gainmhich, creating Wailing Widow Falls, drops into the Allt Crananaidh river stream. Allt Crananaidh then flows down the rocky surface of the small gorge as it eventually passes beneath the road.

Return to Loch Na Gainmhich Car Park

After enjoying the base of the Wailing Widow Waterfall, you can simply retrace your steps back to the car park. If, however, like us, you choose to scramble up the side, we wouldn’t recommend returning via the scramble. This descent would be extremely steep and potentially dangerous.

Instead, from the top of Wailing Widow Falls, head east past Loch Na Gainmhich towards Quinag Viewpoint Car Park and follow the road back down. This option gives you incredible views of the twisting road and wider vistas of Assynt as you head back to Wailing Widow Falls Car Park.

How to Get to the Wailing Widow Falls

Access to Wailing Widow Falls in Scotland is very simple. If you’re on the NC500 scenic drive and are planning to hike Quinag and see the epic Kylesku Bridge, then you’ll pass by Wailing Widow Falls. Access to the falls is along the A894. You can get there from either direction and it’s straightforward to pull into the small dirt car park there.

If travelling from Unapool and Kylesku, you’ll pass the ‘official’ car park first, to the left of the roadside. 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. However, before reaching this car park, you’ll pass the Quinag Viewpoint Car Park which sits on the same level as the top of the waterfall, and right next to Loch Na Gainmhich. You can park here also.

FYI – the Wailing Widow Falls postcode IV27 4HW.

Dan and I drove the NC500 in a clockwise direction from Inverness. We visited Wailing Widow Falls in Assynt on day three of our road trip. We’d visited the delights of Rogie Falls, Sgurr a Chaorachain, Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe NNR in the preceding days.

Of course, some of you might be travelling to Wailing Widow Falls in Assynt as part of a shorter trip, and not as part of the NC500. Following are some more direct driving options.

Glasgow to Wailing Widow Falls

The drive from Glasgow to Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall is around 4.5–5 hours, with a distance of 250 miles (402km). Although not impossible in a day, you might want to consider turning the trip into a bit of an overnight adventure. See accommodation options below.

Inverness to Wailing Widow Falls

It’s a two hour drive from Inverness to Wailing Widow Falls. So, quite easily done as a day trip option. Taking the route via Ullapool will see you cover some of the North Coast 500 as a bonus too. Plus, the 86 mile (138.5km) road trip is incredibly scenic.

As far as I can tell, there is no public transport option to get you to Wailing Widow Falls. Your own transport is necessary.

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 Booking a car with is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.

When Is the Best Time To Visit Wailing Widow Falls?

Wailing Widow Falls is open year-round. As with any waterfall, visiting after a period of rain gives a better chance to experience a gushing waterfall in full force. That being said, as Wailing Widow Falls isn’t a seasonal waterfall, you’ll see a nice cascade any time of year.

Of course, June to September is peak tourism time. So, expect the trail, waterfall viewpoints and car parks to be busier. But, given the short trail to Wailing Widow Waterfall, the turnaround of visitors is relatively quick. In addition, these months are generally the warmest and sunniest, which is great news for a trip to the Scottish Highlands. Early mornings and late afternoons will likely be your quietest times to visit.

Trail to Wailing Widow Falls from Loch Na Gainmhich Waterfall car park

Other Waterfalls, Hikes and Attractions in Assynt, Scotland

  • Clashnessie Waterfall: situated by the beautiful sandy beach of the same name, the hike to Clashnessie Waterfall is a wonderful coastal trek to a 15 metre high cascade. Better viewed after rain, it’s a much less visited waterfall compared with many others in the Scottish Highlands.
  • Quality Beaches: Achmelvich and Clachtoll beaches are some of the most fantastic in the British Isles. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re not even in Britain. Do not miss a quick stop at each.
  • Hiking haven: if you find yourself passing through beautiful, wild and rugged Assynt, then the hikes to Quinag, Suilven and Stac Pollaidh are, I’m afraid, a non-negotiable.
  • 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 Wailing Widow Falls, it’s well worth a stop.

Hotels Close to Wailing Widow Falls on the NC500

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. And enjoy you will, with those magical views across Loch Inver.
  • Mid-range – Lavender Hut: for self-catering accommodation, the Lavender Hut provides a tranquil escape for guests. Spot deer first thing in the morning before heading out to Wailing Widow Falls. Perfection!
  • 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. Ultimately, this would be an amazing base from which to explore this part of Assynt.

Where to Stay Near the Wailing Widow Falls if Camping

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 having a camper to snuggle down in, then you can park right at the falls if you wish. Just avoid parking and setting up too early in the day when people are still trying to visit.

What is the Best Travel Insurance?

Whether you’re from the UK or further afield, travel insurance is a real necessity. Especially if taking on a road trip.

SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Beck and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times to insure our trips. The Nomad Insurance is fantastic value for money with a smaller additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract. In addition, you can cancel at any time, which will take effect the month after.

For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting just days or just 2–3 weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more.

SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future. Use the widget below to suss out a quote today.

Five Hiking Essentials For Wailing Widow Waterfall

These are our five hiking gear essentials for visiting the Wailing Widow Falls in Assynt, 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.

You should also pack water, snacks and sunscreen.

Bonus Tips

  • Appropriate attire: the trail to the base of the waterfall and subsequent scramble to the top can be muddy pretty much year-round. Avoid wearing your best footwear and remember to take care.
  • The highest waterfall in Scotland: do you know where the highest waterfall in Scotland is? Well, it’s right next door to Wailing Widow Falls in Assynt. In fact, Eas a’ Chual Aluinn isn’t just the highest waterfall in Scotland, but it’s the highest waterfall in the whole of the UK. The trail to Eas a’ Chual Aluinn passes the top of Wailing Widow Waterfall and continues through breathtaking highland terrain to a stunning 200 metre high waterfall. It’s well worth the three hour hike to visit. 
  • Hidden gems of the Highlands: if you’re looking to explore the less well-known highlights of the Scottish Highlands, be sure to check out hidden gems like Corpach Shipwreck, Measach Falls, the Falls of Glomach and the lovely ruins of Strome Castle.
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Scotland is easily one of our favourite hiking destinations. Let us know in the comments some of your favourite hikes in Scotland!

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