The Wailing Widow Falls is a spectacular waterfall in the Scottish Highlands that can be viewed from both above and below. The 50ft falls spill out over the cliff from Loch na Gainmhich, crashing into a narrow canyon at the bottom.
The Wailing Widow Waterfall was one of my ‘must see’ spots on our NC500 tour (check out my 4-day North Coast 500 itinerary here). I came across it by chance whilst scrolling through Scottish Instagram feeds and chatting to photographers who’d already done the popular road trip.
This post was updated in May 2022 to include new parking location photos.
Big Waterfalls in Scotland
There are loads of big waterfalls in Scotland, the highest waterfall in Scotland (and the UK) is actually located just a short hike from the Wailing Widow Falls, rushing treacherously down the mountainside and eventually pooling into Loch Glencoul.
Where did the Wailing Widow Falls get its name from?
There are a number of theories behind the name of the Wailing Widow. The one that fits its name best tells the tale of a deer hunter who fell over the top of the falls whilst hunting on a rainy day. The story goes that, filled with grief, his mother threw herself from the same spot the following morning.
Where are the Wailing Widow Falls
The falls are located in the Scottish Highlands, not too far North of Ullapool. You’ll find them on the A894, not long after you’ve passed Kylesku Bridge. We added it to our Nc500 itinerary, making it one of our main stops on the drive between Betty Hill and Ullapool.
How to get to the Wailing Widow Falls
There are two ways to see the falls, a birds-eye, drone-style view, or a much closer experience at the base.
To get to the parking spots you can either Google the falls themselves, or search for Loch na Gainmhich. Google maps found both pretty accurately, however, it’s worth noting that neither are visible from the road (if you’re coming in from the North).
You should notice three pull-in spots at the roadside. The first (at the bottom of the hill) is smaller and sits right next to the start of the path to the base of the falls. Since originally writing this post, this parking point has been partially blocked by boulders due to the damage that excessive parking was causing. There is still room for a few cars in quieter seasons.
The other two stops are much larger (and way more obvious) lay-bys at the top of the hill. The first (pictured) sits on the curve as you descend (going north)/climb (going south) the hill. Whilst the parking bay in the photo is easy to spot whichever way you approach it, the second sits right on the edge of the sandy loch (which you won’t be able to see it until you walk over the lip of the hill).
The Highland’s waterfall from above
You’ve got two options here, you either walk around the full circumference of the loch, or you take the risk of getting your feet wet by hopping over the wobbling stones just before the water hits the cliff edge. We opted for the latter, trudging over the shorter bog route and straight to the stones.
The water isn’t deep (or particularly dangerous), but the stones have quite a distance between them and are anything but sturdy. This route really isn’t suitable for young children or anyone nervous about slipping.
Once you’re across the stones, you can clamber up the hillside to get this incredible drone-style view. It’s worth noting that (even on a nice day) the hill was really boggy and there are no safety rails or guards to prevent falls. Take your time and be safe!
Getting to the base of the Wailing Widow Falls
From the little parking space at the bottom of the hill, follow the rough track into the canyon that chases the burn upstream. At the start of this track, the path forks, asking you to choose whether to follow the water from the right or the left. Choose the left. We made the mistake of trying the right first, and this only leads to a dead end after a minute or so. The start of the path is marked by a pile of stones left over from a small landslide.
From here, the route is quite straight forward. You simply follow the path until you reach the base of the falls. It’s worth noting that this track was particularly boggy, and the ground was unreliably loose. Take sturdy walking shoes and be careful of your footing. You can get incredibly close to the bottom of the falls, though the rocks here are (inevitably) slippy from the spray. There is opportunity to capture a couple of different angles of the falls from rock points in the middle of the river, however, waterproof footwear is recommended for this.
If you’re looking for other unusual things to see in the Scottish Highlands, read my post about the secret pyramid hiding in the Cairngorms, within the Eastern Highlands of Scotland.
Hotels on the NC500 near the Wailing Widow Falls
The tiny little fishing hamlet of Kylesku is a mere 5 minute drive from the falls (a 2.4 mile walk). Here, you’ll find two lesser-known NC500 hotels (both have recently been bought over and refurbished by Highland Coast Hotels). The closest to the falls (and my favourite of the two) is Newton Lodge. Think luxury tartan furnishings, roaring lounge fires, loch breakfast views, and one of the coolest looking bars you’ll find in the Highlands.
For a livelier (and slightly cheaper) experience, Kylesku Hotel attracts a good number of locals, due to the reputation they have built around their restaurant food and atmosphere. I was delighted by the wide selection of vegan options that both hotels offered.