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No matter what time of year it is, waterfalls never fail to add a bit of magic to a walk in the countryside. In the spring and summer months they are a place to cool down, and in the autumn and winter, especially after heavy rainfall, their power is totally invigorating.
Our guide explores Britain’s top waterfalls, from the tallest and the most powerful waterfalls in the UK to some of the most enchanting.
Gaping Gill, Yorkshire
Gaping Gill is spectacular not just because it’s the highest unbroken waterfall in England, but also because it plunges into a deep pothole. Twice a year, the Bradford and Craven Pothole Clubs allow tourists to venture down into the cavern.
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Aira Force, Lake District
Probably the most popular waterfall in the Lake District, Aira Force is part of a circular National trust trail. You can walk over a bridge that arches over the top of the falls for a stunning photo opportunity.
Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, Scotland
It seems strange to think that Britain has a waterfall three times as high as Niagara Falls. The stream of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn plunges 200 metres over a cliffside and is a truly remarkable sight.
Catrigg Force, Yorkshire
Certainly not up there with the largest or most spectacular waterfalls, Catrigg Force offers something different. The waterfall is in a rather secluded location just north of Stainforth village and is part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is perfect if you just want to relax and enjoy nature at it’s finest
High Force, Durham
High Force is an easily accessible and enchanting waterfall not far from Raby Castle. Known as England’s largest waterfall, the scene makes for pleasant viewing, especially with the nearby picnic area and seasonal gift shop.
Jesmond Dene, Tyne and Wear
Tumbling down from the north of Newcastle, the Ouseburn river rises most magnificently as it passes through Jesmond Dene on its six-mile journey from Callerton to the city centre. Visit Jesmond Dene.
Waterfall Country, Powys
“I cannot call to mind a single valley that… comprises so much beautiful and picturesque scenery and so many interesting and special features.” With these words, Victorian naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was describing neither the Amazon nor the Far East that he explored on his intrepid travels, but somewhere much closer to home: the Vale of Neath on the southern slopes of the Brecon Beacons. Visit waterfall country.
Pistyll Rhaeadr, Powys
Spray from Pistyll Rhaeadr nurtures mosses and ferns. Around them, protected from sheep in a walled enclosure, beeches, birches, oaks and pines thrive. From a distance, the wooded gorge and falls resemble an almost Tyrolean scene, which is usually a fecund refuge for squirrels, woodpeckers and finches sheltering from the Berwyns’ icy blasts. Visit Pistyll Rhaeadr.
Aber Falls, Gwynedd
Cascading through oak, birch and hazel woodlands below a scree-strewn hillside is Aber Falls. The river boasts one of the steepest gradients from source to sea in England and Wales and the 120ft-high falls are at their most impressive after heavy rains. Visit Aber Falls.
Falls of Clyde, New Lanark
This achingly beautiful wild haven in southern Scotland is famous for its spectacular salmon leap waterfalls and scenic woodland walks along the river. Over 100 bird species have been recorded, including ravens, dippers and kingfishers along with bats, otters and badgers.
Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim
The Rivers Glenariff and Inver have cut right through this spectacular steep-sided gorge – the Queen of the Glens. These Northern Irish rivers can be lively and dramatic as they tumble over boulders and a series of three impressive waterfalls. But then they become suddenly calm and tranquil, flowing lazily through oak and beech woodland, sunlight streaming through the fresh new leaves. Visit Glenariff.
Hareshaw Linn, Northumberland
As you head out of Bellingham, you would find it hard to believe that, 150-odd years ago, this was an industrial landscape filled with the sounds of roaring furnaces and rattling mine trucks. Around you are spoil heaps from coke ovens and a quarry, as well as abandoned mineshafts, but nature has reclaimed this landscape and transformed it into a magical site, all tinkling water and twittering birds. Visit Hareshaw Linn.
It can sometimes be challenging, with a young family, to find walking trails manageable for little legs. Thankfully there is an ideal place in the Radnor Forest in Mid Wales. There are three short trails in the wood, each waymarked with coloured signs. All three routes are worth walking – here we follow the Water-break-its-neck Trail (blue waymarkers). Visit Water-break-its-neck.
Hawes, Aysgill Force and Hardraw Force, North Yorkshire
An abundance of falls, chutes and cataracts together make Upper Wensleydale the epitome of Yorkshire’s beguiling waterfall country. And at its heart is delightful Hawes, a miniature town, major market centre and locus for countless rambles to magical falls amid the cocooning hills. Visit Aysgill Force and Hardraw Force.
Nant Bochlwyd, Conwy
This toppling cascade and high-level lake, hidden in a cwm beneath the great Glyderau range, is an exhilarating alternative to the well-trodden lures of Snowdonia far below. Visit Nant Bochlwyd.