1. Waterfall Woods in the Brecon Beacons
On the southern fringe of the Brecon Beacons you’ll find an impressive network of forest pools, wooded gorges and falling water called Coed-y-Rhaiadr or Waterfall Woods. This mainly limestone landscape was formed by the shells of sea creatures laid down in an early tropical sea. The hard lip over which the water plummets is red sandstone and gritstone, while the soft limestone layers beneath have eroded into plunge pools. The carboniferous (or coal bearing) seams are remains of the first forests to colonise Earth.
2. Ice crystals in the Berwyn Mountains
With a single 73m (239ft) drop (higher than Niagara Falls), Llanrhaeadr waterfall (also know as Pistyll Rhaeadr) is regarded as one of the seven wonders of Wales. In his book Wild Wales, the 19th-century author George Borrow wrote: “What shall I liken it to? I scarcely know, unless it is to an immense skein of silk agitated and disturbed by tempestuous blasts, or to the long tail of a grey courser at furious speed. I never saw water falling so gracefully, so much like thin, beautiful threads as here.” In winter, spray blows to the side of the falls and freezes on the trees and vegetation to form a fairyland of ice sculptures and hoar frost – interlocking feather-like ice crystals that attach to leaves.
3. Merry men at Hardraw Force in Yorkshire
To get to England’s highest unbroken waterfall, you’ve got to go through a pub. Poet Wordsworth and artist Turner both sank a few ales in the 13th-century Green Dragon Inn before visiting these 30m (98ft) falls. A sign above the door reads
“D. Mark Thompson: Innkeeper and Waterfall Provider”. The pub asks a small fee (currently £2) to see their pub garden water feature, which is money well spent when you see what these falls do in the snow. The scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, where Maid Marian catches Robin bathing nude, was filmed here.
4. The Lakes’ rediscovered treasure
The Lake District boasts a handful of celebrated falls: Aira Force, with its precarious dry stone bridge, and the V-shaped silver skeins of Stock Ghyll to name just two. But for sheer shock factor, Uldale Force wins hands down. Tucked away in the Howgill Fells, on the River Rawthay near Sedburgh, these dramatic falls have a habit of jumping out on unsuspecting walkers. Matt Baker swam in the pool for BBC One’s Secret Britain in August 2010, while his appearance brought scores of summer visitors, the secret should be safe with you now the weather’s turned.
5. The miracle of Kinder Downfall in the Peak District
Kinder Downfall flows over the edge of Kinder Scout, famously the site of the mass trespass in 1932, which paved the way for the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000. In summer, layers of rainbows arch over the crags, while in winter, low temperatures can create ice sculptures in the natural amphitheatre. But at any time of year, when there’s a strong west wind, something miraculous happens – the water blows back on itself, making it look like the waterfall is flowing upwards and causing a huge cloud of spray.
6. Hollow Brook in Devon
With steep cliffs, broadleaf coastal woods and isolated coves with no landward access, the Exmoor shoreline is the most remote in Britain. The national park also has the highest sea cliffs on the mainland – Great Hangman has a 250m (820ft) cliff-face. Run-off from the moors plunges over these cliffs into the sea in several spectacular coastal cascades. Depending on your definition of a waterfall, Hollow Brook, on the South West Coast Path between Lee Bay and Woody Bay in Devon, could be counted as one of the highest in Britain, dropping 210m (689ft) to the sea.
7. Industrial heritage at Hareshaw Linn in Northumberland
In a heavily wooded gorge near Bellingham, you’ll find the tangled remains of an old ironworks, evidence of a short-lived rural iron industry that sprung up in Northumberland in the 19th century. At the peak of operation, the site housed 70 coke ovens along with various coal stores, a blacksmiths, wagon shed and stables. It closed in 1848. Today, a three-mile walk passes a series of falls, framed by 300 species of mosses, liverworts and lichens, beside two blast furnaces and an old ironworks dam.
8. Three falls in one at Glenariff Forest Park
Glenariff, nicknamed the Queen of the Glens, is considered by many to be the most beautiful of Northern Ireland’s famous nine Glens of Antrim. Two rivers bisect the forest park, the Inver and the Glenariff, producing a string of waterfalls, calms pools and fast-flowing rapids among the broadleaf woodland. In parts, the water churns through steep-sided gorges and forms a humid microclimate for mosses, liverworts and ferns. Wooden walkways weave through the park and allow you to marvel at the spectacular falls from a safe distance.