The Nevis Gorge and it's Waterfalls
Route type: Other
Distance: 5.28km, 3.28 miles. Like (6)
Time: 1hr 30mins Ascent: 270ft Difficulty Level: 1 - Easy Paths: Well-built path with drops alongside, no stiles Landscape: Deep wooded gorge, wet meadow above Dog Friendliness: Off lead, beware of steep slopes alongside path Parking: Walkersâ car park at end of Glen Nevis road Public Toilets: Glen Nevis Visitor Centre Description: The Nevis Gorge, itâs been said, is where Scotland pays its little tribute to the Himalayas. High walls of crag and boulder rise on either side. The path runs through a narrow gap where forest clings to the steep hills de and the river crashes below among its boulders. Rocks and Falls Galore. Four different types of rock make up this scenery, and three of them are obvious from the walk. The crushed and ancient rocks of the Central Highlands (the Dalradian series) are mostly grey schist, but here there is also the pale-grey quartzite of Sgurr aâMhaim, above the bend of the glen. The grinding of the continents at the time the Caledonian mountains were formed caused great bubbles of melted rock within the schist. These now appear at the surface as the granite on the lower slopes of Ben Nevis. Itâs grey on the outside, but pink when freshly broken or washed by streams. The granite was formed deep underground, but above it volcanoes were pouring out the black lava that now forms the summit of Ben Nevis and its formidable northern crags. As the glen bends east towards the gorge, stop at the Polldubh car park (Grid ref: NN 145683). The first waterfall is hidden underneath the road bridge. The riverbed is the pinkish Nevis granite, cut by two dykes - vertical intrusions of volcanic rock - which the river has eroded into twin channels. Continue up the road to its end at the second car park, where the walk starts. Glen Nevis has the rounded outline of a glacial valley. Glacier-smoothed rock below the car park has become an informal âsymbolic cemeteryâ, commemorating those killed by the mountains they loved. Once above the gorge, the depth of the former glacier is shown by the rocks of Meall Cumhann, on the Ben Nevis (north) side. These are obviously smoothed by the ice that has passed right over the top of them. Steall Fall. Steall Fall is about 300ft (91m) high. In a good winter it freezes completely and climbers ascend it in spiked crampons with an ice axe in each hand. The valley above the fall, the Allt Coire aâMhail, once flowed gently out into a higher version of Glen Nevis. From above, it still appears to unwary walkers to do so. Ice deepened Glen Nevis by 750ft (229m). In the following 10,000 years, the side-stream has barely started its task of eroding the hanging valley down to the level of its new endpoint. While you're there: The Glen Nevis Visitor Centre (Ionad Nibheis) has a detailed account of the geology and glacial effects that you will see in Glen Nevis and audiovisual displays on the natural history of the area. It also sells postcards and snacks. There are picnic tables where you can watch the walkers coming down from Ben Nevis and wonder which ones got to the top. At Point 2, where the path dips to cross a stream, hot rocks have penetrated cracks in the grey schist to form intrusive dykes. Two different ones are visible in the bare rock underfoot. The granite has squeezed into the older schist to form a vein of pink porphyry. Near by, superheated steam has lifted the minerals out of the schist itself and these have recondensed to a vein of whitish quartz. These intrusions are much clearer to see when the rock is wet (which it usually is). Where to eat and drink: The Grog & Gruel in Fort William High Street is the âurban outpostâ of Glencoeâs Clahaig Inn and serves the same hearty food, with regular live music. Directions: It should be noted that the waterslide above the car park is the Allt Coire Eoghainn - if you mistake it for the Steall Fall and set off towards it you are on a difficult and potentially dangerous path. The path you will take on this walk is much easier, but even here there have been casualties, mostly caused by people wearing unsuitable shoes. At the top end of the car park you will see a signpost that shows no destination closer than the 13 miles (21km) to Kinlochleven - accordingly, this walk will be a short out-and-back. The well-made path runs gently uphill under woods of birch and hazel, across what turns into a very steep slope. For a few steps it becomes a rock-cut ledge, with a step across a waterfall side-stream. The path at this point is on clean pink granite, but you will see a boulder of grey schist beside the path just afterwards. Ahead, the top of the Steall Fall can now be just glimpsed through the notch of the valley. 2 The path continues downhill to cross a stream with big rock blocks; the rock now is schist, with fine zig-zag stripes of grey and white. A short rock staircase leads to a wooden balcony section. From here the path is just above the bed of the Nevis Gorge. Here the river runs through some huge boulders, some of which bridge it completely. 3 Quite suddenly, the path emerges on to a level meadow above the gorge. Ahead, the Steall Fall fills the view. The well-built path runs along the left-hand edge of the meadow to a point opposite the waterfall. 4 The walk ends here, beside a footbridge which consists simply of three steel cables over a very deep pool. Those who wish to attempt the crossing should note that it gets wobblier in the middle; itâs hard to turn round, but the return journey is rather easier. From the wire bridge, the driest path runs alongside the main river round one bend before heading up to the foot of the waterfall. The view from directly beneath is even more spectacular.