Waterfalls are some of the most fascinating sights bequeathed to our planet by Mother Nature. The image of milky-white water tumbling over cliffs is romantic, exhilarating, and mystical all in the same breath. Some waterfalls crash and thunder over rocks due to sheer volumes of water, while others cascade gently into pools. Either way, they can engage our attention for hours. One thing about waterfalls is that they are often best seen in the rain, which is perfect for the wet and damp climate associated with Great Britain. Here are seven of Britain’s prettiest that will have you dreaming of far-flung exotic lands.
The Falls of Clyde
Framing both sides of the Clyde gorge is the Falls of Clyde, a nature reserve and walking trail that connects four majestic linns (Scots for waterfall). The lush scenery, woodland, and picturesque cascades were great inspirations for poet William Wordsworth and painters Jacob More and J. M. W. Turner. Of the four falls, 90-foot-tall Corra Linn impresses the most with its pure white water that spills over moss-covered rocks. Badgers, otters, roe deer, and 100-plus bird species add to the enchanting setting. Drop by the Falls of Clyde Visitor Centre for exhibits and information about walking trails — the 40-mile-long Clyde Walkway runs all the way to Glasgow.
North Yorkshire, England
Remember the scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves when Robin of Locksley (aka Kevin Costner) takes an al-fresco shower? That took place at Hardraw Force, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Some 175 years prior, J. M. W. Turner was inspired to portray the thin 100-feet-tall falls flowing through limestone cliffs and into a rippling stream. The painting is now proudly displayed at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum. Follow the streamside pathways through ancient woodland and cross wooden footbridges to reach the falls. As leaves rustle, sunlight breaks through the canopy, and raindrops fall from overhead, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was Sherwood Forest in medieval times.
County Durham, England
With a name like High Force, this waterfall in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty lives up to its powerful name. In fact, it boasts the highest volume of water that falls over an unbroken drop of any waterfall in England. From its source in the River Tees, it thunders 72 feet into a gorge with rocks that date back some 300 million years. Ferns grow from the rocks and centuries-old trees rise high above the clifftop. High Force stands on the Pennine Way walking trail, and there are abundant activities to complement your waterfall appreciation. Follow the trail east for half an hour to the sister Low Force, which featured in the World War I movie 1917.
Fancy indulging in some wild swimming? Then make your way to Linhope Spout, in the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. Local lore says that the waterfall’s pool is bottomless, but only those that dare jump in can find out. On a pleasant summer’s day, this is an idyllic spot to cool off while gazing up as the water nosedives down a rockface. The encompassing boulders also make for a great picnic setting. A pleasant walk to this natural wonder passes dense woodland and charming stone cottages. On clear days, it’s possible to catch glimpses of the mountain summits of Hedgehope Hill and Great Standrop in the near distance.
Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales
Wales’s Brecon Beacons National Park is a magical region of undulating hills and wild farmland peppered with quaint market towns. One of the park’s most visually appealing areas is Waterfall Country. Here, the Four Falls Trails links four delightful cascades set on the Afon Hepste river and in the shadow of wooded limestone gorges. Sgwd-y-Eira (Fall of Snow) is the standout highlight. It affords the chance to walk and stand directly behind the falls’ curtain. Make the effort to visit the other three — a pounding sound resonates from Sgwd Clun-Gwyn and can be heard on the approach.
Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales
Staying in the Brecon Beacons National Park, fans of the Batman movies might recognize Henrhyd Falls from The Dark Knight Rises. That’s because it served as the entrance to the Batcave in the movie. The 88-foot-tall waterfall is, perhaps unsurprisingly, far more breathtaking in real life and is the tallest in South Wales. Visitors can even go behind the milky-like curtain just as Batman (aka Christian Bale) does in the movie. From the Batcave the 3.5-mile-long Nant Llech Trail skirts a riverside with alder, ash, and oak trees rising high over the banks.
Descend into Lydford Gorge, at the edge of Dartmoor National Park, to uncover the graceful Whitelady Waterfall. Appearing like silk strings, the waterfall is the result of the rushing River Lyd colliding with the tranquil River Burn and forcing it to change its course. The River Burn thus plummets 92 feet into a moss and fern-clad gorge that gives off a rainforest ambiance. Several local legends enhance the mysticism of the area. One suggests that a group of savage cutthroats called the Gubbins used the gorge’s caves as hideouts. Another refers to the ghost of a woman dressed in a waterfall-like gown that haunts the natural landmark.