A Short Hike to Ross-shire’s Rogie Falls

by Keith Savage

Rogie Falls, Strathpeffer, Scotland

As my North Coast 500 journey began, I found myself speeding north and west out of Inverness along beautiful roads toward Achnasheen and Wester Ross. This is a windswept, austere stretch of driving with many beautiful lochs and hills ramping to the sky, and there are few legitimate “sights” to see beyond the spectacle of the highland countryside. I’m ok with that — in fact I prefer it — but I never pass up an opportunity to crack open my trusty and weather-beaten Collins Britain road atlas. This massive book-bound map lists all kinds of interesting diversions: Castles, ancient monuments, natural wonders, nature reserves, etc. And what did I see along this stretch of road? The subject of today’s post: The Rogie Falls.

Scotland is blessed with loads of freshwater lochs and rivers, and, given its tempestuous rainy climate, also many waterfalls. I love a good waterfall and decided to break up the drive and see what the Rogie Falls had in store. The car park for the falls is two kilometers northwest of the village of Contin right off the A835 before Tarvie. You can’t miss it. A couple of informational signboards stand by the trail head. One informs us that Rogie Falls is one of the best places to spot leaping salmon and the other provides a map of the two trails you can take through the woods to the falls. Barring the end stretch of one trail, these are easy hikes that will take less than an hour roundtrip (the sign says 20-30 minutes).

Sarah and I opted for the longer Riverside Trail while my parents took the Salmon Trail which led directly to the falls. Our path led through lush woodland where some of the conifers have been cut back to allow native trees room to grow. Rocks littered the sides of the path and periodically the trail led us around huge, cracked boulders covered in orange and yellow lichens and edged in vibrant green scrub.

The noise from the road faded as we pushed deeper into the open forest. Posts with colored bands notified us that we were on the right path, though it would be impossible to get lost here as the path is so clear and well maintained. This is what I come to Scotland for: The cool air rich with the smell of forest and earth and fresh water, quietude for contemplation, natural beauty to nourish the aesthete.

The forest thinned out then disappeared completely as we neared the Black Water river. The trail turned to follow the riverbank, and here the water moved swiftly to the falls not far downstream. Its roar was audible at this point so we wasted little time and scurried toward the hike’s main event.

A magnificent suspension bridges crosses downstream of Rogie Falls where the Black Water cuts deep into the rock. You can see how the rock has heaved and angled upward beneath the river’s torrent. You might wonder how salmon can leap up that treacherous expanse — well, there’s an artificial channel that allows them to bypass the main cascade. The bridge is finely wrought though it sways with every person that tromps to its center, and it can handle up to five people at a time. Below me, the Black Water returned to a semblance of calm as it continued its journey southeast to Moy Bridge. It’s possible to continue hiking on the other side of the bridge through Torrachilty forest, but paths are not marked and it is a huge expanse so you ought to come prepared with a map and compass.

After a nice rest admiring Rogie Falls, we switched paths and took the Salmon Trail back to the car park. This was easily the most strenuous span of hiking as the trail quickly began climbing up a steep hillside where rough-hewn rocks served as steps. Another viewpoint called the Raven’s Crag stands along this path, and it provided a wonderful view of the falls and the suspension bridge.

We were huffing and puffing, a bit sweaty, as we returned to the car park. The hike to Rogie Falls was the perfect first sortie into Scotland’s beautiful country. The trails were good and mostly level, rocky and muddy here and there but nothing that basic all-purpose shoes can’t handle, and the payoff with the views of Rogie Falls was a great capstone. Don’t miss this beautiful, approachable hike along the North Coast 500!

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