Heady Heights at Corrieshalloch Gorge

by Keith Savage · 1 comment

Corrieshalloch Gorge, Wester Ross, Scotland

Scotland’s northwest highlands are basically one huge natural wonder, but there are certain sites within this gorgeous expanse that even the Scots refer to as natural wonders. Case in point: Scotland’s “Grand Canyon,” Corrieshalloch Gorge, which can be found in the highlands of Wester Ross a dozen miles southeast of Ullapool. Comparing anything to the Grand Canyon is a dubious exercise, but Corrieshalloch Gorge is as close as anything in Scotland to a viable comparison.

Corrieshalloch is a slot gorge or box-canyon created by glacial meltwater possibly from as far back as 2.6 million years ago. Unlike the Grand Canyon, Corrieshalloch Gorge is very narrow — it looks like a giant swung his axe through the earth’s crust to its iron mantle — and the River Droma flows through this cleft, dropping 100 meters through a series of waterfalls, including the precipitous Falls of Measach which thunder down 45 meters. An old suspension bridges sways over the gorge by these falls, but more on that in a bit.

When we started out on our drive along the A832 from Poolewe we hadn’t planned on going as far as Corrieshalloch Gorge, but as we stopped at little shops and cafés along the way more and more people suggested we press on to the Scottish “Grand Canyon.” By name alone you might question such advice. Corrieshalloch means “ugly hollow” in Gaelic, but it is such a disingenuous name I have to assume the namer simply didn’t want anyone to spoil the place. You’ll see what I mean.

There used to be two entrances to Corrieshalloch Gorge: One on the A832 and one on the other side of the gorge along the busy A835 to Ullapool. The entrance along the A835 is no longer open. There were too many huge buses turning here and it made the road unsafe. The parking area on the A832 is fairly large and possesses a few informational boards about the gorge and its walking paths. If a visit to the suspension bridge and a look at the falls is your top priority you’ll want to take Walk 1. Otherwise, Walk 2 provides a longer and steep-in-places jaunt along the gorge.

Walk 1 zig-zags down the side of the gorge to the suspension bridge and makes for an easy walk for anyone without leg or knee troubles. The far side of the gorge really isn’t that far away, and, given how deep Corrieshalloch is, in that respect the gorge is quite impressive. There must have been a continuous torrent of water here to delve down so deep and steeply.

The suspension bridge is in remarkably good shape considering it was built in 1874 by Sir John Fowler (the main engineer of the Forth Bridge). Corrieshalloch’s suspension bridge is 82-feet long and sways just enough to make you a little nervous. Capacity is limited to six people, so for your own sake and others’ please abide. This is a good moment to mention that if you are afraid of heights you absolutely do not want to step foot upon this bridge. The bottom of the gorge is lost in shadow (and possibly mist if you’re here after a rainfall), and you may well freeze up at thoughts of plunging to your doom.

If you manage to cross the suspension bridge, however, the path takes you along the gorge to a tongue of silver metal jutting out across the gorge. This viewing platform provides a magnificent view of the gorge and suspension bridge that conveys the scale of this natural wonder. Again, acrophobes beware.

Crossing back to the parking lot side of the gorge, I followed the more leisurely path which did have some elevation that left me huffing and puffing in places. There’s another view here of the cantilevered viewing platform for more jaw-dropping scale. As you near the road you’ll find a gorgeous view west/northwest to Loch Broom nestled among the hills.

Corrieshalloch Gorge is an ideal stop on any drive around Wester Ross. The landscape all around the gorge is highland grandeur at its best, and then you have the gorge itself which adds another layer of extremes. Plus, the gorge makes the perfect stopping point on the lesser traversed driving route along Wester Ross’s coast (more on this in another post). Watch your step!

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