Lealt Falls on the Isle of Skye

Written by Chris Thornton | 24th of December 2022
Lealt Falls

The Lealt Falls are a must-see stop on any road trip around Skye's Trotternish Peninsula. A relatively new suspended viewing platform has made the upper falls more accessible, but the lower falls are the real showstoppers.

You'll have to hike down a steep 100-meter descent to get to them, but it's worth it for the chance to have one of the island's most beautiful waterfalls all to yourself. Most visitors skip the lower falls because of the uphill climb back, so there's a good chance you will have the place to yourself... perfect for photographers looking to take long exposures without people walking into the frame.

Depending on the time of year and recent rainfall can affect how the falls look. Surrounding peat around the river and gorge can dye the water a slight orange hue.

Lealt Gorge

Lealt Gorge is a natural valley formed by the Lealt River, which has carved deep into the rocky landscape and created the waterfall. The gorge is home to a series of impressive waterfalls, including the Lealt Waterfall crashing deep towards the coast.

The gorge is surrounded by rugged, wild terrain. Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and the opportunity to see various wildlife and plant life in their natural habitat.

River Lealt (Abhainn an Lethuillt)

The Lealt River on Skye's Trotternish peninsula starts in the Hartaval foothills and flows 4 miles northeast to the Sound of Raasay. The best section comes at the end when the river plummets 90 metres over two stages into a stunning gorge cascading over multiple waterfalls. The final quarter-mile is a prime breeding ground for salmon, earning the Lealt River the title of Britain's shortest salmon river.

Wild swimming at Lealt Falls

If wild swimming is your thing, then Lealt Waterfall is a lovely place to do it. But, as mentioned above, many tourists do not descend to see the best part of the falls, so it is much quieter, and you will hopefully get some privacy for your swim.

Just remember that swimming in Scotland at any time of year can be dangerous - the water is freezing cold, even in summer... and there are no lifeguards or emergency floatation devices.

There are some shallow areas, but it does get deep very suddenly, so be aware if you have children with you. There are some sharp stones too so pool shoes would be a good idea.

If you are a seasoned wild swimmer and take appropriate precautions, Lealt Falls is a wee wild swimming paradise.

How to get to Lealt Falls Car Park

The falls are 13 miles north of Portree and just over 4 miles south of Staffin on the A855 coastal route.

  1. First, plan your trip to the Isle of Skye and ensure you have transportation to Lealt Falls. You can reach Skye by car, bus, or ferry from the Scottish mainland.

  2. From the town of Portree, follow the A855 north, passing Loch Fada and Loch Leathan.

  3. After about 12 miles, you'll see a sign for Lealt Falls on your right. Follow the narrow road down to the car park, just off the layby.

Please note there is a height restriction on vehicles, so park at the layby if you are in a campervan or motorhome.

Getting to Lealt Falls

  1. From the car park, you'll need to hike to the falls. The trail to the upper falls viewpoint is short and easy, but the route to the lower falls is a bit more strenuous. It involves a steep descent of nearly 100 meters, and the path can be slippery in wet conditions, so wear proper footwear and take caution.

  2. Enjoy the falls! The upper falls are easily accessible from the viewing platform, while the lower falls can be viewed from a series of platforms and viewpoints along the trail.

  3. When you're ready to leave, follow the same trail back to the car park. The hike back up to the car park can be challenging, so ensure you have enough energy and water for the return trip.

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Google Maps: Lealt Falls

Lealt Valley Diatomite Railway

In addition to the waterfall, there is another point of interest - the remains of the Victorian-era Old Diatomite Factory, a short distance to the east. This place was the end of the line for the Lealt Valley Diatomite Railway, a narrow-gauge tramway that ran from 1889 to Loch Cuithir, where they quarried diatomite.

Diatomite has a variety of uses, including as an ingredient in matches, paint, cosmetics, toothpaste, polish, filler, and alcohol filtering.

The railway began with gravity power but eventually added a steam locomotive. The terminus was at Invertote, where there were warehouses on the cliffs. The ruined building at the base of the cliffs was where they dried, ground, and purified the diatomite through high heat. There isn't much left, but it's an interesting site to explore after the waterfall.

A Victorian-era Old Diatomite Factory, near Lealt Falls.
The ruinous Victorian-era "Old Diatomite Factory", near Lealt Falls.

Lealt Falls FAQs

Here are a few frequently asked questions on Lealt Falls.

How long does it take to hike to the falls?

The hike to the upper falls is short and easy, taking only a few minutes. The hike to the lower falls is more strenuous and involves a steep descent of nearly 100 meters. The round trip can take about an hour or more, depending on your pace.

Are the falls safe to visit?

The falls are generally safe to visit, but as with any outdoor adventure, it's essential to be cautious and prepared. Wear proper footwear and be careful on the slippery, steep trails. It's not safe for kids to walk alone without adult supervision - there are some steep falls.

Is there an admission fee to visit the falls?

There is no admission fee to visit the falls or to park in the car park, but as volunteers maintain the car park, a donation is appreciated.

Are there any nearby amenities or facilities near Lealt Waterfall?

There are no amenities or facilities at the falls, but several restaurants and pubs in the nearby towns of Portree and Staffin. There are also a few guesthouses and bed and breakfasts in the area if you're looking to stay overnight, such as:

Lealt Falls drone photo. While looking at the falls ensure you check out the surrounding scenery. Lealt Falls canyon.
Lealt Falls as seen from the air.

Conclusion

Lealt Falls are a must-see attraction while exploring the Trotternish Ridge on the Isle of Skye. The upper falls are easily accessible thanks to a suspended viewing platform, but it's the thundering lower falls that steal the show.

The steep descent to get to them may deter some visitors, but those who make the hike are rewarded with the chance to experience one of the island's most impressive waterfalls in solitude. If you're looking for a quick outdoor adventure in Skye, Lealt Falls should definitely be on your list.

Skye is full of beautiful waterfalls, and Mealt Falls/Kilt Rock is only a 5-minute journey north further along the A855 if you decide to continue your journey.

Lealt Falls location map

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