Falls of Foyers

While staying in Inverness, a local friend thought we would enjoy a hike to the Falls of Foyers, so we ventured off on a mild May evening just before dark. We were excited about hiking to one of the Highland’s most dramatic waterfalls. Great call! It had been raining most of the day but cleared just before we arrived. Just under 20 miles from Inverness, the drive is picturesque along the B852 that leads to the carpark beside the Waterfall Cafe. The cafe was closed this late in the evening but appeared to be a quaint spot to grab a bite. No worries, we were plenty fueled up from the buffet dinner we just indulged in at Inverness. Not to mention the popsicles (lollies), candy, and prawn cocktail chips our friend shared, followed by a coffee overlooking Loch Ness, we were ready!

You enter the trail across the road from the carpark. The trails are well-maintained with directions along the way. There are steps and fenced areas, making it easy to navigate. It isn’t an arduous hike, but loose gravel and some steep slopes would make for a challenging hike for anyone with mobility issues.

The hike is peaceful and surrounded by the beauty of the Highlands. We paused occasionally to take in the mountain views, the woods, the wildflowers, Loch Ness, and all our majestic surroundings had to offer.

In 1787 Robert Burns wrote a poem about the Falls of Foyers. Pictured below this poem are some excerpts found in stone along the trail.

Among the heathy hills and ragged woods
The roaring Foyers pours his mossy floods;
Till full he dashes on the rocky mounds,
Where, through a shapeless breach, his stream resounds,
As high in air the bursting torrents flow,
As deep-recoiling surges foam below,
Prone down the rock the whitening sheet descends,
And viewless Echo’s ear, astonish’d rends.
Dim seen, through rising mists and ceaseless showers,
The hoary cavern, wide-surrounding, lowers.
Still, through the gap the struggling river toils,
And still, below, the horrid cauldron boils.

After hiking to the waterfalls, we were rewarded with this spectacular view and the sounds of rushing water. The waterfall drops 165 feet and is located on the lower portion of the River Foyers. The river flows into Loch Ness on the east side, north-east of Fort Augustus. Needless to say, we hung out here for a while, taking pictures and simply enjoying the waterfall.

The Fall of Foyers (Scottish Gaelic: Eas na Smùide, meaning the smoking falls)

If you are looking for spectacular views and enjoy a hike away from the usually crowded locations, I highly recommend a trip to the Falls of Foyers! There is also bus service from Inverness if you don’t have a car.

Additionally, for history lovers and Outlander fans, I came across a fascinating story about a cave, located about a mile from the Falls of Foyers. This history is the inspiration for Diana Gabaldon’s Jamie Fraser character as well as historical details she incorporated into ‘Outlander’.

Here is the story, as taken from the caithness.org field club bulletin:

James Fraser, 9th of Foyers, was on very friendly terms with Simon, 13th Lord Lovat, later to be executed for his part in the 1745 Rising, and on that account, Foyers joined Lovat in supporting Prince Charles during his short reign in Edinburgh as King James VIII. After the disastrous battle of Culloden in 1746, the ill-fated Prince Charles fled westwards and took refuge in Gorthleck farmhouse on the Foyers estate but was soon alarmed by a party of Red Coats and effected his escape by jumping out of a window. Foyers also escaped from the battlefield and his efforts to elude capture were every bit as romantic as those of Prince Charles.

Foyers was excluded from the Act of Parliament pardoning treasonable offences committed in the rebellion, and was forced to live in hiding for seven years after the rebellion. One of his favourite haunts was a cave, a mile to the west of the Falls of Foyers. One day, on looking out of the cave, the laird saw a Red Coat secretly following a girl bringing food for him and, as to avoid capture was a matter of life and death to him, the laird shot the soldier who was buried where he fell. So Foyers’s whereabouts could be kept secret, the inhabitants used to speak of him by the nickname “Bonaid Odhair” (Dun Coloured Bonnet).

After the Battle of Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland’s troops brought much misery and brutality to the district. The estates were plundered and burnt on a scale never before known on account of the proximity of Foyers to Fort Augustus, where Cumberland and his troops were garrisoned. Many people starved to death and many outrages were committed on their persons. At a change-house, An Ire Mhor (a large piece of arable land), on the road to Inverness near Foyers, a group of soldiers, including an officer, raped a young girl living there with her grandmother and, when the old woman tried to defend her grandchild, she was strangled to death. At a funeral, taking place in Foyers cemetery, one of the starving mourners grabbed a loaf of bread off a passing provisions cart heading for Fort Augustus – uproar followed. The offender was arrested and the troops fired indiscriminately into the funeral party, killing at least one and wounding many others. The bullet holes in the grave stone of Donald Fraser of Erchit, buried in 1730, can still be seen to this day. Another outrage was committed on a boy taking a cask of beer to Foyers in his hiding place – when the boy refused to tell of his master’s hiding place, the soldiers cut off his hands.

We didn’t hike to the cave and only learned of its existence afterward. I have read that it can be reached but it is difficult to get to. The history is impressive, especially if you are an Outlander or Jacobite history fan. I knew Diana Gabaldon’s references to history were extremely detailed but even more so than I was initially aware of. I thought the history was well worth sharing and if you visit, you can now be mindful of a little more history in the surrounding area.

I’m still in awe!


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