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15 Beautiful Waterfalls in Northern England

5 min read

By Meike van Krimpen
More by Meike

Must-See Waterfalls

You might not think it but the quaint Northern English countryside hides some really splendid waterfalls if you know where to look.

Aeons of weathering to Northern England’s unusual geological features has left the landscape sprinkled with beautiful waterfalls. These are impressive forces of nature that have carved their way through the landscape over thousands upon thousands of years. All waterfalls are best viewed after heavy rains, ensuring that an awe-inspiring amount of water thunders down. However, we feel that our suggested list are all worth a visit even if it’s been dry, as each one is set amongst gorgeous scenery.

This collection is by no means conclusive, but we feel these are some of the best waterfalls in Northern England. Either displaying spectacular drops or part of a worthwhile walk, you should include the following 15 waterfalls in your travel planning.

  1. High Force, County Durham
  2. Aira Force, The Lake District
  3. Gaping Gill, North Yorkshire
  4. Hardraw Force, Yorkshire Dales
  5. Kinder Downfall, Peak District
  6. Stickle Ghyll, The Lake District
  7. Ingleton Waterfall Trail, Yorkshire Dales
  8. Cauldron Snout, County Durham
  9. Brontë Waterfall, West Yorkshire
  10. Ashgill Force, Cumbria
  11. Stock Ghyll Force, Lake District
  12. Wain Wath Force, Yorkshire Dales
  13. Linhope Spout, Northumberland
  14. Aysgarth Falls, Yorkshire Dales
  15. Falling Foss, North York Moors

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Waterfalls in Northern England Map

1. High Force, County Durham

 

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Firstly, we’ll start with the obvious as no Northern England waterfall appreciation list is complete without a mention of the mightily impressive High Force falls. It’s huge, as the entire River Tees dumps itself over a 21 meter/ 69 ft high precipice. Usually, the falls go over the left side, but if water levels are high enough there will also be water coming down the right side.

There is a paid-for walkway to view the falls, or there are some unofficial routes that take you to other viewpoints which can be equally amazing. You can even look upon the falls from above, but please tread carefully as the rocks can be slippy.

2. Aira Force, The Lake District

Aira Force is undoubtedly the most popular and famous waterfall in the Lake District, and with good reason. Set in lush woodland, the falls tower 20 meters/ 65 ft high. After heavy rain, the falls are especially noteworthy as the narrow gorge above the falls forces the water to thunder down the drop very dramatically to the rocky pool below.

There is a delightful walk with well-maintained paths managed by the National Trust that takes you to the foot and to the top of the falls. For the best views walk the route clockwise.

Learn more about visiting the lakes in our Lake District guide.

 

3. Gaping Gill, North Yorkshire

There are no two ways about it – the Gaping Gill is cool. Gaping Gill is actually the name of a cave, a staggeringly large one that is. It’s one of the largest underground chambers in Britain, at 129 meters/423 ft long, 31 meters/101 ft high and 25 meters/82 ft wide.

People aren’t fascinated with Gaping Gill just because of its size, but because of Fall Beck, a stream that pours into it. The seemingly normal stream flows down a moorland valley and disappears down a large pothole, where it consequently enters Gaping Gill. The waterfall in the cave is said to be the highest unbroken waterfall in England. Reaching the bottom, the water disappears into fissures in the cave floor only to resurge again later. The opening through which Fall Beck rushes means that the cave is also the largest underground chamber with a natural opening to the surface.

Visiting the cave system is not easy; twice a year local caving clubs organise days where members of the public can be safely winched down. Prepare to get wet and bring waterproofs and a change of clothes as your route down the shaft is the same as much of the water, so you’ll get drenched.

4. Hardraw Force, Yorkshire Dales

 

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You know how we earlier said the waterfall in Gaping Gill was the highest unbroken waterfall in England? Well, Hardaw Force is the highest unbroken waterfall in England ABOVE ground. Comprising of a 30 meter/98 ft long single drop, this is in our opinion actually one of the most majestic waterfalls in Northern England, especially if there’s been a decent bit of rain recently.

The waterfall sits within the grounds of the popular and historic Green Dragon Inn, and therefore there’s a fee for viewing access. The footpaths are good, suitable for wheelchairs, and you can go right up to the bottom of the falls.

5. Kinder Downfall, Peak District

The River Kinder flows across a moorland plateau named Scout Kinder and flows down the waterfall now known as Kinder Downfall. This is the tallest waterfall in the Peak District, being 30 meters/98 feet high. Kinder Downfall is guilty of being just a trickle most of the time, but when it goes, it’s certainly awe-inspiring. If the winds are high, the water is blown back on itself which is a very cool sight to see and if it freezes over in the winter it’s a popular ice climbing route.

There are various direct ways to approach the falls, but all options are a considerable walk over muddy and rough terrain featuring ascent. You can also see the falls as part of a 13 kilometre / 8-mile circular route. The route was once walked as a deliberate act of trespass in 1932 to protest that hikers in England and Wales were denied access to large parts of open country.

6. Stickle Ghyll, The Lake District

 

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Stickle Ghyll provides a great series of smaller waterfalls to visit if you’re looking for some epic mountain scenery as well. The stream runs down the side of the Langdale Pikes and there’s a route that goes all the way up to Stickle Tarn, the source of Stickle Ghyll, an impressive sight in its own right. This gorgeous mountain lake sits at around 473 meters/1,552 ft high.

Although the walk is short, the terrain can be challenging so be aware of the weather and wear appropriate clothing and shoes.

7. Ingleton Waterfall Trail, Yorkshire Dales

 

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Multiple waterfalls for the price of one! The Ingleton Waterfall Trail is a renowned circular walking route in the Yorkshire Dales, known for its incredible beauty. Walking 7 km/4.3 miles if you complete the full circuit, you can see various impressive waterfalls as well as lush scenery. The Ingleton Glens have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the unique local geology and plant life that you can see there.

Thornton Force is considered by many to be the main event on the Ingleton Waterfall Trail and with good reason. Here water drops about 14 meters/46 ft over a sheer limestone cliff. We are also rather partial to Pecca Falls, the first series of waterfalls you’ll see on the trail if you walk the route clockwise. Pecca Falls actually consists of a series of five waterfalls, with the last drop being the biggest.

Pecca Falls, Hollybush Spout and Thornton Force can all be found along the River Twiss. However, the trail also takes you to the River Doe, along which you can see Beezley Falls, Triple Spout, Rival Fall, Baxenghyll Gorge and Snow Falls. Depending on how much time you take at each waterfall and underfoot conditions, the walk can take between 3-5 hours. Note that you do require a ticket. Check the website for prices.

8. Cauldron Snout, County Durham

 

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Cauldron Snout actually sits roughly 9 km/5.5 miles upstream of the first waterfall in this list, High Force. It’s magnificent in an entirely different way. High Force is huge, whereas Cauldron Snout is more modest in its height. However, what makes Cauldron Snout notable is that it’s very long. The cascade pours down a 180 meter/590 ft long stretch. Some argue that it’s not really a waterfall, but if you do acknowledge it as one, it’s one of the longest waterfalls in the country.

Refreshingly, access to the falls is free, but you do have to walk a bit to view them. The falls sit immediately below the dam of the Cow Green Reservoir.

9. Bronte Waterfall, West Yorkshire

 

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The Brontë Waterfall is not a mightily impressive waterfall compared to others on this list – but visiting it makes for a delightful walk, even in the rain, as it only adds to the atmosphere. The scenery is very picturesque and the landscape is steeped in history.

If you’re a literary fan, the area was a popular place to visit by the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne. It’s lovely to immerse yourself in the surroundings that had hand in inspiring multiple English classics, such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and others.

There’s free parking at Penistone Hill Country Park, and it’s roughly a 30-minute walk to get to the falls.

10. Ashgill Force, Cumbria

 

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Ashgill Force has some definite Lord of the Rings vibes. A large bridge goes across Ashgill Beck just above the falls which makes Ashgill Force both very Instagrammable and relatively accessible. Water drops 16 meters/55 ft over a rock shelf, and it’s possible to get behind the falls (but this is done at your own risk). At the right time of year, the area is very lush and green. The track from the road is not the easiest, so proper footwear is a must. You can also walk to the falls from Garrigill.

Ashgill Force is quite close to High Force and Cauldron Snout, which were mentioned earlier in this list of waterfalls in Northern England, so you could combine visiting them all in one day.

11. Stock Ghyll Force, Lake District

 

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Stock Ghyll Force is a stunningly pretty woodland waterfall. The entire cascade drops down 21 meters/70 ft, with the river splitting at the top of the falls, with a third channel about halfway down. The way to the waterfall is a pleasant and short walk from Ambleside with viewing platforms.

It’s usually quieter here as the falls do not maybe share the same allure as other attractions nearby, but we highly recommend it fill some time in a day.

12. Wain Wath Force, Yorkshire Dales

Despite its diminutive stature (the water only drops about 1.5 meters/5 ft), Wain Wath Force is a beautiful spot and well worth a visit. As you pass the falls while walking Wainwright’s Coast to Coast long-distance trail, Wain Wath Force falls have become popular. The falls can easily be reached from the road.

Wain Wath Force sits in the epitome of quintessential British countryside. It’s green, spacious and peaceful with the backdrop of Yorkshire’s iconic limestone landscape. You can safely swim in the pool and there are benches for a sit-down and a picnic too.

13. Linhope Spout, Northumberland

 

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Linhope Spout is an 18 meter/59 ft chute waterfall. To see the falls it’s a 5km/3.1 mile round trip on moderate and steep terrain. People are attracted to Linhope Spout as it is a magnificent 5 meter/16 ft deep plunge pool, perfect for jumping in if there’s enough water.

Visit the waterfall in the evening for epic stargazing as it is located within the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. For those visiting by day, keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels as the area is a known hotspot for them even though they are rare across England.

14. Aysgarth Falls, Yorkshire Dales

This is easily one of our favourite beauty spots in the Yorkshire Dales. Aysgarth Falls are actually 3 limestone tiers carved out by the River Ure as it flows through Wensleydale. The walk to the falls is very picturesque and great for enjoying the local flora and fauna. The upper and middle falls were used as a location in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

There are relatively easy paths and signage to see the lower, middle and upper falls. There’s no fee to see the falls, but there is paid parking.

15. Falling Foss, North York Moors

Last but not least, Falling Foss is a pretty waterfall on Little Beck in the North York Moors. The falls are 9 meters, 30 ft high and sit surrounded in leafy woodland.

There are two options to visit the waterfall, parking at May Beck for a 1-2 hour-long circular walk, or at the Falling Foss car park. Both options are free, and we recommend including the walk if possible as the scenery is straight out of a fairytale. It is worth seeing the Hermitage, near the waterfall, which is a cave carved out of a boulder, said to have been home to a hermit.

Getting to the bottom of the waterfall for the classic picture is a bit more effort, requiring patience and sturdy shoes. The two routes down are both steep and can be slippy.

What the Beck?

In this article, you’ll notice many forces, a couple of gill/ghylls, a foss, a tarn and some becks being mentioned. But what do these words mean, and where do they originate from?

Force/Foss

The word Force derives from the Viking word “Foss”, which unsurprisingly means ‘waterfall’. Examples include High Force, Ashgill Force, Falling Foss and Hardraw Force. The use of force in waterfall namings is more common in Northern England than further south.

Ghyll/Gill

So Gill or Ghyll refers to a narrow valley or ravine. Again, this word is derived from Old Norse, their word being ‘gil’. More common in the North of England and examples in this list include Gaping Gill, Stickle Ghyll, Stock Ghyll Force and Ashgill.

Beck

Beck is an Old English word, which has a similar twin in Old Norse, ‘bekkr’, and generally means stream or small river. It’s often used to describe water that flows through gullies. Examples in this list include Fall Beck, which pours into Gaping Gill, Little Beck and Ashgill Beck which is the river on which you can find Ashgill Force.

Tarn

A tarn refers to a small mountain lake and the name originates from the Old Norse term ‘tjörn’, of the same meaning. In English, it’s now the accepted scientific word to describe glacial lakes. However, don’t be surprised if you come across a tarn that’s not been shaped by glacial movement as the term is bandied about loosely the countryside, especially in the Lake District.

Visit English Waterfalls on Your Next Trip

Meet the Author: Meike van Krimpen

Having grown up travelling across the world I’ve developed an addiction to all things spice and to travel! When it was time to go to university I wandered off to Scotland for a new adventure and have not managed to leave yet!

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