We asked backpackers to share their recommendations for the ultimate hidden gems in Scotland… and boy, did they deliver! We’ve lifted the lid on the best things to do in Scotland for those looking for secret adventures and uniquely Scottish experiences. From dolphin watching to tropical gardens to the best stargazing spots in Europe, it’s time to spill Scotland’s secrets… but shh, let’s keep that between us!
1. Relax on white sand beaches
Prepare to be surprised by Scotland’s stunning white sand beaches, akin to the Caribbean coastline. Green and grey cliffs melt effortlessly into white sands and striking blue waves crashing onto the shores, b-e-a-utiful.
2. Go flipping mad for dolphin watching
Take a walk between the sand dunes of the gorgeous Tentsmuir Beach in Fife and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a group of dolphins playing around and jumping out of the water – yup – wild dolphins in Scotland, you’re welcome.
3. Venture into The Devil’s Pulpit
The Devil’s Pulpit is a real insider tip in Finnich Glen, close to Conic Hill. After a short walk through the forest, you’ll discover the entrance to this gem hidden between bushes and trees. Keep walking until you find a river then take off your shoes and carefully walk against the stream to reach a magical three-tiered waterfall – in the right light the water appears to be blood red, giving this place its name “Devil’s Pulpit”. Spooky, huh?!
4. Stargaze in Europe’s darkest town
The small town of Moffat in Dumfries & Galloway is the ultimate stargazing destination. Why? Because Moffat is the first town in Europe to use special street lighting to keep the light pollution as low as possible. Head out on a clear night and lie beneath the stars for hours, enjoying the twinkling effects of the dark sky.
5. Trek up an extinct volcano
Sure, you’ve probably heard of Arthur’s Seat, but did you know that it actually sits on top of an extinct volcano? That’s right, hike to the peak of Arthur’s Seat Volcano in the heart of Scotland’s bustling capital city and prepare yourself for jaw-dropping, panoramic views of Edinburgh below.
6. Jump into island-hopping
Scotland is a country with an abundance of charming islands, over 700 in fact! This, of course, makes Scotland an epic island-hopping destination. Why not start in Oban on the mainland and then bounce between the Isle of Mull and onto the Isle of Iona in the Inner Hebrides… hop to it!
7. Be wowed by the secluded Traigh Bhan Beach
Iona is famous for its gorgeous abbey, but if you wander a little further from the tourist’s track until you reach the end of the island, you’ll discover the white sand and aquamarine waters of Traigh Bhan Beach. This spot is usually secluded, and you can enjoy the entire beach to yourself… the perfect place for a digital detox!
8. Experience the magic of the Harry Potter Viaduct
You may think that exploring the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct is a path a little too well-trodden, but it wins a firm spot on any Scotland bucket list. Arrive between the stream trains, (hello Hogwarts Express!), and you’ll be able to experience the viaduct and its incredible view over Loch Shield without the buzz of tourists.
9. Watch the colours dancing above Loch Trool
The views over Loch Trool in Dumfries & Galloway are unbelievable, and the loch stretches as far as the eye can see. The short but strenuous hike to reach Loch Trool is totally worth it, we promise! As the light softens, sit back and enjoy the changing colours – cameras at the ready people!
10. Marvel at the Duncansby Stacks
Located in the Highlands, the Duncansby Stacks are a sight to behold. Wander a short 10 minutes along the coast of the north east and you’ll spot these three towering pillars coming straight out of the sea, dwarfing the coastline. They look completely alien to the landscape and at sunset when the light hits them just right they are beyond stunning. A real hidden gem of the north coast.
11. Admire the Rua Reidh Lighthouse
With islands in the backdrop and a stunning coastline to match, the Rua Reidh Lighthouse is as picturesque as it gets. After driving down a single-track, dirt road and over a couple of rickety bridges you reach this secluded beauty. We recommend going for sunset as the sun is perfectly placed over the sea. We guarantee you’ll feel like you’re at the edge of the world with the sky and sea as far as you can see.
12. Visit the Calanais Standing Stones
If you’ve ever visited Stonehenge and felt a little underwhelmed, then a visit to the Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis is a definite must! This atmospheric site was most likely an astrological calendar and place of ritual, with these stones pre-date Stonehenge by 3,000 years. Plus, there are no queues or entrance fees!
13. Fall in love with Logan Botanic Gardens
Tropical gardens in Scotland, what’s not to love?! Thanks to the unique positioning and the warm air from the gulf stream, Logan Botanic Gardens are the only sub-tropical gardens in Scotland. Perfect for a relaxed day off, even better on a sunny day after some rain for maximum colour. Be sure to check out the glasshouse for a warm, welcoming visit.
14. Count the sparkles at Fairy Glen
One of Skye’s hidden gems, the Fairy Glen, is only a few miles outside of Uig but is often overlooked by tourists in place of the Fairy Pools in the south. Conical mounds, small trees and lochans cover the tiny glen, giving the feel of a mythical and magical place that has echoes of Hobbiton. Explore Castle Ewen and head to the top for the best views over the glen and surrounding moorland.
So there you have it! The now not-so-hidden hidden gems of Scotland. Have you got any secret Scottish spots to share? Let us know in the comments below!
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