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27 Hidden Gems of Secret Scotland: How Many Do You Know?

Enchanted by Scotland’s incredible sights, landscapes, culture and beauty? Maybe you’ve visited before and want to explore more, or maybe you’ve been entranced by breathtaking images, either way you’ve vowed to return and are now looking to plan your next trip. Why not look a little further off the beaten path and explore beyond the top attractions?

Not sure where to start? Some of the secret places in Britain most worth visiting are hidden in Scotland, so check out these 27 attractions, experiences and hidden gems in Scotland. They may not receive the same fanfare as their more popular siblings but are every bit as intriguing as the big hitters. How many do you recognise?

Secret Castles in Scotland

1. Dunrobin Castle, North Highlands

Dunrobin Castle, North Highlands

Dunrobin Castle, North Highlands

Marvel at the stunning French design of Dunrobin Castle, one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses and the largest castle in the northern Highlands with 189 rooms. Its superb architecture and fairy-tale spires were added by Sir Charles Barry, who also designed London’s Houses of Parliament.

Discover more about Dunrobin Castle

2. Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfriesshire

Caerlaverock Castle, near the town of Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway

Caerlaverock Castle, near the town of Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway

This imposing castle is in the shape of a triangle, and along with its atmospheric green moat and setting within a nature reserve, these features give Caerlaverock Castle a story-book quality. There’s simply no other castle in the world like it!

Neither of these tickle your fancy? We’ve got hundreds of stunning castles and historic houses in Scotland!


Hidden Beaches in Scotland

3. St Ninian’s Tombolo, Shetland

St Ninian's Isle, near Bigton, Shetland

St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland

With pristine sands and blue waters just as vivid as those found in Barbados, Shetland’s very own St Ninian’s Isle never fails to capture the heart of beach-goers. It’s regularly compared to the tropical beaches of the Caribbean, and deservedly so!

Explore St Ninian’s Isle

4. Sandwood Bay, northern Highlands

Sandwood Bay, Sutherland in Highlands

Sandwood Bay, Sutherland in Highlands

The hidden Sandwood Bay may seem a little tricky to get to, but the effort of hiking here is well worth it when a mile-long stretch of golden sand unfurls in front of you. The chances are it will just be you – perfect for budding Robinson Crusoes!

Discover more about Sandwood Bay


Scotland’s hidden caves and underground wonders

5. Smoo Cave, Sutherland

Smoo Cave, near Durness, Sutherland in the Highlands © Jenny Douglas

Smoo Cave, near Durness, Sutherland in the Highlands © Jenny Douglas

Set into the limestone cliffs at the head of a narrow sea inlet, Smoo Cave is Britain’s biggest sea cave, and a marvellous sight to behold. Head to Durness and explore the site with its underground pools and local legends.

Take a tour of Smoo Cave and visit Durness


Standing stones and circles

6. Kilmartin Glen, Argyll

Considered to be one of Europe’s most concentrated areas for prehistoric remains, Kilmartin Glen is home to over 800 structures within a 6-mile radius including burial sites and standing stones; look out for the Dunadd Fort, where ancient kings were crowned and the early Scottish nation forged.

Explore Kilmartin Glen

7. Sueno’s Stone, Moray

Sueno's Stone, Forres, Moray

Sueno’s Stone, Moray

The Picts were the indigenous people of the north and left behind remarkable ancient relics. The impressive Sueno’s Stone in Forres is Scotland’s tallest sculpted standing stone. It features carvings of rare battle scenes from the 10th century.

Did you know? Aberdeenshire is one of the richest areas for standing stones and ancient monuments – so much so that there even is a dedicated Stone Circle Trail.

Explore the impressive Sueno’s Stone

Follow Stone Circle Trail in Aberdeenshire


Heritage sites

8. St Kilda, Outer Hebrides

St Kilda from the skye, Outer Hebrides © istockphoto

St Kilda from the skye, Outer Hebrides

A boat trip to the remote and majestic island of St Kilda is a great way to combine adventure and nature in this wonderful part of Scotland. Did you know that the island is one of the premier birdwatching sites in the world?

Find out more about St Kilda

9. Skara Brae, Orkney

Skara Brae, Orkney

Skara Brae, Orkney

Skara Brae is one of the best preserved stone villages in the whole of western Europe. Experience the incredible sense of how people lived their day to day lives 5,000 years ago.

Take a trip to Skara Brae



10. Isle of Jura, Argyll

Isle of Jura, Argyll & The Isles

Isle of Jura, Argyll & The Isles

Did you know that Jura has a larger population of deer than people? Nearby you can witness the dramatic Corryvreckan Whirlpool, the world’s third largest whirlpool on a guided boat trip. The pounding roar of the swirling waters can sometimes be heard over 10 miles away!

Discover the beautiful island of Jura

11. Islay, Argyll

The Lagavulin Distillery, Islay.

The Lagavulin Distillery, Islay

On Islay, there are nine distilleries where you can taste the distinctively peaty flavours of the Whisky Coast. This is the greatest of whisky-producing islands. It is only 25 miles long, but has no fewer than eight distilleries!

Take a trip to Islay



12. Loch Awe, Argyll

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe, Argyll

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe, Argyll

Loch Awe is a scenic loch, gently fringed with thick conifer forests and beautiful oak woods. It’s most famous for the marvellously evocative ruin of Kilchurn Castle. Gazing out over the water from its tower you can take in the view of Ben Cruachan – truly awe-some!

Discover the beauty of Loch Awe

13. St Mary’s Loch, Scottish Borders

St Mary's Loch Scottish Borders

St Mary’s Loch Scottish Borders

Set in the midst of the Southern Uplands, St Mary’s Loch is less than an hour’s drive from Edinburgh yet offers a feeling of tranquil remoteness. Serene rolling hills, wild moorland and extensive woodland – you name it and you’ll find it!

Visit St Mary’s Loch


Secret Scotland road trips

14. Perthshire Tourist Route

Kenmore village on Loch Tay, Perthshire

Kenmore village on Loch Tay, Perthshire

Beginning just north of Dunblane, the Perthshire Tourist Route is a short but spectacular drive. It’s a tale of non-stop scenery on an epic scale along with plenty hidden gems and secrets. You’ll want to stop off and take a closer look at en-route!

Drive the Perthshire Tourist Route


15. Angus Coastal Route and Deeside Tourist Route

Montrose, Angus

Montrose, Angus

The Angus Coastal Route begins in the city of Dundee, which has top attractions such as the RSS Discovery, and takes you 58 miles through Angus and north to Aberdeen. On the way back, follow the Deeside Tourist Route and as you drive through Royal Deeside, you will pass Balmoral Castle, a summer residence of the Royal Family and part of Scotland’s only Castle Trail.

Call us biased, but we believe there is no such thing as a dull and boring drive through Scotland. Find more ideas for a scenic road trip in Scotland.

Discover Angus Coastal Route

Explore Deeside Tourist Route

Follow Scotland’s Castle Trail

Find more road trip ideas in Scotland


Hidden Scotland boat rides

16. Union Canal

The Falkirk Wheel connecting the Union Canal and the Forth & Clyde Canal

The Falkirk Wheel connecting the Union Canal and the Forth & Clyde Canal

The Union Canal runs for a little over 30 miles from central Edinburgh to the amazing Falkirk Wheel where it links with the Forth & Clyde Canal. Hire a boat or join a cruise and admire the landmarks along the canal. You can even dine in a restaurant boat!

Sail the Union Canal

17. Loch Katrine, Stirlingshire

Loch Katrine, The Trossachs

Loch Katrine, The Trossachs

Step on board the historic SS Sir Walter Scott steamship, sit back and witness the inspiring scenery that inspired the poet as it sails down the tranquil Loch Katrine in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

Explore Loch Katrine


Museums and art galleries

18. Highland Folk Museum, Highlands

Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore, Highlands

Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore, Highlands

The past is written all over the Highlands landscape and the Highland Folk Museum brings to life the domestic and working conditions of earlier Highland people. Learn how Scottish Highlanders lived, how they built their homes, dressed and more.

Find out more about the Highland Folk Museum

19. Pier Arts Centre, Orkney

Pier Artsd Centre, Stromness, Orkney © Ioana Marinescu

Pier Arts Centre, Stromness, Orkney © Ioana Marinescu

Wander through the cobbled streets of Stromness to discover a variety of creative wares in galleries and shops. The Pier Arts Centre by the harbour hosts local and international exhibitions which are free to browse and also displays a wide range of local arts and crafts.

Explore the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney


Secret glens and hills

20. Glen Trool, Dumfries & Galloway

Glen Trool, Galloway

Glen Trool, Galloway

Not every beautiful glen is in the Highlands! Glen Trool in the Galloway Forest Park is a lush, loch-side hideaway with idyllic forest walks. If you’re into mountain biking, this glen has some truly wild and wonderful downhill trails.

Discover Glen Trool

21. Dun na Cuaiche hill, Argyll

Inveraray, Cowal Peninsula, Argyll

Inveraray, Cowal Peninsula, Argyll

Starting in the shadow of the neo-Gothic Inveraray Castle, Dun na Cuaiche is a great, waymarked, short but steep walk up to an 18th century watch-tower above Inveraray village on Loch Fyne. The views from the top are simply stunning!

Take a trip to Inveraray


Wildlife watching

22. Isle of May, Fife

Puffins on the Isle of May, Fife

Puffins on the Isle of May, Fife

The Isle of May is a nature reserve of national importance for a large number of seabird species with a bird observatory. In summer, the cliffs of the islands’ west coast are a hive of activity – you can see over 25,000 or so breeding pairs of puffins!

Sail out to the Isle of May

23. Banffshire & Moray coast

Passengers viewing Dolphins, Moray Firth

Passengers viewing Dolphins, Moray Firth

Known as ‘Dolphin Coast’, Banffshire and the Moray coast are a mecca for anyone wanting to see these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. Aberdeenshire’s coastline has been known to attract killer whales and the occasional humpback whales offshore, too!

Explore Banffshire and the Moray coast


Secret gardens & parks

24. Culzean Castle and Country Park, Ayrshire

Culzean Castle, Ayrshire

Culzean Castle, Ayrshire

Surrounded by surging seas, lush forests and secrets gardens, Culzean Castle and Country Park is the perfect place for a day out whether you’re a keen walker, enjoy admiring gardens, have an interest in architecture or just enjoy soaking up some history.

Take a walk around Culzean Castle and Country Park

25. Logan Botanic Gardens, Dumfries & Galloway

Logan Botanic Garden, Ayrshire

Logan Botanic Garden, Ayrshire

Pay a visit to the country’s most exotic garden, Logan Botanic Gardens, in Port Logan and discover a horticulturalist’s dream. Plants from the southern hemisphere thrive here, from Himalayan poppies to New Zealand forget-me-nots and African daisies.

See the flowers at Logan Botanic Gardens


Marvels of engineering

26. Bell Rock Lighthouse, Angus

Bell Rock Lighthouse, Angus

Bell Rock Lighthouse, Angus

The impressive Bell Rock Lighthouse – also known as Stevenson’s Lighthouse – is the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse. It’s often regarded as the most outstanding engineering achievement of the 19th century.

Visit and admire Bell Rock Lighthouse

27. Neptune’s Staircase

Corpach Basin on the Caledonian Canal, Highlands

Corpach Basin on the Caledonian Canal, Highlands

Overlooked by Ben Nevis, Neptune’s Staircase is a dramatic eight lock flight situated just north of Fort William. This spectacular feat of engineering is the longest staircase lock in Britain. It takes around 90 minutes for a boat to go up or down the locks. Fancy a ride?

Did you know that there are over a hundred whisky distilleries, 500 golf courses, and thousands of castles, museums and galleries in Scotland, not to mention the abundance of stunning gardens, lochs and mountains to explore?

Find more things to see and do in Scotland and get inspired with our list of off the beaten track holidays.