Enchanted by your first visit to Scotland, you’ve vowed to return and are now planning your next trip. But this time want to go a little further off the beaten path and explore beyond the top attractions. Where to start?
Check out these 27 attractions and experiences that are Scotland’s hidden gems. They may not receive the same fanfare as their more popular siblings but are every bit as intriguing as the big-hitters. If they haven’t made the cut on your first visit, make sure you visit them on your next trip to Scotland in 2017.
1. 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.
2. Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfriesshire
Caerlaverock Castle © Damien Shields
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!
3. St Ninian’s Tombolo, Shetland
4. Sandwood Bay, northern Highlands
Caves and underground wonders
5. Smoo Cave, Sutherland
Smoo Cave © 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.
Standing stones and circles
6. Kilmartin Glen, Argyll
7. Sueno’s Stone, Moray
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.
8. St Kilda, Outer Hebrides
9. Skara Brae, Orkney
10. Isle of Jura, Argyll
11. Islay, Argyll
12. Loch Awe, Argyll
13. St Mary’s Loch, Scottish Borders
14. Perthshire Tourist Route
Kenmore village on Loch Tay © Kenny Lam
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!
15. Angus Coastal Route and Deeside Tourist Route
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.
16. Union Canal
17. Loch Katrine, Stirlingshire
Museums and art galleries
18. Highland Folk Museum, Highlands
19. Pier Arts Centre, Orkney
Pier Arts Centre © 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.
Glens and hills
20. Glen Trool, Dumfries & Galloway
Glen Trool © Damien Shields
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.
21. Dun na Cuaiche hill, Argyll
22. Isle of May, Fife
23. Banffshire & Moray coast
Dolphin watching in Banffshire © EcoVentures
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!
Gardens & parks
24. Culzean Castle and Country Park, Ayrshire
Culzean Castle © Ayrshire & Arran tourism
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.
25. Logan Botanic Gardens, Dumfries & Galloway
Logan Botanic Gardens © Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
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.
Marvels of engineering
26. Bell Rock Lighthouse, Angus
Bell Rock Lighthouse © VisitAngus
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.
27. Neptune’s Staircase
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, or head over to the iKnow Community to find out what people are recommending.