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10 Remarkable Nature Attractions in Scotland

Press pause on ordinary life for a moment. No more calls and emails, desks and deadlines. Imagine getting outside instead! Bring on the mountains and beaches, lochs, cliffs and changing skies of Scotland. Enjoying some time in nature is one of the best antidotes for stress.

Why not take advantage of nature’s therapeutic effects by visiting one of the places below? The following list of natural wonders offers a few alternatives to the most well-known sites. You’ve heard of Ben Nevis, Glen Coe and Skye, but keep these hidden gems in mind when you next visit Scotland.

1. Brough of Birsay, Orkney 

Brough of Birsay, Orkney

Brough of Birsay

There is nowhere better to take in the magic combination of land, sea and sky than the Brough of Birsay. A tidal island at the northern tip of the Orkney Mainland, the gorgeous coastal views will live long in the memory.

Orkney’s windswept shores are full of secrets passed down through the centuries. From the mysterious Ring of Brodgar to the ancient stone village of Skara Brae, these islands north of the Scottish mainland are a fascinating place to visit.

 2. St Cyrus Beach, Aberdeenshire  

St Cyrus Beach, Aberdeenshire

St Cyrus Beach

Surrounded by the birds and butterflies of St Cyrus National Nature Reserve, St Cyrus Beach is a stunning 3-mile stretch of dunes, cliffs and sand. This is a fine place to walk the dog or simply take a revitalising coastal excursion with the family.

You may also be lucky enough to see common and grey seals here, which occasionally bask on the sand banks at the mouth of the River North Esk. Dolphin, porpoises, minke, humpback and killer whales have all been sighted offshore too.

 3. Jarlshof, Shetland

Jarlshof, Shetland

Dramatically situated on a headland overlooking the southern coastline of Shetland, the Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement combines arresting views with archaeological intrigue. This extraordinary site has a complex of ancient settlements which cover more than 4,000 years of human history.

The area surrounding Jarlshof, Sumburgh, is perfect for walking and exploring. You can delve into the early geological beginnings of Shetland here, as well as Iron Age settlements, historic lighthouses, and local wildlife like whales and puffins.

4. Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve, Stirlingshire 

Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve is a landscape you might not expect in the heart of Scotland. All year, the mosses here create a carpet of reds, oranges and greens – and you can walk right through on a specially designed 900-metre boardwalk. In spring and summer, seas of bog cotton wave in the breeze and the moss is noisy with the calls of nesting birds.

10 miles west of Stirling, this is a great natural hidden gem to stop off at if you’re in the area. Summer is the best time to visit for plant life, while birds of prey and geese are best seen in the autumn and winter.

 5. West Beach, Berneray, Outer Hebrides  

Berneray, Outer Hebrides

West Beach, Berneray

Journey west to the shimmering islands of the Outer Hebrides for a spectacular beach that is regularly included in the world’s top beach lists. Berneray Sands Beach offers gorgeous coastal scenery and superb views across to the mountains of Harris. Located on Berneray which is connected to North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist via a short causeway, this beautiful beach is worth the visit.

While you’re on Berneray, don’t miss the Machair grassland which is ideal for walking and spotting rare wildflowers, including orchids.

 6. Lochaber Geopark, Inverness-shire

Arisaig, Lochaber

Arisaig, Lochaber

Lochaber Geopark’s wild and varied landscape stretches from Rannoch Moor in the south to Glen Garry in the north, and from Loch Laggan in the east to the Small Isles in the west. Those with an interest in ancient geology will find this part of Scotland particularly fascinating. Many of the sites within the geopark are world famous, such as the volcanic rings of Ardnamurchan, the Ben Nevis Caldera and the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy.

Lochaber Geopark is a haven for animals. Wildlife enthusiasts will have fun looking for evidence of Scotland’s ‘Big 5’: Golden Eagles, Red Deer, Otters, Seals and Red Squirrels.

7. Loch Fleet, Sutherland 

Take a trip to Scotland’s magnificent north east this year and experience the Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve. This large tidal basin is surrounded by sand dunes, salt marsh and pinewoods. Great for a woodland walk or coastal adventure, Loch Fleet is the perfect alternative to some of Scotland’s busier natural sights.

You could pair a trip to Loch Fleet with a stop-off at Dornoch, a sunny town in the north east famous for golf and beachfront walks.

8. Seaton Cliffs, Angus  

Ready for a bracing clifftop walk? Head to Arbroath Beach where stunning coastal views and complex rock formations offer a special day out. Among the most exciting things you can see on this walk is Deil’s Heid, a monumental sea stack carved out over time by the power of the sea.

There is a well-maintained coastal path here, perfect for family walks. Check out this walking route if you are planning to visit the area.

9. Clyde Sea Lochs Trail, Greater Glasgow

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond

The Clyde Sea Lochs Trail is a wonderful option if you are keen to drive around the west of mainland Scotland. This established driving route takes you into the heart of the coastal communities to the south west of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

Remember the mantra: respect, protect, enjoy. If you plan to take a road trip in Scotland this year check out our tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint.

10. The Firth of Forth, East Lothian 

The Bass Rock

The Bass Rock

There are many things to love about the Firth of Forth, a stretch of water that can be accessed from both East Lothian and Fife. The famous bridges, the beautiful beaches, coastal golf courses, and of course the picturesque islands make it a ‘must-visit’ destination! These range from Fidra, the island that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island, to the Bass Rock – home to a massive colony of gannets. These islands have their own secret life!

In the summer months you can book boat trips out into the Firth of Forth to see more, from coastal towns such as North Berwick.

Hopefully one or two of these places are the missing piece in your Scottish travel jigsaw! These remarkable nature attractions are bound to inspire – so why not share your travel story this year using the hashtag #TalesOfScotland on social media? A great way to get involved with Scotland’s Year of Stories.

While you’re here, why not check out more Landscapes & Nature or learn a bit more about Responsible Tourism in Scotland.