7 Scenic Natural Wonders
Mother Nature is a talented architect and filled Scotland with a huge variety of magnificent natural attractions. Rough Guides' readers even officially named Scotland the most beautiful country in the world.
With hundreds of awe-inspiring natural landmarks, you won't have to travel too far to find nice places in Scotland. To help you on your way, we've put together a list of Scotland's top natural wonders, based on their uniqueness and world-class natural beauty. But as these sites are very popular, we've also included some sustainable alternatives that you can visit instead.
The Three Sisters of Glencoe The Highlands
The Sisters, three steeply-sided ridges – Beinn Fhada (Long Hill) on the east, Gearr Aonach (Short Ridge) in the middle and Aonach Dubh (Black Ridge) on the west – were shaped millions of years ago from some of the oldest sedimentary and volcanic strata in the world. To this day, they attract and stun visitors from all over the world. Visit for yourself to see the sheer scale and grandeur of the surrounding landscapes and learn about the area’s turbulent past.
Dominating the valley’s skyline, the Three Sisters – with many ridges and subsidiary peaks – are a true mecca for keen walkers. Together with the famous pyramid of Buachaille Etive Mòr that guards the entrance to the glen and the nearby beautiful Loch Leven, this complex mountain range forms a magical land that looks straight out of a storybook. It’s no wonder Glen Coe is often cited as one of the top views in the UK.
Protect Glen Coe and be a responsible tourist by visiting an alternative destination. Take a look at these similar places: Ben Nevis in Fort William, Schiehallion near Pitlochry, The Cobbler in Arrochar Alps
Fingal's Cave Isle of Staffa
Fingal’s Cave on the uninhabited Isle of Staffa in Argyll is perhaps the best known of all the caves in Scotland, and one of the best examples of volcanic basalt columns in the world.
Looming 227 ft (69 m) tall over the ocean, this visually astounding geometric sea cave has been formed completely from hexagonal columns of basalt, shaped in neat six-sided pillars, that make up its interior walls. It was created some 60 million years ago by the very same ancient lava flow that created the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, which is directly across the sea.
Follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria and Sir Walter Scott, amongst others, and take a cruise boat to Staffa and the breathtaking Fingal's Cave, where you can enjoy puffin spotting in summer, and listen to the astonishing acoustics of the cave, which inspired Mendelssohn to compose his Hebrides Overture.
Similar places: : Smoo Cave near Durness, Bass Rock in North Berwick, St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides
Luskentyre Sands Isle of Harris
Famous for its miles of white sands and the gorgeous green-blue waters, Luskentyre Sands is a little slice of heaven on earth. Submerged at high tide, it becomes part of the Sound of Taransay that looks out to the Isle of Taransay.
Situated on the Isle of Harris in the north west of Scotland, this perfectly-curved crescent of fine shell sand is reminiscent of an exotic beach. Lapped gently by azure water and backed by sand dunes with grass that ripples in the wind, Luskentyre certainly knows how to mesmerise its visitors. The slopes of Ben Luskentyre dropping down into the water and the backdrop of the North Harris hills across the sound only add to its remarkableness.
Should you need more convincing, Luskentyre was named one of Britain’s best beaches and Harris and Lewis islands scooped first place in the Best Island in Europe category in TripAdvisor’s 2014 Travellers’ Choice awards. Coastal scenery really doesn't come any better than this.
Similar, quieter destination: Sanna Bay in Ardnamurchan, Sound of Iona on Iona, St Ninian’s Isle on Shetland
Scottish Dark Sky Park Dumfries and Galloway
Spanning around 75,000 hectares of land, Galloway Forest Park in Dumfries & Galloway is the UK and Europe’s first designated Dark Sky Park, often making it to lists of world’s darkest places offering the best conditions for stargazing. So few people live within the forest park that light pollution is minimal and the nights really are inky black.
Its darkness has a legendary reputation amongst stargazers. The forest park has a Sky Quality Meter scale reading of 21 to 23.6 on a scale of 25, giving it a score of near to total darkness.
Travel to the park in the south west of Scotland, where you can get a glimpse of more than 7,000 stars and planets with the naked eye, and see meteors when they occur. The visibility is often clear enough for the bright band of the Milky Way to be seen arching across the sky. There’s a new show every night because, as we travel round the sun, we’re getting a constantly changing view of the stars.
Similar experiences: Isle of Coll in Argyll, Moffat Dark Sky Town near Dumfries, Northern Lights
An Lochan Uaine (The Green Loch) The Highlands
As legend has it, the enchanting An Lochan Uaine (The Green Lochan) in Glenmore Forest Park got its unique emerald hue when Dòmhnall Mòr, the king of the pixies (the local fairies), washed his clothes in its waters. Another explanation for the loch’s green tint could be from algae generated by decomposing wood lying along the loch floor, but we think the fairy story is much more fun!
Either way, the colour of the water is uncanny and makes this a mysterious, magical spot.
Located in the Ryvoan Pass near Aviemore and surrounded by lush forest and steep scree slopes, the lochan makes an accessible and enjoyable walk from Glenmore, and has long been a popular stopping point for walkers in the Cairngorms National Park.
The word uaine (pronounced oo-in-ya) is a Gaelic word used to refer to a bright, vivid green colour.
An Lochan Uaine is a much loved destination, but to protect it you may want to consider visiting a less well known and popular site. Check out these similar places: Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye, Loch Lomond in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Loch Ness near Inverness
Rannoch Moor The Highlands
Often referred to as one of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe, Rannoch Moor is a largely uninhabited and uninhabitable boggy moorland that contains the most extensive complex of soligenous mire in Britain.
Occupying roughly 150 square miles in Perthshire, this challenging stretch of land is composed of blanket peat bog, lochans, rivers, heather hillocks and rocky outcrops, all of it more than 1,000 ft (305 m) above sea level. Despite its harsh conditions, the land still supports varieties of flora and fauna, with a wealth of plants, insect, bird and animal life thriving here, ranging from curlews and grouse to roe and red deer.
But perhaps the most striking thing about the moor is its remoteness. The best way to get a feel for this unique area is to take a train journey on the famous West Highland Railway line which crosses the moorland for 23 miles and rises to over 1,300 ft.
Similar places: The Southern Uplands in the south of Scotland, Knoydart Peninsula in North Highlands, Dava Heather Moorland in Moray
The Old Man of Hoy Orkney
The Old Man of Hoy isn’t actually a man at all, or a human being for that matter. Rising out of the Atlantic Ocean to a remarkable height of 449 ft (137 m), the Old Man of Hoy is the UK’s tallest sea stack.
Situated on the island of Hoy, part of the Orkney archipelago in the north of Scotland, this red sandstone monolith has been separated from land by the erosive powers of sea and wind. The formation process usually begins when the sea creates cracks in the headland, causing them to later collapse and form free-standing stacks. The Old Man was originally an arch with two ‘legs’, hence its name.
Climbers from around the world come to scale this famous rock formation. If you would rather admire this spectacular site from a distance, you can walk to it from Moaness by taking the Rackwick Glen walk, and you can also see it from the daily Scrabster to Stromness ferry route.
Similar places: The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye, Duncansby Head near Wick, St Abb’s Head at St Abbs
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