9 Iconic Scottish Spots with Hidden Gems Nearby

Nothing beats finally being able to visit a place you’ve read and heard lots about. In Scotland, there are more things to see and discover at our most popular sites than you might realise. So, if you’re visiting for the first time or finally ticking something off your ’must-see’ list, why not delve a little deeper? Some of our most iconic spots have secrets hidden close by. Let’s discover something new about these legendary experiences in Scotland.

  1. Cruise along Loch Ness Loch Ness, Scottish Highlands

    A view of Loch Ness, looking south

    © VisitScotland/Stuart Brunton

    It’s Scotland’s most famous loch, and a truly iconic stop! Take a Nessie hunting boat trip along these mysterious waters of Loch Ness and soak in the atmosphere of one of the Highland’s most stunning landscapes.

    Why not also try…

    The Loch Ness 360 Trail. This epic walking, cycling, running and outdoor activity trail looping the entire circumference of Loch Ness is a wonderful way to admire the loch from all angles and vantage points. Perfect for Nessie spotting!

  2. Go over the sea to Skye Isle of Skye

    The Quiraing, Isle of Skye

    A visit to the magical Isle of Skye will stay in your memories forever, with her rugged misty mountains and crashing coastlines. In the summer months, you’ll find that you’re not the only one itching to witness the magnificent island’s beauty spots. Visit in the spring or autumn to see the island from a different perspective.

    Why not also try…

    Skye’s secret spots. You can discover a whole range of fascinating things on Skye, from Jacobite history to dinosaur footprints and a windswept coral beach. Nip over to the neighbouring Isles of Raasay or Rum and don’t miss a visit to Talisker Bay to catch a fiery sunset.

  3. Witness the white sands of the Outer Hebrides Outer Hebrides

    Calanais Standing Stones

    The white sandy beaches of the Outer Hebrides are often mistaken for Caribbean islands on our social media channels. In particular, Luskentyre Sands on the Isle of Harris. This beach is world-famous and is a stunning sight to behold and a trip to Harris wouldn’t be complete without seeing it.

    Why not also try…

    North and South Uist. The islands of the Outer Hebrides are packed with lots of other brilliant beaches, so don’t forget to experience walks along some of the other beautiful coastlines. Explore Garrynamonie Beach and the 20 continuous miles of brilliant white sand, backed by large dunes and machair on South Uist. Head to Clachan Sands on North Uist for the most spectacular sunset that you will remember for a lifetime. Don’t miss Berneray West Beach, voted no. 3 in Lonely Planet’s Top 20 Best beaches in Europe!

  4. Complete the North Coast 500 North Scotland

    Dunnet Bay

    The North Coast 500 is a must for anyone who loves the freedom of the open road. It explores the northern tip of Scotland, a beautiful and enchanting part of our country. Whether you want to pootle past the gorgeous scenes on your motorbike, family car or by bike, the route weaves past castles, mountains, beaches and curious caves. Take your time and remember to stop and take it all in. You could even base yourself somewhere along the route and get to know a smaller section.

    Be sure to travel responsibly along the route and leave no trace on the environment. It’s also wise to book your accommodation in advance.

    Why not also try…

    The north’s two other driving routes. The North East 250 travels around the gorgeous history of Aberdeenshire, passing by lots of whisky distilleries, castles and the romantic landscapes of Royal Deeside.

    Or, take the Snow Roads Scenic Route and discover the stark beauty of the Cairngorms National Park. Enjoy rare wildlife moments, stargazing at night, and fascinating art installations along the way.

  5. Explore Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh - City Centre

    Edinburgh Castle

    There are not many cities around the world that have a castle watching over their every move. But that’s one of the reasons Edinburgh is so special, and a visit to the castle is the first stop for many visitors to the capital. Home to fascinating military history mixed with ancient geology, the castle dates to the 12th century.

    It’s worth booking your slot in advance if you want to admire the castle in all its glory.

    Why not also try…

    Edinburgh’s other castles. There are a handful of other castles to admire around Edinburgh. Craigmillar Castle is a stunning fortress with connections to Outlander. Lauriston Castle overlooks the Firth of Forth and has a beautiful Japanese garden. Crichton Castle is a crumbling loch-side ruin found nestled within the Pentland Hills.

    Key facilities
    • On Public Transport Route
    • Accessible Parking Or Drop-off Point
    • Level Access
    • Cafe or Restaurant
  6. See The Kelpies Falkirk

    The Helix: Home of The Kelpies Falkirk

    The Kelpies, designed by Scottish sculptor Andy Scott, are the largest pair of equine sculptures in the world. Towering above the Forth & Clyde Canal, The Kelpies are a feat of engineering, each made with 300 tonnes of structural steel, and are a monumental tribute to the horse power heritage that was vital to the early industries of central Scotland.

    Take a tour and see the Kelpies and Falkirk Wheel up close

    Why not also try…

    Falkirk’s other historic attractions. Learn more about the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift standing right next to the Kelpies. Enjoy the beautiful grounds of nearby Callendar House, an ideal stop for a gentle walk and a cup of tea.

    Key facilities
    • Parking
    • On Public Transport Route
    • Pets Welcome
    • Accessible Parking Or Drop-off Point
    • Level Access
    • Accessible toilets
    • Cafe or Restaurant
  7. Stand on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

    Walkers on Conic Hill

    Picturesque Loch Lomond is one of the most romantic spots in Scotland. Admire the beauty of the loch at the viewing platform at Inveruglas, where you can enjoy amazing views of Ben Lomond. It’s also the starting point for the Three Lochs Way walking route and two iconic hikes, Ben Vane and Ben Vorlich.

    Why not also try…

    Exploring the rest of the park. Yes, there are 22 lochs to discover in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, as well as a number of small islands. Visit one with a picnic and it’ll feel like you’ve left civilisation behind. Or, go for a wild swim in Milarrochy Bay and warm up with a coffee afterwards at St Mocha Coffee Shop.

  8. Visit a whisky distillery Across Scotland

    Whisky samples at the Clydeside Distillery.

    © Digital Tourism Scotland / Matt Davis

    A visit to Scotland isn’t complete without an outing to a whisky distillery to taste Scotland’s National Drink. Sample whiskies from the five whisky distilling regions: Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay. Most distilleries offer tours and tastings so you can learn about the distilling process, flavours and unique qualities of every dram. Buy a bottle and take it home with you.

    Why not also try…

    Some other tasty beverages. Scotland’s whisky is legendary, but we’re also getting a name for making other drinks, including gin, rum and beer! Don’t forget to try some of the local tipples while you’re visiting Scotland.

  9. Bag a Munro Across Scotland

    The landscape surrounding the famous Munro of Schiehallion

    © Perth and Kinross council / Fred Murray

    There are in total 282 Munros across Scotland, and with their immense views and incredible sense of achievement, chances are you will want to ‘bag’ a couple. Munros are mountains over 914 metres high and they can be found all over Scotland in places including Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Cairngorms National Park, Perthshire and the north west Highlands.

    The highest of them all is the lofty Ben Nevis, but why not try these alternative hills?

    Why not also try…

    Bagging a Corbett or a Graham. You can still exercise and reap the benefits of the Scottish outdoors with a shorter hike, with equally incredible views and even more chances to see wildlife along quieter paths and trails. Why not start your hill walking journey by bagging a Corbett (762 m high) or a Graham (609 – 762 high) first?

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