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29 Hidden Gems in Scotland: Off the Beaten Track Adventures (2024)

Everybody knows that Scotland is a land of breathtaking landscapes, mysterious lochs, and ancient castles. It’s a pretty popular place to visit. However, there’s so much more to discover beyond the well-trodden tourist path.

From pristine beaches and mysterious caves to lush hidden valleys, lonely peaks, and spectacular waterfalls, there are many hidden gems in Scotland just waiting to be explored.

I love Scotland and try to spend at least a couple of weeks there every year. This post contains some of my absolute favourite spots in this magnificent country. Some of them you may have heard of, others you probably haven’t.

Either way, I hope this list will inspire you to get off the beaten track and discover some new, exciting places in Scotland. Grab your hiking boots, pack your camera, and get ready for an adventure.

1. Smoo Cave, Sutherland

Smoo Cave near Durness

A hidden gem in Scotland’s rugged Sutherland landscape, Smoo Cave is a large and mysterious sea cave set into the limestone cliffs just east of the village of Durness.

The cave, carved by both sea and freshwater, has one of the largest entrances to any sea cave in Britain. It’s dramatic and extremely atmospheric.

Inside, Smoo Cave has several chambers, one of which contains an impressive underground waterfall cascading into the depths, which is especially powerful after rainfall.

The play of light and shadow across the cavernous spaces adds to its mystique, making Smoo Cave a true sight to behold. When I came here, I honestly felt like I’d stepped straight into a scene from a fantasy novel.

The first couple of chambers of Smoo Cave (including the waterfall) are free to visit. If you want to explore deeper inside the cave, you can pay to take a guided tour of the innermost chambers.

This takes around 20–30 minutes and includes a small boat ride across an underground lake.

Location: Smoo Cave, Lairg IV27 4QA

2. Balnakeil Beach, Durness

Balnakeil Beach in Scotland with vast white sands and calm shallow waters

With white sands and turquoise waters, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve landed in the Caribbean. But Balnakeil Beach is actually located in the remote far north-west corner of Scotland.

Stretching for over 3 miles, it’s also one of the longest beaches in Scotland! On a fine day, this hidden gem is an absolute paradise.

Balnakeil Beach is surrounded by towering sand dunes, creating an almost otherworldly landscape. It’s perfect for long walks and a spot of solitude in magnificent surroundings.

Exploring the valleys and canyons between some of these dunes feels like you’ve been transported to the desert planet of Tatooine from Star Wars. It’s quite surreal.

I spent a night camping on the clifftop just around the corner from here. I lost track of the number of dolphins I saw playing in the crystal-clear water. It was one of my favourite nights ever under canvas.

Trust me, with its white sands and turquoise waters, Balnakeil Beach will take your breath away.

Location: Balnakeil Beach, Lairg IV27 4PX

3. Glen Trool, Galloway Forest Park

Glentrool in Galloway Forest Park with Loch Trool and rugged hills beyond

All of Galloway Forest Park is a hidden gem in my opinion. It’s often overlooked in favour of more famous spots in the Highlands. However, if you’re looking for unspoilt beauty, Galloway Forest Park should definitely be on your list.

Glen Trool is one of my favourite spots in the park. It’s a quiet, picturesque valley surrounded by rolling hills and lush forests.

In the centre of the glen is the beautiful Loch Trool, which boasts stunning reflections on calm days.

There are several great hiking trails and paths in and around Glen Trool. If you’re interested in history, don’t miss a trip to see the nearby Bruce’s Stone, a monument commemorating Robert the Bruce’s victory over an English army in 1307.

For a more challenging hike, consider tackling The Merrick, the tallest summit in southern Scotland. On a clear day, you’ll enjoy expansive views of the region, extending all the way to the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.

This area also offers some of the best star gazing in Britain, being part of a designated Dark Sky Park.

Location: Glen Trool, Newton Stewart DG8 6SU

4. Portree, Isle of Skye

Pastel coloured cottages and a boat moored up in Portree

Though more visited than many spots on this list, the charm of Portree’s pastel-coloured harbourfront deserves a mention. It’s a fantastic and quaint base for exploring the natural wonders of Skye.

It’s also a great spot for some traditional Scottish music and plenty of cosy pubs to warm up with a dram after a day’s exploring. Don’t miss the friendly local seals who can usually be spotted lounging on the nearby rocks.

The harbourfront is also home to an eclectic mix of shops and galleries selling locally-made crafts, perfect for picking up unique souvenirs.

As the sun sets over the bay, the colourful buildings lining the harbour are bathed in a warm, golden light. It’s a picturesque sight you won’t want to miss.

Location: Portree IV51 9DG

5. Plockton, Wester Ross

Plockton bay with a fishing boat and mountains beyond

This idyllic coastal village is known for its palm trees (yes, in Scotland!). Its sheltered location helps give it a relatively warm microclimate and a surprisingly tropical feel.

Well, maybe “tropical” is a bit of a stretch, but it’s certainly milder here than in most other parts of the Highlands. Plockton is a great place to explore on foot and admire the views of Loch Carron.

You can take a boat trip from the harbour to spot seals, dolphins, and even whales in the surrounding waters. There are also plenty of charming cafes and restaurants serving up delicious fresh seafood caught by local fishermen.

Fresh seafood platter at the Plockton Inn in Plockton, Scotland

I had one of the very best seafood platters I’ve ever eaten at the Plockton Inn.

Plockton’s gorgeous scenery and friendly atmosphere make it a must-visit hidden gem in Scotland. Don’t miss this little slice of paradise on the West Coast!

Location: Plockton IV52 8TJ

6. Inverie, Knoydart

Inverie Bay in Knoydart

Accessible only by boat or an arduous 3–4 day hike from Glenfinnan, Inverie offers a true escape.

The hike from Glenfinnan to Inverie through the Knoydart Peninsula is a challenging but incredibly scenic journey, often referred to as one of Scotland’s great wilderness walks.

This route is not only demanding due to its rough terrain but also because it traverses one of the most remote areas in Scotland, with no road access.


The route takes you through a stunning landscape of lochs, rivers, and mountains, offering a true wilderness experience.

However, if that sounds a bit much, you can also catch the Western Isles ferry to Inverie from Mallaig.

Inverie itself is an extremely picturesque spot. It’s also home to the UK’s most remote pub, The Old Forge, where you can enjoy a few well-earned drinks after your journey.

Exterior of The Old Forge pub in Inverie Knoydart

Surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland, Inverie is a real hidden gem that truly feels like the edge of the world. It’s a place you won’t soon forget.

Location: Inverie, Mallaig PH41 4PL

7. Loch Nevis, Knoydart

Loch Nevis in Knoydart with rugged mountains beyond

Loch Nevis’ serene waters are surrounded by rugged landscapes, creating a stunningly secluded spot for kayaking and wild swimming.

This is another place that’s only accessible by boat or a long hike, so you’ll likely have the loch all to yourself. Take in the peaceful surroundings and maybe even spot some local wildlife like otters, seals, and eagles.

For experienced hikers, several challenging trails lead up into the surrounding mountains for breathtaking views of the loch and its surrounding landscape.

At the far end of Loch Nevis lies Sourlies Bothy, one of my favourite bothies in Scotland. It’s a basic shelter open to hikers and provides a unique overnight experience surrounded by raw natural beauty.

Location: Loch Nevis, Mallaig PH41 4PH

8. Sandwood Bay, Kinlochbervie


A four-mile hike rewards you with one of Britain’s most beautiful, untouched beaches. Sandwood Bay is a remote, windswept stretch of pink and gold sand backed by dramatic cliffs, sea stacks, and dunes.

The walk to get there is flat and fairly straightforward, winding its way through the moors past a few lonely lochans (small lakes).

The beach itself is often deserted, and its isolation adds to the magic. It’s the perfect spot for a scenic picnic or a moment of peaceful reflection.

Keep an eye out for the resident sea birds, basking seals, and dolphins frolicking offshore.

Location: Sandwood Bay, Lairg IV27 4RU

9. Puffin Cove, Thurso

Puffin Cove at golden hour

I love puffins! They’re just so cute and funny. And if you’re in the far north of Scotland, you can see literally hundreds of them by visiting Puffin Cove.

It’s located on the north coast at the border between Sutherland and Caithness. There’s a small car park and a trail across the bog leading down to the cove.

It’s a really beautiful place, steep-sided and tucked away. There’s a wonderful atmosphere here.

I felt a sudden and profound sense of peace and happiness as soon as I stepped foot into the cove. It was just me, the sea, the cliffs, and hundreds of puffins darting in and out of their nests, bringing food to their young. It was a magical moment.

I’m not usually much of a mystic, but this place definitely has a special energy. I could have stayed there all day.

Location: Puffin Cove, Thurso KW14 7YJ

10. Grey Mare’s Tail, Moffat

Grey Mares Tail waterfall near Moffat in Central southern Scotland

In the Moffat Hills in central southern Scotland, the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall cascades down from Loch Skeen, tumbling 200 feet into the valley below.

With its dramatic setting and impressive height, it’s one of Scotland’s most spectacular waterfalls and one of the highest in the UK.

The surrounding scenery is equally fantastic, making it a great spot for hiking and nature lovers.

A steep trail runs up along the right-hand side of the waterfall, offering spectacular views of the cascade.

If you continue all the way to the top you’ll reach the tranquil Loch Skeen. Surrounded by rugged hills and steep slopes, it’s one of Scotland’s highest upland lakes.

Location: Grey Mare’s Tail, Moffat DG10 9LH

11. Oldshoremore Beach, Lairg


Oldshoremore Beach is another of my favourite beaches on the West Coast of Scotland. This stunning spot boasts turquoise waters, golden sands and incredible views of the surrounding mountains.

It’s an amazing spot for wild camping, and you may see a tent or two on the beach, especially during the summer months. I’ve camped here and would definitely recommend it, it’s a wonderful spot.

If you’re a surfer, this is a good sheltered spot to catch some mellow waves. (The sea’s too cold for me though, I only like surfing in board shorts!)

Another benefit of Oldshoremore Beach is its accessibility. It’s only a 5-minute walk from the car park. However, it never feels crowded and retains its peaceful charm.

Location: Oldshoremore Beach, Lairg IV27 4RS

12. Torridon, Wester Ross


A paradise for hikers, Torridon in Wester Ross is a must-visit for anyone looking to explore the northwest Highlands.

Hiking trails crisscross through dramatic mountains, ancient woodlands, and crystal-clear lochs, offering breathtaking views at every turn.

Photo of the dramatic mountain scenery of Torridon taken from near the top of Beinn Alligin

The area is also home to some of Scotland’s most iconic wildlife, including red deer, golden eagles, seals, and otters.

One of my favourite things to do in Torridon is to take a canoe or kayak out on Loch Torridon and explore some of the hidden beaches and coves that are only accessible from the water.

For a slice of Highland opulence, the Torridon Hotel offers luxurious accommodation and delicious locally sourced cuisine. It also has one of the best and most extensive whisky collections I’ve ever seen.

Location: Torridon, Achnasheen IV22 2EZ

13. Beinn Alligin, Torridon

Panoramic view of Torridon mountains from summit of Beinn Alligin

Torridon is one of my favourite places for hiking in Scotland (and the UK more generally). I find the rugged beauty and peacefulness of this area completely enchanting and I’m sure you will too.

For a challenging, spectacular day hike, I highly recommend climbing Beinn Alligin. The views from the summit are out of this world.

Offering some of the most striking landscapes in Scotland, the Horns of Alligin offer a fun (if slightly nerve-wracking) scramble and breathtaking vistas.

Panoramic photo of the Horns of Alligin and surrounding mountains near Torridon

Only attempt this in good weather!

Location: Beinn Alligin, Achnasheen IV22 2HB

14. Duncansby Head Stacks, Caithness


Not far from John O’Groats, Duncansby Head offers some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Scotland.

The rugged cliffs, giant sea stacks, and arches create a dramatic backdrop for large colonies of seabirds and rich marine life.

A short walk from the car park takes you to the Duncansby Stacks, a series of impressive rock formations jutting out of the ocean.

Be sure to keep an eye out for seals, dolphins, and even whales if you’re lucky! The area is also famous for its puffin colonies during the summer months.

Location: Duncansby Head Stacks, Wick KW1 4YS

15. Ben Hope, Sutherland

View of far northwestern Scotland from the summit of Ben Hope

The most northerly of Scotland’s Munros, Ben Hope is a relatively straightforward (but steep) climb.

At the top, you’re rewarded with unparalleled views over the wild north, and across to the Orkney Islands.

I was lucky enough to have perfect blue skies and sunshine on the day I hiked up this beautiful mountain. It was magnificent.

For those who prefer a more leisurely option, there are several low-level walks around Ben Hope, offering equally fantastic views and opportunities to spot local wildlife.

One of these walks takes you along the shores of Loch Hope and the Strathmore River, where you can enjoy a peaceful picnic in this remote and magnificent setting.

Location: Ben Hope, Lairg IV27 4UJ

16. Achmelvich Bay, Lochinver


Achmelvich Bay is a hidden cove with calm, crystal-clear waters and fine sands.

The beach is surrounded by rocky cliffs and lush green hills. It’s a wonderfully peaceful, picturesque place.

I discovered this great spot while driving the North Coast 500 and couldn’t resist going for a swim. For about 2 minutes. The water is gorgeous but extremely cold!

It’s also a popular spot for kayaking and paddleboarding.

Location: Achmelvich Bay, Lairg IV27 4JB

17. Bealach na Bà, Applecross

Bealach na Bà the Pass of the Cattle near Applecross

Bealach na Bà (Pass of the Cattle, in Scottish Gaelic) is hands-down one of the most stunning drives in Scotland.

The single-track road winds through the dramatic landscape of the Applecross peninsula, with hairpin bends and steep drops providing exhilarating views at every turn.

At the top of the pass, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views over Loch Kishorn, the Isle of Skye, and the Outer Hebrides.

Don’t forget to stop in the quaint village of Applecross before or after your drive and enjoy some fresh seafood.

Location: Bealach na Bà, Strathcarron IV54 8ND

18. The Hermitage, Perthshire

Stone bridge over the river partially obscured by greenery at the Hermitage in Perthshire

The Hermitage is a gorgeous woodland area in Perthshire, home to towering Douglas firs and the dramatic Black Linn Falls.

There are trails following the River Braan and offers plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife such as red squirrels, woodpeckers, and deer.

One of the highlights is Ossian’s Hall, a picturesque folly overlooking the falls. It offers fantastic views and provides a unique perspective of the waterfall.

Exploring this enchanting forest reminded me of the valley of Rivendell, home of the elves from Lord of the Rings. Honestly, it’s like something out of a fairytale.

Location: The Hermitage, Old Military Rd, Dunkeld PH8 0JR

19. Clachtoll Beach, Assynt


Situated in the remote Assynt region, Clachtoll Beach is another hidden gem on Scotland’s northwest coast. (I love this area – it’s the best!)

The golden sandy beach is backed by striking cliffs and boasts impossibly clear waters. It’s another great place to spot dolphins, whales and seabirds.

If you’re really lucky, you may even catch sight of a basking shark, the world’s second-largest fish, swimming lazily along the surface of the water.

There’s a campsite right next to the beach. And the surrounding area offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, with the nearby mountains of Quinag providing some challenging yet rewarding routes.

Location: Clachtoll Beach, Lairg IV27 4JD

20. Cape Wrath, Durness

Tent camping on a lonely clifftop with Cape Wrath visible beyond taken in the twilight at dusk

The UK’s most north-westerly point is a truly wild and spectacular place.

Access is by a passenger ferry across the Kyle of Durness, followed by an 11-mile minibus ride along a rocky dirt road that crosses streams and bumpy terrain.

Once you arrive, you can explore the lighthouse, take in the panoramic views from the cliffs and maybe even spot some seals or puffins.

For experienced hikers, there’s also a 6-mile trail from the ferry landing to Cape Wrath, offering an even more rugged and remote experience.

Just be sure to pack enough supplies, as there are no facilities at this end-of-the-world destination.

Location: Cape Wrath, Braemar, Lairg IV27 4PZ

21. Corrieshalloch Gorge, Ullapool

View from the suspension bridge over Corrieshalloch Gorge showing the steep sides lush greenery and powerful waterfall

Corrieshalloch Gorge is a breathtaking natural wonder located just outside of Ullapool.

The gorge features a 46-metre waterfall, the Falls of Measach, and offers various viewpoints to admire the stunning scenery.

For a mild adrenaline rush, cross the suspension bridge across the gorge – it’s not for the faint-hearted! But the views are worth it.

There are also several walking trails through the surrounding woodland, offering opportunities to spot wildlife such as otters and golden eagles.

Location: Corrieshalloch Gorge, Braemore, Garve IV23 2PJ

22. Killiecrankie, Pitlochry

Footpath signs to Killiecrankie and Pitlochry in the forest

Nestled in the heart of the Perthshire countryside, Killiecrankie is a charming village known for its unspoilt scenery and rich history.

Don’t miss the Soldier’s Leap, a gorge where a fleeing soldier from the 1689 Battle of Killiecrankie supposedly jumped 18 feet across the River Garry to escape his pursuers.

For more leisurely activities, take a stroll through the woodlands and enjoy scenic views over the Pass of Killiecrankie.

Or visit the nearby Blair Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and offers fascinating insights into Scottish history and culture.

Location: Killiecrankie, Pitlochry PH16 5LQ

23. Loch Riecawr, Dumfries & Galloway

Loch Riecawr in Dumfries and Galloway with forested hills beyond

I stumbled upon Loch Riecawr while exploring Galloway Forest Park. It’s a really tranquil and unspoilt place, tucked away and surrounded by dense forests and rolling hills.

I didn’t see a single other person here all day. There are plenty of great spots for fishing or pitching a tent around the edge of the lake.

If you’re looking for a secret, peaceful retreat and a chance to enjoy the natural beauty of Dumfries and Galloway, Loch Riecawr is a great choice.

It’s also an amazing spot for stargazing, thanks to its remote location and lack of light pollution.

Location: Loch Riecawr, Galloway Forest Park KA6 7QE

24. Almorness Point, Dumfries & Galloway

Hidden gem beach at the end of Almorness Point in Dumfries and Galloway

Another hidden gem that I discovered in Dumfries & Galloway, Almorness Point is an idyllic, secluded peninsula not far from Castle Douglas.

Accessible only on foot, you need to park your car here and walk about 3 kilometres along a relatively well-maintained path.

Along the way, you’ll pass secluded beaches and pristine woodland, enjoying fantastic views out towards the Solway Firth and the English Lake District beyond.

Wild camping on a remote beach at the end of Almorness Point

I get the feeling that very few non-locals know about this special place. Which is a good thing, because it’s stunning – yep, I love camping, in case you hadn’t figured – and had it entirely to myself.

Morning skinny dipping in the (surprisingly warm) sea? Tick.

Location: Almorness Point, Castle Douglas DG5 4QL

25. Suilven, Assynt

Suilven mountain rising up from the sparse and wild landscape of Assynt

Suilven is one of the most distinctive mountains in Scotland. It can be seen from miles around, rising dramatically from the surrounding bogs and moorland.

The hike to the summit is a challenging but rewarding experience, offering stunning views of the remarkable Assynt landscape, with its many lochs and bizarre rock formations.

Assynt is celebrated for its sense of wilderness and remoteness. It’s a place of solitude and beauty, where you can experience a deep connection with nature.

Plus, if you’re lucky, you may even spot some golden eagles soaring high above.

Location: Suilven, Lairg IV27 4LR

26. Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Wester Ross

Mountain lake in Coire Mhic Fhearchair near Torridon

Nestled in the remote landscape of Wester Ross, Coire Mhic Fhearchair is a perfect example of Scotland’s rugged and unspoiled natural beauty.

Coire Mhic Fhearchair is a classic example of a corrie (or couloir), a bowl-shaped, glacially carved valley surrounded by high cliffs. It lies at the base of Beinn Eighe, one of the most formidable mountains in the Torridon range.

The corrie is surrounded by towering, rugged cliffs made of Torridonian sandstone, which are among the oldest rocks in Britain. These cliffs are known for their striking geology and have a reddish hue, adding to the dramatic scenery.

Path leading to Coire Mhic Fhearchair in Wester Ross

One of the most distinctive features of Coire Mhic Fhearchair is the Triple Buttress, a set of three steeply rising rock faces on the corrie’s eastern side.

At the heart of the corrie lies a picturesque mountain lochan, which reflects the surrounding cliffs. A waterfall cascades into the lochan, adding to its scenic beauty.

To get to Coire Mhic Fhearchair, it’s a 7-kilometre (each way, so 14 km total), moderately challenging hike up from the main Beinn Eighe car park.

Hiking through the wilderness scenery of Torridon with a rough trail through the moorland

The hike takes you through some of Scotland’s most impressive and untamed natural scenery.

It’s one of my favourite day walks in Scotland, offering breathtaking views and a true sense of wilderness and solitude.

Location: Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Achnasheen IV22 2ET

27. Loch Lurgainn, Assynt

Green Fiat 500 in front of Loch Lurgainn in Assynt

Nestled among Assynt’s dramatic scenery, this lonely loch offers peaceful reflections of the iconic Stac Pollaidh mountain.

Its remote location makes it a great spot for wild camping and stargazing. The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, including stags, otters, and red-throated divers.

And if you’re feeling adventurous, the nearby summit of Stac Pollaidh offers spectacular views over the surrounding landscape. The weather was too bad to attempt the climb when I was there. But I’ll be back!

Loch Lurgainn is one of those places that just takes your breath away. Its peacefulness and natural beauty make it a must-visit for any nature lover in Scotland.

Location: Loch Lurgainn, Ullapool IV26 2XY

28. Dr. Neil’s Garden, Edinburgh

Flowers in bloom in an ornamental garden

Dr Neil’s Garden is a serene and beautiful garden on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Founded by two doctors as a therapeutic space, it features a wide variety of plants, flowers, and herbs.

With stunning views over the Firth of Forth, this hidden gem is perfect for relaxing strolls or picnics on a sunny day.

But beyond its natural beauty, Dr Neil’s Garden also has an interesting history. The garden sits on the remains of a 16th-century castle and was used as a burial ground by the city’s residents during an outbreak of plague in the 17th century.

Today, it remains a peaceful sanctuary away from the bustle of the city, and I highly recommend taking some time to explore its tranquil paths and hidden corners.

Location: Dr Neil’s Garden, 5 Old Church Ln, Duddingston, Edinburgh EH15 3PX

29. The Hidden Lane, Glasgow

Colourful repurposed industrial buildings in Finnieston Glasgow

A vibrant alleyway in Glasgow’s trendy Finnieston area, The Hidden Lane is home to an eclectic mix of studios, shops, and cafes.

You can find everything from handmade jewellery and unique art pieces to vintage clothing and delicious cakes here.

What I love about this place is its charm and sense of community. It’s a creative hub where you can support local artists and businesses while discovering some hidden gems.

Try to time your visit with one of their popular open days, where the studios open their doors to the public and offer a behind-the-scenes peek into their creative process.

Location: The Hidden Lane, Finnieston, Glasgow G3 8ND

Final Thoughts

I love every single one of these Scottish hidden gems. They all have something special and unique to offer, from remote wilderness to tranquil gardens and everything in between.

Next time you’re planning a trip to Scotland, be sure to add some of these amazing places to your itinerary for an unforgettable experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or making your first trip to Scotland, take the road less travelled, and you won’t be disappointed. Adventure really is everywhere.

Other Posts About Visiting Scotland

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  • I’m Alex Tiffany.  Former corporate city robot; lifelong travel addict.


  • I’m on a mission to make adventurous travel accessible to all.


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