Scotland boasts pristine, lesser-known locations for new and returning visitors alike. These are the top 10 off the beaten path Scotland destinations on our radar.
Have you visited Scotland more than once and explored much of its natural and architectural wonders? Or maybe you don’t like overcrowded tourist attractions and want something more pristine and off the beaten path? Scotland will deliver!
No matter the reasoning behind you wanting a less popular and crowded location, let our guest author, Graham of My Voyage Scotland, introduce you to the top 10 off the beaten track destinations in Scotland!
1. Sueno’s Stone
Sueno’s Stone in Moray is just one of the many relics left behind by the Picts. In fact, standing 23 feet (7 meters) tall, it’s the largest surviving Pictish stone of its type in entire Scotland!
Featuring carvings of battle scenes and side panels with complex vine patterns, the Sueno’s Stone isn’t just a fancy attraction – it’s surrounded by a couple of local legends too! One local legend, for instance, claims that this stone was the crossroads where Macbeth originally met the three witches.
2. Skara Brae
If your route happens to lie through the Orkney islands, then be sure to check out the Skara Brae stone-built Neolithic settlement. Aged at roughly 5,000 years, this archaeological monument testifies to the quite well-developed lifestyle and technology of prehistoric humans.
Most remarkably, the houses in the settlement have been sunk into the ground for increased stability and insulation against the harsh winter climate of Orkney.
3. Loch Awe
While Loch Ness is the most famous loch in entire Scotland, it’s not the only one in the country. Furthermore, it’s arguably not the most remarkable loch to see in Scotland!
Loch Awe in Argyll’s key attraction is the ruins of the Kilchurn Castle that has served as the base of the Campbells of Glenorchy, the most powerful branch of the Clan Campbell.
Certainly not in its best shape, the Kilchurn Castle’s grandeur should give you some insight into how mighty the local Campbells where. Not only that, but it will provide you with a better view of the scenic Scottish Highlands around Loch Awe.
4. St Mary’s Loch
Another remarkable loch is St Mary’s Loch, the largest natural loch in the council area of the Scottish Borders in the country’s southeast. Located just about 20km west of Galashiels, St Mary’s Loch is easily accessible to those whose route passes through the capital of Scotland.
This loch was named in honor of a church dedicated to St Mary that used to stand on its northern shore. While St Mary’s Loch cannot boast a castle like Loch Awe, it can still amaze you with the sharp water reflections of the steep hills it is surrounded by.
5. Highland Folk Museum
If you happen to travel to the northern county of Highland, then make an effort to visit the Highland Folk Museum in the village of Newtonmore. The Highland Folk Museum is an open-air museum showcasing local lifestyle, culture, and technology.
Comprised of three primary areas, the Highland Folk Museum covers three separate eras. The key attraction is the western area of the park featuring an early 1700s township with staff members dressed and performing as highlanders and showcasing highland life activities.
6. Dunrobin Castle
Dunrobin Castle is one of Britain’s oldest inhabited houses. Even though the majority of the castle’s structure dates to between 1835 and 1850, the original building – at least, its oldest surviving portion – was first mentioned in 1401. Some of the original castle is still visible in the interior courtyard.
Today, Dunrobin Castle is the family seat of the Clan Sutherland and the Earl of Sutherland. But most importantly, it is one of the most gorgeous pieces of architecture in the entirety of Scotland!
7. North Coast 500: Off the Beaten Path Scotland’s Northern Jewel
The North Coast 500 is not just one tourist attraction. Running around the north coast of Scotland, this 516-mile (830-kilometer) route allows you to see many of the major features of the Highlands’ north in just one trip.
This trip isn’t an easy or short one, so you would probably need to dedicate an entire vacation to covering the North Coast 500. Or if you have an ocean of time, you may just incorporate the route into your tour to northern Scotland.
Remarkably, the North Coast 500 seems to have increased the number of visitors to the north of Scotland. No surprise – the Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, and Caithness counties that the route runs through have plenty of sights to offer!
8. Cape Wrath Trail
Sized at just 205 miles (305 kilometers) in length, Cape Wrath Trail is less time-consuming to cover than the North Coast 500. However, it is considered one of the most challenging long-distance walks in the entire UK. And in spite of not being a National Trail, Cape Wrath Trail is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the country.
Cape Wrath Trail has many common grounds with the North Coast 500. However, the difference is that Cape Wrath Trail covers the west coast of Scotland’s north. With that in mind, Cape Wrath Trail is a better option for those who have limited time yet still want the quintessential off the beaten path Scotland experience.
9. Logan Botanic Garden
If you want to admire the nature without the strain of trails like Cape Wrath Trail, then consider Logan Botanic Garden located near Port Logan on the Rhins of Galloway peninsula in southwestern Scotland.
A remarkable feature of Logan Botanic Garden is its diversity – thanks to the mild local climate and the sheltered location of the site, Logan Botanic Garden is home to plants that would not normally survive in Scotland. Here, you can see species coming from as far away as Chile, Vietnam, and even New Zealand!
10. Sandwood Bay
Finally, for a more pristine experience, consider Sandwood Bay situated on the far northwest coast of mainland Scotland. Besides, if you want a truly off the beaten path location, this one may be it.
Sandwood Bay is a remote bay with no road access, but it can be reached via a 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) path starting in the settlement of Blairmore. Due to its remoteness, Sandwood Bay unsurprisingly is one of the cleanest beaches in the entire mainland Britain!