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31 Hidden Gems to explore in Scotland to escape the tourists

Updated: Jan 2

Your Ultimate Guide to exploring off-the-beaten track locations scattered across Scotland.

Scotland, with its rich history, picturesque landscapes, and vibrant culture, offers a tapestry of hidden gems waiting to be unveiled. Beyond the bustling cities and renowned tourist spots, this guide invites you to embark on a journey of discovery, where hidden gems await your exploration.

These hidden gems range from secret waterfalls located in hidden gorges to secluded beaches you can collect Vitamin D in peace!

In this article, we share 31 of the best hidden gems in Scotland which you need to add to your bucket list this year!

Image of Smoo Cave in Scotland

Beaches in Scotland

1) Camusdarach Beach

The beach, which has three light-coloured sand beaches that run end to end, is frequently referred to as one of the most beautiful in the country, if not the entire world. It's also possible to camp at this beach, and in the same location also makes sea kayaking and launching small boats simple.

2) Traigh Seilebost

On the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, there is a gorgeous hidden gem of a beach called Traigh Seilebost. This lovely beach has a machair in the background and offers many wonderful walking opportunities. Visitors can enjoy taking in the views of Taransay and Luskentyre, and also keep an eye out for sand dunes to the east!

Image of Traigh Seilebost in Scotland

3) Lunan Bay

Along with Sandwood Bay, Achmelvich Beach, and Balnakeil Bay, Lunan Bay has to be included on any list of Scotland's top beaches! A broad, east-facing beach with lovely sand, dunes on either side, and low cliffs to the north and south is what visitors can look forward to when visiting Lunan Bay.

4) St. Ninian's Isle

On a nice day, St. Ninian's Isle is among the most picturesque places on earth. A perfect 500-meter symmetrical stretch of glorious golden shell sand connects the island to the Shetland mainland.

Image of St. Ninian's Isle in Scotland

5) Elie Beach

Elie Beach is the heart of a long, curved sandbar that stretches from Earlsferry around to Elie Harbour. The rich golden sand here is perfect for dinghy sailing, pleasure boating, windsurfing, and other water sports and is surrounded by dunes and beach huts.

6) Arisaig Beach

Arisaig Beach is a fantastically remote beach. A secluded bay, really gentle slope, and crystal clear water make it ideal for children. Numerous animals including crabs, hermit crabs, sole, squid, shrimp, and grouper can be found at this beach too.

7) Baleshare Beach

Baleshare Beach is an unusually calm and flat island with very few visitors. This undiscovered hidden gem location is just south of the North Uist circuit and is accessible by a minor road and causeway.

Image of Baleshare Beach in Scotland

8) Dornoch Beach

At Dornoch Beach, visitors can take in the lovely stretch of golden sand. The beach wraps around the point to the south and continues all the way up to the northern village of Embo. Visitors can enjoy golden sands and dunes as well as some peace and quiet when at Dornoch Beach.

9) Sandwood Bay

One of the best walks in Scotland can take you to Sandwood Bay, a secluded sandy bay in the northwest Scottish Highlands, north of Kinlochbervie. Due to its remote location, Sandwood's magnificent beach may be the best and most pristine beach in all of Britain.

Image of Sandwood Bay in Scotland

10) Achmelvich Beach

Achmelvich Beach, situated on the renowned NC500 and only 300 meters from a renowned white sand beach, is the ideal starting point for breath-taking coastal and hill walks. It's a great starting point for sea kayaking and snorkelling because of the waters' exceptional clarity.

Wild Swimming Spots in Scotland

11) Glen Etive

The drive to this gorgeous place is fantastic and the views are out of this world. If you're lucky, you may even be able to see some deers around the area! There are waterfalls to take a look at and enjoy, and the water is chilled perfectly for a quick dip!

12) Inversnaid

These amazing sandy beaches around Inversnaid offer visitors the chance to swim in one of Scotland's most famous bodies of water. Immerse yourself in the tranquil ambiance of the area, breathe in the crisp mountain air, and enjoy the serene views of Loch Lomond.

Image of Inversnaid in Scotland

13) Falls of Falloch

If you're travelling between Glasgow to Glencoe and Fort Williams, then you definitely need to stop off at these waterfalls for a quick pit stop and dip. The waterfall includes a decent sized basin where you can go for a swim. We also recommend checking at the caged viewpoint as it gives Jurassic Park vibes!

14) Plodda Falls

A breath-taking waterfall which can be tricky to descend and climb back if conditions are wet. The pool is filled only by a small trickling stream. The water is known to be absolutely freezing, so if you do plan to take a dip, bring a wet suit!

Image of Plodda Falls in Scotland

15) Seacliff Beach

Regarded as one of the best beaches in East Lothian; Seacliff Beach is the perfect place for those wanting to visit a secluded beach and have a quiet dip. There are many rock pools for visitors to enjoy, and can be rewarded by views of Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock.

16) Hell's Lum

Hell's Lum is a unique cove and cave complex which is a collapsed sea cave only accessed through a gaping hole in the Cullykhan Bay cliffs. One there, visitors can enjoy a refreshed and peaceful dip. Surrounded by moss-covered rocks and ancient trees, this secluded gem offers a sense of seclusion and adventure.

17) Traigh Mhor

Traigh Mhor is a stunning beach with amazing views, and is well worth the journey to get there! It is very scenic and quiet with some cool wildlife to see too. If you're in the area, it's worth visiting for a lovely pleasant swim with hardly anybody around!

Image of Traigh Mhor in Scotland

Waterfalls in Scotland

18) Crawton Waterfall

A beautiful piece of nature where you can see many birds breeding (oh and also seeing this cool waterfall which gushes into the sea!). You won't come across many waterfalls in the UK which fall into the sea, and Crawton Waterfall is very hidden compared to the likes of Mealt Falls etc.

19) Falls Of Dochart

The Falls of Dochart is best viewed in the winter especially after snow melt. You'll often see salmon floating up the river so definitely keep an eye open for them jumping up the river! You can also view this waterfall from the road bridge that you can walk across without causing issues or dangers to vehicles.

20) Falls of Bruar

The photos online really don't do The Falls of Bruar justice. Visitors are often taken aback by how spectacular the waterfall is, and it's no surprise why! You'll get the fairy-tale feeling when you see the small bridges and the masonry; it's definitely worth the short hike to see this waterfall.

Image of Falls of Bruar in Scotland

21) Steall Waterfall

After a 30 minute walk you'll be rewarded with the views of Steall Waterfall. The walk is relatively easy and once you get down to the falls the scene is absolutely beautiful. The route heads through the dramatic and gorgeous Nevis Gorge and leads to this awesome waterfall.

22) Ardvreck Castle Waterfall

The Ardvreck Castle Waterfall is located just opposite the Ardvreck Castle (which around 90% of visitors to the castle don't even realise!). It's a beautiful multi-level waterfall which is visible from the road and the castle, however it is well worth an up-close look! It's definitely worth a little de-tour after visiting the Ardvreck Castle.

23) Wailing Widow Falls

The Wailing Widow Falls are an absolute must-visit if you're around the Highlands in Scotland. It is simply spectacular, and since it's quite difficult to access you'll often find nobody else there! If you're doing the NC500 you should definitely come and check this waterfall out.

Image of Wailing Widow Falls in Scotland

24) Clashnessie Falls

Clashnessie Falls is a gorgeous waterfall located in the small coastal village of Clashnessie. Once you get up and close to the waterfall it's absolutely huge especially after a few heavy days of rainfall so please take caution as the water can be quite intense.

25) Eas a’Bhradain

The Eas a'Bhradain is a great hidden waterfall just off the roadside and we definitely recommend visiting if you're in the area or driving by. It's a quick stop on the side of the road, so there's no real path but it's not that difficult to get too. Eas a’Bhradain is the perfect spot to come for anybody who loves secluded waterfalls and admiring them with no disturbances.

26) Carbost Burn Waterfall

So the Carbost Burn Waterfall isn't the easiest to get to, but it's worth the short scramble to be able to actually sit in the water which is actually quite cool! It's hidden by the municipalities and tourist sites of the Isle of Skye. The Carbost Burn Waterfall is a magical waterfall hidden from the more touristy areas of the Isle of Skye.

Image of Carbost Burn Waterfall in Scotland

27) Mealt Falls

You'll be rewarded with fantastic views and breath-taking scenery when you visit the Mealt Falls. It's a beautiful quick stop on the road and is up there with one of the best views in the Isle of Skye. Visitors will be rewarded with fantastic views of the Isle of Skye as well as an amazing drop waterfall which throws itself from a cliff!

28) Rha Waterfalls

This great double little waterfall is tucked away not to far from the roadside and is the perfect place to unwind in peace. There isn't much else to see apart from this waterfall, and you'll only spend around 10 minutes here. If you're in the area, we'd definitely recommend it!

29) Smoo Cave

Hidden within the rugged cliffs of Durness, Smoo Cave is a mesmerising natural wonder that beckons adventurers to explore its mysterious depths. Venture inside this dramatic sea cave to witness the power of nature at play. Marvel at the magnificent waterfall that plunges through the ceiling, creating an ethereal atmosphere.

Image of Smoo Cave in Scotland

30) Fairy Pools

Nestled in the majestic Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye, the Fairy Pools are a true natural gem. Crystal-clear water from nearby streams flows into a series of enchanting turquoise pools, forming a captivating landscape straight out of a fairy tale. Dare to take a dip in these shimmering pools, or simply marvel at their beauty as you wander along the scenic trails that lead to them.

31) Falls of Clyde

Prepare to be enchanted as the rushing waters tumble down a series of magnificent waterfalls, their thundering sounds harmonising with the tranquil surroundings. Explore the lush trails that wind through ancient woodland, and immerse yourself in the serene ambiance of this nature reserve.

Image of Falls of Clyde in Scotland

We hoped you enjoyed discovering the local finds and less known places which are scattered around Scotland. We are confident that visiting some of these hidden gems will make your adventure around Scotland even more memorable!

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