I love finding hidden gems in Scotland and am often asked about where to find them in areas that tourists are visiting. Tourists visit Scotland with an itinerary which often includes the Isle of Skye, the Highlands, Edinburgh and Inverness and I love to encourage them to explore Scotland away from the usual tourist trail. Places that are rarely talked about, rarely photographed, places that are off the beaten track and away from the usual "must sees". I thought I'd ask some of my favourite Scottish travel bloggers about their best hidden gems. These are the blogs I read to inspire my travels and these ladies really know their stuff.
Kirstin McEwan (The Tinberry Travels)
People usually think that the Highlands and Islands have the best views in Scotland but I know a little hidden gem that’ll give those mountain views a run for their money. Duncryne Hill, also locally known as “The Dumpling”, is just outside Gartocharn, Loch Lomond and is one of our absolute favourite spots. From parking the car in the layby to reaching the epic view at the top takes just 20 minutes – a perfect Scottish landscape with no hiking whatsoever! Better yet, it’s only half an hour from Glasgow so if you’re someone short on time looking for a quick taster of Scotland, this spectacular view over Loch Lomond is definitely going to have you booking that return trip in double-quick time!
Susanne Arbuckle (Adventures Around Scotland)
My favourite hidden gem in Scotland has to be Puck's Glen near Dunoon, a Celtic rain forest with a diverse and flourishing eco-system. It is as close as you will find to a temperate rain forest on this side of the Atlantic and visitors will find it hard to believe they are still in Scotland.
There is an enchanting walk through a magical landscape filled with mossy rocks, tumbling waterfalls and crystal clear pools. It is easy to imagine that fairies might be hiding among the giant ferns and you need to keep a careful eye out for the mischevous resident spirit called Poca Ban that disguises itself as a ball of wool and rolls around the glen looking for unsuspecting victims to trip up!
The Puck's Glen Gorge Trail is a circular route of 1 3/4 miles / 2.7 km and you should allow 1 - 2 hours to complete it. Although it is still a hidden gem to many, those in the know would agree that this is one of the best short walks in Scotland and I would have to concur.
Sonja Thomson (Migrating Miss)
Jarlshof in Shetland is one of the most amazing historical sites I have ever been to. It’s layer upon layer of history, all in one location, at the southern tip of mainland Shetland. You wouldn’t think these isolated islands in the north sea would have played much part in history, but this one site alone was occupied for over 4000 years by all sorts of people. From the Neolithic age through to the 17th century, Jarlshof was home for someone. There are the remains of houses similar to those in Skara Bare in Orkeny, but you can also explore pict wheel houses, see the remains of where a smithy worked metal in the Irish style of the time period, venture into a broch of which the purpose is unknown, and see the remains of the first viking longhouse in the British Isles. What amazed me most about this site is that you have the freedom to wander and explore these old settlements, and try to imagine people living here over 4000 years ago.
Katie MacLeod (Stories my suitcase could tell)
They might not get the same level of attention as their more famous neighbour, the Isle of Skye, but Lewis and Harris – a single landmass that’s always referred to as two separate islands – is a Scottish “hidden gem” that is ready for its chance to shine.
As the northernmost isles of the Outer Hebrides, they can be a little difficult to get to (think a three-hour ferry journey, or a pricey flight from the Scottish mainland), but a visit to Lewis and Harris is more than worth the effort.
The west coast is fringed with white sands and turquoise seas that wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean. The east coast of Harris is undulating and rocky, often standing in for moonscape scenes in movies. The moorland of Lewis is at first glance vast and empty, but on closer inspection the land is home to deer, birds, and the heather that transforms with the seasons.
Of course, there’s more to Lewis and Harris than beautiful scenery. There’s history that spans the centuries, from Neolithic standing stones to Iron Age fortresses, and the fresh local food could give mainland eateries a run for their money.
For the more adventurous there’s surfing, sailing, and hiking; and for anyone wanting to soak up the culture there’s a thriving arts and music scene that sees everyone from locals to national names take the stage in spots like the award-winning arts centre An Lanntair, or one of the local pubs.
Whatever your travel style, Lewis and Harris has something for everyone.
Kathi Kamleitner (Watch Me See)
On a road trip around the North East of Scotland, my mum and I found ourselves on a dodgy single-track dirt road - the kind you wouldn't tell your car rental company about under any circumstances. At the end of this road lies an unexpected paradise - unexpected especially if you only think of Scotland as lush green rolling hills, rugged mountain ranges and remote islands in the wild Atlantic. Rattray Head is anything but. Here Scotland is picture-book perfect with a long sandy beach, sand dunes and a lighthouse just off the beach standing tall in the middle of the mighty waves. No wonder, photographers love coming here - if only more travelers would dare to brave the bumpy ride - they would love it too!
Gemma (Two Scots Abroad)
Everyone arrives in Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, then heads to the west to see Nessie, the Isle of Skye, and the statue with the cone on its head but they don't know what they are missing by avoiding our iconic Forth Bridges, the seaside towns of the east! Granted we don't always get the sunbathing weather but the county of Fife has lovely walks along its coastal path and one of my favourite places to stroll is my hometown, Burntisland. Not only does Burntisland (or the Bizza as we affectionately call it) have an award winning beach but every summer the longest running fairground in Europe parks up on the Links to sell toffee apples, chips and candy floss to visitors. On Market Monday (July) the town is at its busiest as the Highland Games takes place, Scottish dancers put on their kilts and compete for medals. A hike up The Binn at the back the of this Fife town is also recommended as one of the scenic things to do in Fife. Here's why...
Samantha Grant (The Wee White Dug)
'My favourite hidden gem in Scotland? It's hard to choose, but I'd have to say the Isle of Ulva, off the coast of Mull.
Mull is a popular tourist destination, yet even on a lovely summer's day you can enjoy Ulva relatively people free if you visit early enough. The on-demand ferry crossing is a delight. On Mull you reveal a covered red panel on a white wooden board, and the ferryman arrives to transport you to the island. It's a unique experience.
Only a handful of residents live on Ulva today, yet it boasts one of Scotland's best lunch spots. The Boathouse, serves delicious seafood, soups, sandwiches and mouth-watering cakes. Nearby stands Sheila's Cottage, a restored croft house. The tiny heritage museum gives a fascinating insight into life on the island.
Ulva is great for hiking, with a number of stunning trails to explore. I loved the hike to the ruined clearance village of Ormaig. It's a really atmospheric, and poignant place with spectacular views.
Ulva is a truly magical place.'
Me? As the others have said, its near impossible to choose, there are places all over Scotland i want to return to but the one that sticks in my mind when I've had a rubbish day and want to escape somewhere is Kildonan Beach on the Isle of Arran. It's such a relaxing and truly beautiful spot, the whole island makes me feel chilled out but when i get here it's something else.
I hope this has given you some ideas of where to visit when you are here in Scotland. If anybody knows where the best bits are it's the bloggers who live here and spend their lives travelling the country. Have a nosy around their blogs, you'll find loads of inspiration whether you fancy a day trip, a two week holiday or a short break. Do you have a hidden gem in Scotland that you can recommend?