Scotland might be small in surface area, but it is huge in diversity. The landscape changes rapidly east to west and north to south. The plants and animals that inhabit these areas also change with the land. So where should you go, to find some of the most unique and interesting places?
Read on for five of my favourite spots.
5. Linn of Quoich, Deeside
Tucked at the end of a single track road from Braemar, this is a stunning little glen with a big stand of ancient Caledonian pines. Queen Victoria is said to have been an admirer of the tumbling river and picturesque waterfall that cuts through the middle. There are some nice single track footpaths that thread though the magnificent sweet smelling trees and follow the river up on either side.
A narrow bridge crosses the river above the waterfall that gives Linn of Quoich its name (Linn, meaning narrow gorge or waterfall). A bit further up river, following the loamy path and you will come across the famous Punch Bowl. Once used to cool drinks after deer hunting, this beautiful carved rock is a great place to sit in tranquillity and enjoy your surroundings.
Up in the far north in the alien knockan lochan landscape lie some of Scotland's oldest rocks. The Bone Caves of Inchnadamph are a series of remarkable limestone caves that hold the secrets to the past. Bones of lynx, polar bears and humans from 11000 years ago have been recovered from them.
A nice 4km walk will take you on a circuit of interesting geology and beautiful scenery. Following the path past a small waterfall, you may notice the river bed higher up is completely dry – in places there is a spring emerging from the ground only to disappear again as the rock type underneath changes. It is possible to go a little way into these caves so bring a torch to have a good snoop around.
Sometimes you have to get out, away from the roads and soak up the atmosphere of where you are to truly appreciate it. The Postman's Path connects Urgha and Reinigeadal (the last village in the UK to get a road connection in 1990) through some spectacular and remote scenery. Starting a mile out of Tarbert, the path leads you up hill onto the moors.
As you crest the bealach, your reward is magnificent views out over Loch Trolamaraig and further to the Shiant islands and Skye. From here you follow some beautifully crafted alpine style switchbacks to a sheltered bay before a short climb up and along to Reinigeadal. From here you can catch a bus back to Tarbert or make a longer circular walk via Maraig and Gleann Lacasdail.
Randolph's leap was the site of a desperate getaway in the 14th century. A narrowing over the river Findhorn, four men made the leap to escape clan warfare. The area is very beautiful with wonderfully smooth, carved rocks and established woodland to explore. It is spectacular in autumn. Starting from the car park at Logie steadings you step out into wonderful established mixed woodland. From here you can head in either direction along the river following some beautiful natural trails through the woods.
To reach Randolph's Leap follow the signs sometimes on narrow, winding cliff top paths with stunning views down into the gorge. Be careful here, especially with children or pets as it’s a long way down. If you are more adventurous the best way to see the gorge is from the river. It is possible to raft through the gentle rapids and gaze up at the majestic cliffs.
Welcome to Scotland's rainforest! This cool moist landscape will make you feel as if you have entered the Pacific north-west and the temperate rainforests. The trees around will enhance that feeling of having teleported across the Atlantic, as they were planted 150 years ago with seeds imported from those very shores.
Situated at the southern, quieter end of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and Argyle forest park, Puck's Glen is a magical place, you can almost see the pixies and elves darting though the undergrowth or bathing in the swirling water. In fact, the name Puck refers to Shakespeare’s mysterious sprite like creature.
The paths here were created in about 1870 by James Duncan and originally lead up to a small hut. The hut has now been relocated to the Benmore Botanical Gardens a mile up the road, also well worth a visit. Carved into the sides of this narrow atmospheric gorge, the path winds by the river with many bridges crossing the sparkling waters. The gorge side are covered in ferns, and liverworts which give a soft green light. When in spate, the sounds of the water as it rushes over numerous waterfalls is immense.
There are several waymarked paths here from one hour up to half day adventures, all can be a bit rough underfoot so sturdy shoes are recommended.
So GetOutside and discover some of the wonderful parts of Scotland!
By Annie Evans
Scotland-based Annie Evans loves to write about the countryside . She loves to inspire others through her work as an outdoor educator, teaching folk to understand and respect the amazing wild spaces we have.
Annie loves to GetOutside in all different ways, from mountaineering to climbing and packrafting to remote travel by mountain bike, with mountain biking being her speciality.