Scotland’s coast has a complex geology and its exposure to rough battering seas has left it with many spectacular formations, including the UK’s highest cliffs and most spectacular sea stacks, as well as many legendary dark caves and caverns.
Co-author of the new Wild Guide Scotland, Richard Gaston, shares his top 5 Scottish coastal and lochside views.
Magnificent isolated rock pinnacles emerge from the sea at the north-eastern extremity of the mainland. A truly wild and majestic place with an impressive natural archway, high cliffs, wild flowers and kittiwakes and fulmars circling in the sky. No photographer will want to miss this piece of coast.
Today dramatic St Kilda is home mostly to an abundance of wildlife, particularly seabirds, and the only humans are at a radar station in the bay, plus some scientists and restoration workers in the summer. But incredibly, Hirta was inhabited from the Late Stone Age until 1930, when the last 36 inhabitants were evacuated; much of the deserted village still stands in the bay.
On the western cliffs look for the ‘portal’ of the Mistress Stone at Ruabhal or the pinnacle of the Lovers’ Stone at Geodha na Bà Glaise, once the site of young men’s agility dares. On the sea voyage, you will pass rarely visited Boreray the most isolated part of the archipelago and the smallest Scottish island to have a summit over 300m. The spectacular sea cliffs are unforgettable when seen from below as birds circle over their tops. A truly unique piece of Scotland.
Getting there:Kilda Cruises leave most days’ midweek (Apr–Sept) from Leverburgh, South Harris and take around 4 hours. Take a day trip or camp at the National Trust for Scotland site for a longer trip.
Undoubtedly a contender for Shetland’s greatest beach, although you need a low tide to see it at its best. This remote and wild tombolo beach links jagged sea stacks and cliffs with pristine white sands, beset by the sea on both sides. Seals play in turquoise surf that looks almost Caribbean. The beach is reached by a scramble down the rough cliff side. In recent years erosion and rock fall have made this more difficult, and is not recommended unless you are confident and the tide is out. However, the cliff top overlooking the beach is an excellent spot for a picnic in its own right.
Getting there: Uyea is reached by a 3 mile walk (around 90 minutes) on a good off-road track to a farm close to the beach. Start from the small village of North Roe (ZE2 9XG, HU 367 893), take first left after the primary school, heading north. Follow the track for one mile before it ends at a farm, then break off the path on left heading over flat grass to the shore.
This interesting ramble from the beautiful village of Corran along the shore of Loch Hourn takes you through some of the most unspoilt and grandest scenery in the Highlands, with numerous swimming opportunities from the pebbly beaches. Initially easy, the path takes on a rugged character the further you go.
Getting there: In Corran park at car park north of the bridge (IV40 8JH). Cross the bridge and follow the path that weaves its way along the shore, which is rough and rocky in places. The path ends two miles along the coast - there's not a straightforward circular route so return the same way.
Majestic cliffs and wild Atlantic views. This is a truly magical place, especially at ‘golden hour’, when the sun sets on the horizon. Keep an eye out for the remarkable private shelter that’s nestled into the cliffs at the south end of the kidney-shaped headland. This was lovingly hand built by a local family, and adds to the unique appeal of this place.
Getting there: Follow the B8011 north and then as minor road west past the turning signed Aird Uig, pass by bay of Tràigh Ùige on right and follow the signs for Mangarstadh/Mangersta, parking at the road end. Retrace your route on foot for 100m, then head through a gate up on the left, following the faint path heading north-west towards the cliffs.
Wild Guide Scotland: Hidden Places, Great Adventures & the Good Life Paperback by Kimberley Grant, Richard Gaston, David Cooper and published by Wild Things Publishing charts 750 of Scotland finest wild places and is available to buy now.
Readers can receive a 20% discount on the RRP (£16.99) and free P&P with code ‘osscotland’ at Wild Things Publishing.