Eight Scottish Wonders
Through our work at Intrepidus Outdoors we have explored almost every corner of Scotland. From its enchanting landscapes ranging from rugged coastlines and mist-covered mountains to tranquil lochs and picturesque glens. The wonders we encounter are too numerous to list and difficult to favour, though if we were to cull the numbers to eight… here are the ones we all agree on!
Glen Coe, Highlands
For anyone travelling into the Highlands it is hard to avoid Glen Coe. The main A82 road between Glasgow and Fort William slips off the desolate expanse of the Rannoch Moor and the into the jaws of the glen.
Buchaille Etive Mhor, a seemingly impregnable rocky tower of a mountain, acts as an eastern sentinel; an intimidating foretaste of what lies ahead. On both sides the mountains crowd in. To the south there are three massive buttresses (the Three Sisters) flowing from the summit of Bidean nam Bian. To the north the jagged outline of the Aonach Eagach ridge looms overhead. For a closer encounter with Glen Coe’s peaks and valleys and surging rivers set-off on foot into the Lost Valley.
Visit Glen Coe here
Lairig Ghru and the Cairngorm Plateau, Highland
The Lairig Ghru is not quite so easy to reach. The deep U-shaped cleft in the sub-artic Cairngorm plateau separates the giants of Cairngorm and Ben Macdhui from the more shapely Braeriach and Cairn Toul.
At almost 900-metres the Lairig Ghru is a portal to a vast wilderness. There is perhaps nowhere in the UK where the emptiness of the mountains is quite so overwhelming. Any venture on foot or by bike through the Lairig or onto the more than 1000-metre high and
featureless plateau requires careful preparation and exemplary navigational skills.
Visit Lairig Ghru and the Cairngorm plateau here
North Face of Ben Nevis, Highland
The north face of UK’s highest mountain is Ben Nevis’ alter ego. The huge lump seen from Fort William hides a soaring rocky cliff of intimidating buttresses and vertiginous ridges riven with often snow and ice-filled gullies. On this north face mountaineers from all over the world have pitted their skills often as an exacting preparation for extended expeditions in the world’s highest ranges.
To appreciate the full power of ‘The Ben’ and the UK’s highest inland cliffs it is best to first climb Carn Mor Dearg and then follow the narrow arête under the crags and up onto the summit. On a clear day you will get a close up view of the 650-metre high buttresses although you might however be a grateful for a swirling mist that masks the exposure of this airy approach.
Visit the North Face of Ben Nevis here
Cuillin Mountains and Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye
The dozen or so peaks of the Black Cuillin on the Isle of Skye are infamous for not putting on a show. The sea mist and Atlantic squalls cling to its rocky teeth often obscuring their terrifying majesty. There is however no hiding from their full impact on a visit to the almost encircled Loch Coruisk on the west side of the mountains. The sea-level fringe of damp green vegetation soon merges with an inhospitable landscape of giant slabs, pinnacles and rocky ravines.
Rising almost 1000-metres from the stony beach is Sgurr Alasdair (Skye’s highest peak) marks the start of a long, complex and very narrow ridge that is the biggest mountaineering challenge in the UK. Even reaching the remote shores of the loch requires walkers approaching from Elgol to confront a nerve-wracking manoeuvre known as the ‘Bad Step’.
Visit the Cuillin Mountains and Loch Coruisk here
Quiraing, Isle of Skye
Also on the Isle of Skye, but largely overlooked in favour of the Black Cuillin the unusual geological architecture of the Trotternish ridge in the north-east corner of the island is now criss-crossed with new paths.
Among the improbable rocky stacks such as the Prison and the Needle walkers attempt to completely immerse themselves in a fantastical Hobbit-esque landscape and let their imagination take over.
Visit the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye here
Luskentyre beach, Isle of Harris, Western Isles
On the Atlantic side of the far flung Western Isles there are many incredible beaches of vast expanses of white sands and shifting dunes.
What makes Luskentyre stand-out however is the relatively calm bay of turquoise sea and many small uninhabited islands. At first glance it will have you questioning whether this is indeed a wild weather ravaged corner of Scotland or the rather more gentle Caribbean.
Sheltering the bay is the rocky hills of North Harris and Clisham, the highest peak on the Western Isles. Taken together it is an ensemble that is perhaps the most beautiful view in all of the British Isles and well worth the long journey by road and sea to get there.
Visit Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris here
Fingal’s Cave, Isle of Staffa
Colourfully beaked Puffins are the only residents on the remote isle of Staffa. They bury down into the island’s tiny grassy top to build their nests. Here they feel safe, surrounded by a coast of hexagonal basalt columns formed by the cooling lava that flowed from some ancient volcano.
It is these dark columns that hold up the roof of Fingal’s Cave. Named after a Celtic folk hero it is a cathedral with open doors through which the ocean relentlessly crashes and swells; it is most definitely not a cave in which to shelter. So, overcome was the composer Mendelssohn than he tried to convey the drama of the scene in his renowned Hebridean Overture. It’s still no substitute for the real thing. A dedicated boat trip from Oban or the Isle of Mull is the only to get here.
Visit Fingals Cave on the Isle of Staffa here
Grey Mare’s Tail and the Devil’s Beef Tub, Dumfries and Galloway
Something of an outlier among this group of eight, this is the only wonder to lie in the south of Scotland. North of the border town of Moffat lies the grassy hills of Hart Fell and White Coomb. At first they may appear to underwhelm but on closer inspection hidden depths are revealed On the western flanks of Hart Fell is a 150-metre deep hollow known as the Devil’s Beef Tub. This heathery abyss was the hiding place for stolen cattle, thieves, Jacobites and Covenanters for many centuries.
The eastern flanks of the massif are riven with rocky gorges carved by waterfalls. The most impressive is the Grey Mare’s Tail (National Trust for Scotland). Plunging 60-metres from Loch Skene it is among the UK’s highest. Against the hillside it appears as its name suggest as a wispy white tail. It is the noise however than betrays its power and draws the curious in who try first for a view from below and then climb the narrow path for one from above. Do not however lean too far out.
Visit Grey Mares Tale in Dumfries and Galloway here
Paul Lamarra is one of Intrepidus’ experienced guides. A qualified mountain leader he has climbed, cycled and explored extensively in Scotland. He is also an award-winning writer and author of several books on Scotland. His work has also appeared in many publications throughout the world.
MY Adventure and Intrepidus Outdoors are adventure tours and outdoor experience providers, both based in Edinburgh, Scotland. We specialise in private and open canyoning, coasteering, mountain biking and hill walking tours, and deliver these adventurous experiences across Scotland. We are also a provider of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Expeditions where we run bronze, silver and gold level awards for young people.
- Welcome to Edinburgh- A guide to the Scottish Capital here
- 6 steps to being happy like a Scot here
- You’ll never get bored in Edinburgh here
- Best Budget Hotels and Hostels Edinburgh here
- Hen Party Adventures Edinburgh: here
- Stag Party Outdoor Adventures Edinburgh Essentials: here
- Best Restaurants in Edinburgh here
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