A guide to Scotland's most remote places

Rural, Nature

Posted by Clare on 14th July 2020

SCOTLAND from Marcello Ercole on Vimeo.

The rugged and romantic landscapes of Scotland are a heady mix of pristine white-sand beaches, windswept rocky outcrops and vast mountainous wildernesses. The country is home to only 8% of the UK population, but boasts some of the most awe-inspiring scenery we have to offer.

If you’re looking for some peace and quiet on your visit to Scotland, there are many hidden islands, mountains and lochs just waiting to be explored.

Whether you’re travelling by plane and landing on the beach at low tide, or hitching a ride on the inter-island ferry, you’ll be on an adventure in no time at these remote locations, and you’re likely not to see another soul…

Foula, Shetland Islands

Foula is one of Britain’s most remote inhabited islands, with a population of 30. If you’re looking to get away from it all, this place might be perfect for you. The island’s five towering peaks – Da Noup, Hamnafield, Da Sneug, Da Kame and Soberlie – rise like leviathans from the island and form Shetland’s most spectacular cliffs.

The peaceful island’s name translates to ‘Bird Island’ in Old Norse and is a Special Protection Area for birds. For keen wildlife spotters, this is a great place to see great skuas (bonxies), kittiwakes, Arctic terns, red-throated divers, puffins and gannets. Grey and common seals can be found along the shores and you might be lucky enough to witness a school of killer whales or harbour porpoises.

A dream destination for artists, Foula becomes a canvas for vibrant splashes of wildflower colour in the summer, with daubs of sea pinks, marsh marigolds, spring squill and tormentil among other bright blooms.

Getting there: From Walls in the West Mainland, the inter-island ferry will take you to Foula, operating three times a week. This is not a car ferry and you must book in advance. The journey takes roughly 135 minutes. Alternatively, there is a boat trip running every Wednesday. Four times a week, a chartered air service flies from Tingwall Airport, ideal for a day trip and offering breathtaking views of Shetland. All services are weather dependent.

Stay nearby: Marrats Houl | Unst, Shetland | Sleeps 2

Applecross Peninsula

Most famous for the incredible drive, the Applecross Peninsula is a truly stunning part of Scotland. Approaching the remote peninsula, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve reached the end of the earth. The atmosphere is like nowhere else in the UK; imposing mountains with their peaks in the clouds drop down to the glittering waters of the bay.

While some days you may feel like you are the only people there, humans have been settled in the area surrounding Applecross for over 9,000 years. The area’s well-loved pub, The Applecross Inn, is the perfect place to stop for a meal. Overlooking the Inner Sound with far-reaching views to Raasay and Skye, the panorama changes by the hour as the weather casts its spell over the landscape.

From the inn, the walk or drive to Sand is a must, keeping a look out for red deer and eagles when you can tear your eyes away from the jaw-dropping views!

Getting there: There are two ways of getting to Applecross. The first takes in the fantastic views along the winding coast road from Shielding, to the north on Loch Torridon. The second is the renowned Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle). The remarkable road is one of the highest in Britain, with hairpin bends and drops through the mountains. This remote spot is all about the journey.

Stay there: The Estate Office | Applecross, The Highlands | Sleeps 12 + 2 dogs

Barra, Outer Hebrides

With one of the world’s most unusual airports (on the beach!), the island of Barra couldn’t be missed from our guide. It is the most southerly of the inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides and is home to some of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches.

Tangasdale, tucked away in a peaceful bay overlooking the Atlantic, is perhaps the best of the lot. Sugar-fine sand is lapped by azure water, the Isle of Barra Beach Hotel providing the perfect spot to sit and contemplate the view.

Take to the water for more Barra adventures, on a boat trip from Castlebay to the medieval Kisimul Castle, ‘Castle in the Sea’. Perched on its small rocky outcrop, it was the seat of the chief of Clan MacNeil. A climb to the top of the battlements rewards you with 360-degree views of the bay.

If you’re looking to get active on your visit, take in the breathtaking scenery by cycling around the island or paddle across the crystal-clear waters in a kayak. Golfers will enjoy playing a round at Barra Golf Club, though the scenery is sure to put you off your swing!

When you’ve worked up an appetite, check out Barra Airport Café, renowned for its incredible views, or enjoy a meal at the Castlebay Hotel.

Getting there: There are three main routes to Barra, but flying is definitely the most exciting. Flights land on the beach at Cockle Strand between tides. At high tide, the runway disappears into the sea. Alternatively, you can get the ferry from Oban or Eriskay.

Stay there: Scutaig | Isle of Barra, Outer Hebrides | Sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Loch Hourn

Loch Hourn is a 14-mile-long sea loch, running inland from the Sound of Sleat. With Beinn Sgritheall to the north and Ladhar Bheinn rising from the southern shore, the landscape is hugely impressive. Wildlife rich and a haven for off-the-beaten-track hikers, you’re more likely to see frolicking porpoises or a red deer than another human being.

One of the main activities in this heart-stoppingly beautiful place is hiking, and if Munro-bagging is your thing, one of the finest, and least accessible, mountains on the mainland, Ladhar Bheinn can be climbed here. Cue vertigo-inducing ridges, gnarly crags and a spectacle at the summit which makes it all worthwhile.

Getting there: To get to Loch Hourn, take the 22-mile single-track road towards Kinloch Hourn, a settlement beside the loch, along the A87 near Invergarry.

Stay nearby: Torman Nan Struth | Glenelg, The Highlands | Sleeps 10 + 2 dogs

Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay is a beautiful, remote beach which can be found at the end of a 4-mile walk. The golden sand and dunes extend for 1 mile, with rocky cliffs adding drama to the picturesque scenery. Seemingly precarious, yet strong in the face of the wild North Atlantic, a narrow sea stack known as Am Buachaille stands at 65 metres tall. The stack itself is a magnet for climbers and has been referred to as the ‘most serious of the big three Scottish stacks’.

On reaching the beach, you may notice the remains of Sandwood Cottage, upon whose windows it is rumoured that the ghost of a mariner from a sunken Armada galleon used to knock. You may come across other walkers enjoying the beach, but the walk filters the crowds and tranquillity can always be found here.

Sandwood Bay is looked after by the John Muir Trust and forms part of the Sandwood estate which occupies a Special Area of Conservation. A rare, machair habitat is found here – a low-lying fertile plain which was created by man over centuries. Bring binoculars for a chance to spot nesting seabirds and maybe even the rare great yellow bumblebee.

Getting there: Take the flat path from the hamlet of Blairmore to reach this stunning secluded beach. The nearest village is Kinlochbervie.

Stay nearby: Corrachbeag | Kinlochbervie (2.5mls NE), The Highlands | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Top: The Seashell | Bottom left: Farmburn Bothy | Bottom right: Killunaig Church House

Looking for somewhere secluded to stay?

Our collection of cottages in Scotland has something for everyone, and that includes guests who want to get away from it all and embrace the remote destinations which make Scotland special.

Characterful bothies, island escapes, peaceful lodges, sea-view cottages and even elegant castles are waiting for you to jump into your Scotland adventure with both feet!

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.