Scotland's most remote places

Rural, Nature

Posted by Clare on 20th July 2022

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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. These remote places in Scotland are hard to get to, but arguably worth the effort!

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, 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 it 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, Wester Ross

Applecross Peninsula, Wester Ross

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 - keep a lookout for red deer and eagles when you can tear your eyes away from the jaw-dropping views! Perhaps one of the more accessible remote places in Scotland, Applecross Peninsula is a good place to start your off-the-beaten track adventures.

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

Knoydart, The Highlands

Knoydart, The Highlands

Cut off from the UK mainland road network, Knoydart is only accessible via boat or good old-fashioned walking. If you’re heading to this remote area of Scotland, you probably won’t mind a hike or two, and that’s just as well as there are four Munros and several Corbetts within the Knoydart boundary.

Sitting between Loch Nevis and Loch Hourn on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, this isolated peninsula is made up of 55,000 acres of beautiful, rugged landscape. Other than hillwalker visitors, this space is shared amongst just 120 residents, as well as inhabitants of a different nature, such as red deer, raptors and otters. You may even be lucky enough to spot some whales (including orcas!) and dolphins if visiting during spring and summer.

After all that walking, you may think that you deserve some scran and a wee dram. Well, you’re in luck because the UK mainland’s most remote pub, The Old Forge, is on hand to serve you up seafood, game or just a well-earned pint - a real treat in one of the most remote places to stay in Scotland.

Getting there: You can walk the 16km distance from Kinloch Hourn, or for those who want to save their energy, there’s a passenger ferry from Mallaig

Stay nearby: Cnoc An Theine |  Ardvasar, Isle of Skye | Sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Papa Westray, Orkney Island

Papa Westray, Orkney Island

As one of the northernmost of all the Orkney Islands, Papa Westray is considerably remote, and being only 4 miles long and a mere mile across at its widest point, you’d be mistaken for thinking it wasn’t worth a visit. Life slows down when you step foot on the island, yet there is plenty to see and do including an annual arts festival.

If history is your thing, you must visit the Knap of Howar, the oldest stone houses in northern Europe. For nature lovers, there’s an RSPB reserve at North Hill, which is a renowned nesting area for seabirds, including fulmars, kittiwakes and Arctic skuas. And if you’re visiting in the summer months, you might even spot a puffin or two.

Papa Westray is one of the most remote parts of Scotland, but if you like it even more subdued, head to the southern end of the island where there are tranquil walks to be had at Bothican Beach and along St Tredwell Loch.

Getting there: Time to enjoy the world’s shortest flight, which, on occasion, has lasted all of 40 seconds! Hop on the plane at Westray to reach your destination in Papa Westray, with the length of the journey being less than the main runway at Heathrow.

Stay nearby: The Peedie End | Westray, Orkney | Sleeps 2

North Rona, Outer Hebrides

North Rona, Outer Hebrides

North Rona is remote even by this blog’s standards. It’s the most remote island to have ever been permanently populated in the British Isles (albeit only by 30 people who came to quite an unfortunate end) and resides 45 miles off the coast of Lewis and Harris. Once the home to Saint Ronan (hence the island’s name), the hermit monk, in the 6th century, the island no longer has any continual inhabitants, unless you count the sea birds and a few sheep.

If you can get there - rough seas do make it a little tricky what with there being no pier or jetty - you’ll be able to take in perhaps the oldest intact Christian chapel in Britain. Be aware of the great skuas, as they have been known to dive-bomb visitors on occasion in a protective show of territorial dominance.

Make it past the winged guards and you’ll be rewarded with views that no human will have seen in weeks, if not months.

Getting there: Charter a helicopter or you can book boat trips or live-aboard cruises to take in the sights

Stay nearbyHeatherlea | near Lochmaddy, Outer Hebrides | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog

St Kilda, Outer Hebrides

St Kilda, Outer Hebrides

One of only a handful of World Heritage Sites to be awarded a dual status for its cultural and natural offerings (and the only in the UK), St Kilda lies 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides and is home to Europe’s largest colony of seabirds, including gannets, skuas and puffins, who sit upon Europe’s highest sea cliff.

Here, in one of the most remote places in Scotland, there are walks aplenty for visitors, where more wildlife watching opportunities abound. Or if you feel the need to get wet, the clear waters surrounding the island make it one of the best dive sites in Europe, where submerged seafarers might catch a glimpse of whales and basking sharks.

Having originally been settled upon between four and five thousand years ago, the island was evacuated in 1930 due to an unsustainable way of life and is now inhabited only by defence and conservation workers but welcomes visitors year-round.

Getting there: You can get a RIB from the Isle of Skye if you want to get there quickly and don’t mind a bit of spray, or Hebrides Cruises have live-aboard voyages for multiple days ashore

Stay nearby: Sleatabhal | North Uist, Outer Hebrides | Sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Barra, Outer Hebrides

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. If you're looking for remote parts of Scotland with plenty of things to do, this is the place for you.

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, west coast

Loch Hourn, West Coast

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: Camus Cottage | Camus Croise, Isle of Skye | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

Sandwood Bay is a beautiful, remote beach that 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

Looking for somewhere secluded to stay in Scotland?

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 places in Scotland which make this little corner of the planet truly 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.