Scotland off the beaten track: 14 alternative destinations to try

If you’re seeking a day trip away from the tourist trail or you’ve had your fill of castles, lochs and glens, Sam Shedden offers up a selection of some of Scotland’s best kept secrets

[Mountain biking at 7 Stanes – picture: Andy Matthews / CC]

Go off-road at 7stanes

A “Mountain Biking Mecca” as described by Lonely Planet, 7 stanes comprises of seven challenging mountain bike trails dotted around the south of Scotland. Cyclists can expect scenic rides through forests and rivers and there are routes to fit most skill levels.
7stanes Mountain Biking CIC, Campbell House, The Crichton Business Park, Bankend Road, Dumfries, DG1 4UQ. (01387 702228

Learn about beer (while drinking it)

The Black Isle Brewery is the only organic brewery in Scotland and is based in the Highlands, just a short drive north of Inverness. Unlike some breweries it’s open for public tours all year round, so makes for an ideal day out for any hops lovers. We can testify that the Organic Blonde is especially satisfying.

Black Isle Brewing Company, Black Isle, Scotland, IV8 8NZ (

Spot Scotland’s comeback kings

Beavers are returning to Scotland after being hunted to extinction in the 16th century. Take a tour of the innovative beaver trial site in Knapdale Forest in Argyll to see the natural world’s engineers as they reintegrate back into the Scottish ecosystem.

(Knapdale Forest directions)

Get away from it all

One of Scotland’s smallest inhabited islands, the Isle Of Eigg has a population of just 82 and is a great example of island community living. It has a  rich history which includes Viking invasion and clan battles, plus many geological wonders. More recently it has hosted music festivals from singer-songwriter Johnny Lynch (aka The Pictish Trail), and this year Howlin’ Fling takes place in July (although it’s long since sold out).

Isle of Eigg, Scotland (

Swim among shipwrecks

Famous for Viking settlements, ponies and now a certain TV detective show, many wouldn’t think of Shetland first and foremost as a diving hotspot. But with excellent underwater visibility, a profusion of wrecks and sweeping underwater cliffs, Shetland is worth the trip for adventurous diving enthusiasts.

Zetland Sub Aqua Club, Chickimin Pool, Lerwick, Shetland (01950 460511

Go windsurfing off Tiree

The tiny isle of Tiree is a popular UK windsurfing destination and plays host to the Tiree Wave Classic each year. A mild climate, white beaches and high average wind speeds makes this an ideal getaway for water sports fanatics. And it even has its own airport.

Wild Diamond, Cornaig, Tiree (01879 220399

Try the Elie Chain Walk

Chains built into the cliff face outside the Fife village of Elie provide a heart-stopping short walk along the sheer coastal cliff face. Walkers should take care and be aware of tide times.

(03451 55 55 55

Take a walk through Glasgow’s Necropolis


Glasgow’s Necropolis is often overlooked by tourists in favour of the usual museums and parks. But this intriguing city of the dead, built in Victorian times and home to over 50,000 graves, makes for a fascinating journey to the past.

70 Cathedral Square, Glasgow G4 0UZ (0141 287 3961

Try a sled-dog ride through the Cairngorms

Weary hikers can give their feet a rest and let a team of sled-dogs guide them through the stunning Cairngorms National Park. Based from Aviemore the centre is the only daily sled-dog location in the UK and provides an exhilarating ride.

Cairngorm Sleddog Centre, Moormore Cottage, Rothiemurchus Estate, Aviemore, PH22 1QU. (07767 270526

Sleep in a lighthouse

Ever fancied staying in a genuine lighthouse? Situated in the quietl north west of Scotland, Rua Reidh Lighthouse is the perfect getaway spot for families or couples to unwind.

Rua Reidh Lighthouse, Melvaig, Gairloch, Wester Ross, IV21 2EA. (01445 771263

Make a wish at Faerie Glen

[Picture: Pelle Sten / CC]

Skye, the largest island in the Inner Hebrides, is home to some of Scotland’s strangest landscapes, and the Faerie Glen is perhaps the oddest of them all, with its miniature hillocks and mythical landscape. It’s perfect for a stroll but there are no road signs to get there so bring a map. It’s so unique that it was used as a location for the film 2007 fantasy Stardust with Michelle Pfeiffer.

Near Uig, Skye, (map and directions)

Go sailing in Argyll

Argyll is an ancient area of Scotland where settlers from Ireland formed the first Scot kingdom of Dalraida in the 6th and 7th centuries. Its smattering of rugged islands and peaceful anchorages have long made it a favourite spot for sailing.


Take a walk to Cramond Island

Cramond is a seaside village on the banks of the Forth that has been swallowed up in Edinburgh’s urban sprawl. However the hamlet has retained its village feel and is a brilliant destination to visit to escape the noise of the city centre.  After a walk along the causeway to deserted Cramond Island – which can only be reached on low tide – pop into the Cramond Inn for some pub grub and a pint.

Crammond, near Edinburgh; info

Sample a malt at the Isle of Arran Distillery

arran distillery

The home of whisky, Scotland has over 125 active distilleries spread across the country. With such a long list of whisky producers, connoisseurs need to pick carefully which they will visit. The Isle of Arran Distillery is nestled next to charming Lochranza on the northern edge of Arran and is provides an excellent reason to visit the island.

Isle of Arran Distellery, Lochranza,  Isle of Arran,  KA27 8HJ (01770 830

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