From the remotest corners of the land to the centre of our biggest city, Scotland is awash with views that will take your breath away.
The second part of our fanastic series, Herald writers reveal their favourite views … and explain why they should be yours too.
Down Gleann an Dubh-Lochain, Knoydart
What makes it so special? Wild, remote, astounding beauty.
Its was late May, 1995, and my friend and I had walked in from Kinlochhourn to the wild Knoydart peninsula (there are no roads here, so you have to hike, or take a boat). The plan was to climb Ladhar Bheinn – one of Scotland’s greatest mountains – and when we arrived at Barrisdale (it’s about an eight-mile walk, if I remember right), we decided to keep going up towards Mam Barrisdale and camp at the head of Gleann an Dubh-Lochain so we’d get a good start the following morning.
What happened next was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
We’d set up our camp with the door of the tent looking down the glen, and just as we’d finished cooking the snow started. Huge, swirling curtains of the stuff. As it was swept down the glen by a rising wind, the curtains occasionally parted, giving us the most spectacular glimpses of mountain, heather and loch, before closing again, blocking our view with a wall of white. It was beautiful, mesmerising and astounding.
I’ve been back to the same spot and, though the hypnotic snow wasn’t there, the view was still as amazing as I’d remembered … a highly recommended adventure. And the climb up the mountain isn’t half-bad either!
Pit stops: You’re literally in the middle of nowhere, so all you’ll have is what you can carry. However, if you’ve got the time and the energy, make the walk to Inverie and the wonderful Old Forge pub.
Glen Coe, Lochaber
What makes it so special? The presence of the mountains, which rise up, steeply and almost oppressively on either side. The way the path narrows, from Rannoch Moor, to this tiny pass. The morning mist. The bloody history.
A spectacular U-shaped valley, sculpted in the Ice Age, and bounded to the south by the towering Three Sisters and to the north by the challenging Aonach Eagach Ridge. You could, of course climb these mountains for a view, but Glen Coe is equally impressive at base-of-the-valley level, viewed from even the first parking-spot along the route in. There is no view of Glen Coe that does not provoke awe – and a sense that drama of history, the massacre that took place there, still lingers.
Pit stop: The legendary Clachaig Inn for a rousing folk night in the spit-and-sawdust Boots bar, or cosy pub meal in the lounge. Hillwalkers’ heaven.
Westport Beach, Argyll
What makes it so special? A six-mile beach trek in a site of special scientific interest.
With the sheltering Machrihanish Dunes at one side and the sea on the other, you can have as bracing a walk as you like. Surfers occasionally outnumber dogs, but get the timing right and you can often have place to yourself.
Pit stop: Carry on the A83 to Campbeltown for everything from cafes to restaurants, or stop off at the Co-op in Tarbet on the way for the makings of a picnic. Good luck keeping the sandwiches sand-free.
Calton Hill, Edinburgh
What makes it so special? Edinburgh Castle is a great place from which to contemplate the capital’s past, but if it’s past, present and future that you want – plus a slice of pleasing pop trivia – then head for Calton Hill.
The views back down Princes Street are stunning but in any other direction there are visual treats in store. Climb up there this month and you’ll have a bird’s eye view of a city in transition, too, as the lofty cranes from the nearby St James Centre redevelopment dominate the foreground, their lights twinkling prettily at dusk. And the pop trivia? From Josef K to the current crop of Edinburgh indie bands, Calton Hill has been the go-to place for publicity shots. But the most famous of the lot is The Proclaimers’ iconic Sunshine On Leith album cover, which was shot there in 1988.
Pit stop: From Regent Road the hill is accessible via a short walk up a wide set of steps – and these days you can get a meal up top too, courtesy of posh new restaurant The Lookout.
Kinnoull Hill, Perth
What makes it so special? It’s a real-life picture postcard … and a test of bravery (are you made of strong enough stuff to stand right at the cliff-edge?).
We’ve all seen it as we drive past Perth on the way to Dundee and the north … that grand wooded cliff with its strange little round tower at the north end of the Friarton Bridge. And many will have wondered what the view from the top is like.
Well, going to find out is a few of the most rewarding hours you could possibly spend. From the car park on Corsie Hill Road at the back of the hill, it’s a not-too-strenuous stroll up to the cliff-edge … and that astounding vista. East down the Firth of Tay towards Dundee, south through Fife towards the Lomond Hills, and towards the west, beautiful Perth and beyond. Watch the cars on the road below, like toys in a display at Hamleys … and make sure you take a wee stroll along the clifftop to the see the tower. It’s in fact a folly, but no less spectacular for it.
Pit stop: Drop in to Perth, and its host of cafes, shops, bars and hotels.
En route to Port Ellen, Islay
What makes it so special? The ferry keeps moving but the world stands still.
The finest sight here is not the view to the shore as the ferry prepares to dock, though that is welcome enough, but the one to be had at the half-way point. The mainland is out of sight, the island awaits, and there is nothing else to do but stare and wonder what lies ahead.
Pit stop: basic snacks, teas and coffees on ferry, or stop off on the road to Kennacraig in Kintyre, from where the ferries to Port Ellen or Port Askaig depart. Very busy in summer, advance booking recommended.
The Whangie near Blanefield
What makes it so special? This accessible three-mile (there and back) walk in the Kilpatrick Hills rewards you with stunning vistas 360 vistas taking in Loch Lomond, the Campsies and the southern Highlands.
Before you get to the best views, explore the partially hidden rock formation known as The Whangie. There’s a path right through this ancient and fascinating feature, which is 50ft high and has been used for generations as training for rock climbers. Start your walk from the Queen’s View car park, 40 minutes north of Glasgow, near Blanefield.
Pit stop: The cosy Beach Tree restaurant at Dumgoyne is just 10 minutes from the car park. A favourite with youngsters thanks to the onsite mini-farm with strokable donkeys, goats, rabbits and ponies. The food is great, too.
The top of Queen’s Park in Glasgow
What makes it so special? The feeling of not so much being in the city as above it.
Cycle up there. Or walk. Or run. Take the dog, the kids, go on your own, whatever. But promise me that when you get to the top of Queen’s Park in the south side of Glasgow you will stop near the flag pole and enjoy the best view from a park anywhere in the city.
What can you see from the top? The steeples that remind us how much we used to believe in God, and the high-rises that remind us how we used to think people should live, but you can also see all the elegance and beauty of Glasgow: that gentle hump there is Park Circus, that sweeping street there is University Avenue.
And framing it all, a beautiful example of Glasgow’s best asset of all: its parks.
Pit stop: Buongiorno cafe on Pollokshaws Road for a superb coffee.
Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven
What makes it so special? The first glimpse of the fortress as you approach it from the road.
Stop on the cliff path and stare. Dunnottar looks like the castle a child might draw – a child with a dark imagination, that is. It’s a ruin now but that adds to the drama – parts of the castle have tumbled into the sea, but large parts of it still stand on the top of the rocks, punctuation marks of stone. Up on the cliffs, it is the most dramatic view of a castle anywhere in Scotland; its soundtrack is the North Sea.
Pit stop: The cafes and chip shops in the nearby town, Stonehaven. The Bay is the best (but be prepared to queue).
Looking up St Clair Street, Leith
What makes it so special? They say it’s the hope that kills you; but actually it’s the anticipation that keeps you going.
Clear the first dogleg, and at the top of the incline the prize awaits: standing proud and shining bright, Easter Road Stadium, the home of Hibernian FC. On your right, out of sight over the wall, is Edinburgh’s Eastern Cemetery, colloquially known as Behind the Goals – the name chosen by Hibs for the supporters’ bar immediately ahead.
Pit stop: At the start of the street, the redoubtable Tamsons bar; at the top, the aforementioned BTG, with a burger van parked to the left for al fresco dining.
Yesnaby, Sandwick, Orkney
What makes it so special? A joyous spot to watch the sunset.
The west coast of the Orkney mainland is home to towering sandstone cliffs, frothing waves and the majestic sea stack Yesnaby Castle. There is a feeling of standing at the edge of the world as the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean lies before you, stretching uninterrupted for thousands of miles. On clear winter nights, once the sun has long since dipped below the distant horizon, you may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, or the “merry dancers” as they are known in Orkney.
Pit stop: Head north to the Birsay Bay Tearoom or south-east to Gerri’s Ice Cream Parlour at Stenness. Nearby Stromness has coffee shops, bistros and restaurants to suit most palates.
Chanonry Point, Black Isle
What makes it so special? Seeing wild dolphins at close quarters.
Scotland’s east coast is home to almost 200 bottlenose dolphins, and Chanonry Point, a narrow spit of land between Fortrose and Rosemarkie on the Black Isle, is a fantastic location to spot them. The pod comes close to shore, particularly during the summer when salmon are running up the Moray Firth. The largest bottlenose dolphins in the world, they leap from the waves, soaring high into the air, sometimes performing somersaults and side-flops.
Pit stop: Fortrose Cafe, 67 High Street, Fortrose, for soup, sandwiches and home baking.
The bridge over the Linn of Dee, Braemar
What makes it so special? The boiling, angry water; the Caledonian forest; the wilderness … just being there.
Just a few miles upstream from Braemar, the River Dee – still youthful and energetic at this point – arrives at the Linn of Dee, where it is crushed through a gorge barely a metre wide. The effect is terrifying – a maelstrom of white, cliffs worn mirror-smooth by the power of the water, nature in its rawest form.
If you stand on the bridge over the river – right above the narrowest part of the gorge – the view is unforgettable, no matter where you look. Below you is the raging water and that hypnotic sensation of vertigo when you’re somewhere truly scary (what WOULD happen if I fell in?). Downstream is the Linn in its brutal beauty, and all round the real Deeside – ancient Caledonian forest and the colours of nature at their most spendid – a wonderful sight. Then, if you look upstream, you see the wilds of the Highlands. The trees are all but gone, the river takes on a wild personality, and the mountains in the distance are the southern edge of the Cairngorm Plateau. Take the path into the distance and you’re on the famous Lairig Ghru – the route through the mountains to Aviemore.
Stand here for as long as you dare, and feel your senses being truly overloaded.
Pit stops: You’re right on the edge of nothing here, so make sure you pick up a picnic in Braemar (because you will want to linger a while).
Troon to Arran
What makes it so special? There is no sunset like a seaside sunset – and this is a beautiful vista of sea, sky and craggy island.
Just around the corner from the car park at the end of Troon beach there’s a wee path leading up to some benches and grassy areas. It’s a short hop from here down to the rock pools – site of much crab-hunting fun – and of course, the big sweeping, clean sands are to your left, but it is the view that will get you every time. Glorious, heart-filling, big sea and golden sunsets, and the silhouette of Arran’s peaks in the distance. Perfect spot to enjoy some peace at the end of a hard day’s sandcastle-building.
Pit stop: Head to the Wee Hurrie on Houldsworth Street, famous for its hand-cut chips, home-made tartare sauce and fresh fish, and take it back to the bench for dinner with a sea view.
Cille Choirill Church, Roy Bridge, Lochaber
What makes it so special? Tranquility and rich history.
Built in the mid 15th century, the little Roman Catholic church can be found up a short but fairly steep single-track road off the A86, about 2km from the village of Roy Bridge, and is sacred to local people.
After lying roofless for some time, Cille Choirill was repaired around 1933 with financial support from Nova Scotian descendants of Lochaber immigrants and is used only occasionally for masses, burials and, if you are very lucky, a wedding service.
The church was used for scenes in Monarch of the Glen and is kept locked (the key can be collected) and is well worth a visit for a bit of spiritual calm and incredible view of the glen towards Newtonmore.
Relatives of Mother Mary Mackillop (1842-1909), who was made Australia’s first saint in 2010, are buried here, along with my own grandparents in what is surely one of Scotland’s most beautiful final resting places.
Pit stop: Stop by Roy Bridge for a cup of tea at Darwin’s Rest. Charles Darwin’s visit to the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy persuaded him to switch his research from evolution to geology.
Yellowcraig beach, near Dirleton, East Lothian
What’s so special? The sudden view, as you arrive through the woods, of the arch of Fidra islands, sometimes flocked with puffins. Nature’s theatre.
It’s the theatre of arrival that makes Yellowcraig’s view out over Fidra seem like a constant discovery. From the beach car park it doesn’t feel like you’re coming somewhere special, but the vista from the sands, out towards one of East Lothian’s many bird colonies and the pale pillar of the 1885 lighthouse, has been charming visitors for decades. Among them, Robert Louis Stevenson, who used it as inspiration for his Treasure Island.
Pit stop: Soup and sandwiches at the Archerfield walled garden in Dirleton – allow extra time to chill while the kids go round their fabulous fairy trail.
Scott Monument, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
What makes it so special: A fittingly grand and romantic tribute to one of Scotland’s most romantic and grandest authors.
You need to ascend no fewer than 287 steps of this Victorian Gothic tribute to Sir Walter Scott (and tackle a narrow spiral staircase in order to get to the uppermost levels) but it’s worth it in the end. As with so many places on this list, a clear day makes all the difference. As you climb the steps and look out at different viewing platforms across the city, you enjoy commanding views of various parts of the Scottish capital: Princes Street, of course; Waverley Station and the old town; Jenners’ distinctive frontage, opposite the monument; Arthur’s Seat; the Balmoral Hotel; the river Forth, with Fife in the distance; Leith and beyond; the spires of St Mary’s Cathedral. You can also get a bird’s-eye-view of some of the carvings on the monument itself. The views of the Christmas market in the gardens are worth catching during November and December.
Pit stops: No end of cafes and restaurants in the surrounding streets.
Arriving into Ullapool on the Lewis ferry
What makes it so special? Wild Scotland at its very best.
As the ferry glides into Upper Loch Broom the glorious vista of the Wester Ross mountains hone into view before Ullapool in all its glory comes into sight. After crossing the Minch for roughly 90 minutes which can offer anything in the way of conditions, the distant hills offer a sense of safety. Firstly the Summer isles are passed as the ferry heads into the loch and then the glorious peaks of Stac Pollaidh and Suilven offer a dramatic backdrop. As the ferry continues towards Ullapool, distant Munros such as An Teallach loom ever closer at the head of the loch. All of this backdrop comes with the twinkling lights of Ullapool jutting out into the loch as the final stop. Nothing can beat it.
Pit stop: The renowned Ceilidh Place in Ullapool offers quality food and great atmosphere, while the award-winning Seaforth fish and chip is rated one of the best in the UK. The legendary macaroni cheese on the ferry itself always hits the mark.
The beach end at Pittodrie from Merkland Road East, Aberdeen
What makes it so special? The stuff of dreams … and great memories.
Every sports fan will remember the first time they saw the stadium of the team that would go on to take up an unreasonable amount of their time for the rest of their life. As a young boy, the first sight of Pittodrie and its floodlights as we turned right off King Street was exciting as it got. Since then, the view still gets to me and I have seen many glorious victories against some of Europe’s finest teams, while also the despair of pretty bad defeats.
Even today, there is something quite magical in seeing the floodlights, smelling the pies and Bovril and hearing the crowd as you walk towards the old granite entrance to the ground which will be sadly gone in a few years as the club moves to a new home.
Pit stop: For the full matchday experience, the Pittodrie bar on King Street with the old Aberdeen jerseys on the wall.
Kilallan Road, Houston.
What makes it so special? The view will leave you transfixed.
Remember Cagney’s declaration “Look at me, Ma, I’m on top of the world”, as he stands on the oil refinery gas tank? Well, you can capture that sense of glory and defiance (but without the police bullets in the chest) if you head out on your bike from Kilmacolm, up the Houston Road and past the golf club.
Ten minutes later you’ll connect with Kilallan and the flat spot near the woods where you can see right across Renfrewshire. Such is the view your legs won’t move, and not because of bike exhaustion.
Pit stop: When you’ve feasted on the view, free wheel down to Bernie’s Cafe in Bridge of Weir for the much-deserved bacon roll.