Ten Great Scottish Views.
Here are some great Scottish views - and you may not even have to get out of the car to enjoy them!
Ten Great Scottish Views
Scotland does views rather well - because it has great scenic variety in a small area. And, thanks to the ‘cult of the picturesque’ - which we can trace all the way back to the days of the Romantic poets - Scotland’s particular ambience of moody skies, craggy mountains, mossy woods and wild moors still appeals today. Most of the views selected here have another advantage: you can park the car and step outside, take one look and then scrabble around for the camera, or, in season, the anti-midge cream. You don’t even have to walk anywhere. But if you do, the chances are the view will get even better. In short, here are some views you can enjoy instead of climbing all ten of the big hills also listed on a separate page. (The links are at the foot of the page.)
Duncryne Hill, by Gartocharn, Loch Lomond
OK, I broke the ‘get out of the car and take the pic’ rule here, right away. But it’s no more than a few minutes walk, uphill, by a decent enough path to reach the top of this little rocky dome. The hill here actually lies in the Lowlands, but the Highland edge is just a few miles to the north and the result is a grand panorama up Loch Lomond. Totally worth the diversion, say, from Balloch on the main road north up Loch Lomond, the A82. One of my own personal favourites - a classic piece of Scottish scenery. Great cakes and coffee in The House of Darrach in the village of Gartocharn.
The Queen’s View from the B9119, near Tarland, Aberdeenshire
Unlike the in-your-face-gee-whizz Loch Lomond view, this roadside viewpoint is somehow quieter - more thoughtful, in a way. Every time I see it, at any rate, it makes me think of lives gone by in this place where the farms of upper Aberdeenshire start to give way to the bare hills of the Grampians. The area in view is called the Howe (hollow) of Cromar. The rounded hill of Morven is prominent. And it’s all very peaceful, up-country and out of the bustle. Another great favourite.
If you like the sound of it, then organise your Aberdeenshire loop to take in that part of the A97, west of the Queen’s View, where the road from the north passes by the shoulder of Morven (again) and, from well above the wee settlement of Logie Coldstone you look south to Mount Keen. I always stop there as well. Together these two lovely but understated panoramas are missed by all those travellers on the main Deeside road, focussed on their (anticlimactic) experience of Balmoral Castle.
Here's the Queen's View on Google Street View.
Glen Docherty to Loch Maree, near Kinlochewe, Highland
In the old days - I mean, when I had my first car - in Wester Ross a single-track road ran west from Achnashellach along by Loch a’Chroisg and over the watershed and down to the 'remote' magic of the west. Now it’s a fast and easy run curving up to the skyline, with a growing sense of nearing the seaboard and with big hills closing in.
The old road snaked down the pass and there was hardly time to take in the peerless, end-on view of lovely Loch Maree. These days, there is a signed viewpoint carpark, with the main road sweeping down towards Kinlochewe. This is just a classic or iconic north-western view, setting the tone for numerous other road-side views: of the great hill Slioch crouched beyond Loch Maree (if you are heading for Gairloch); or of the Torridon hills, if you turn left for Glen Torridon. Matchless mountains.
Hume Tower, near Greenlaw, Scottish Borders
Oh, all right, a token Scottish Borders outlook. Well worth the detour if you are on, say, the A697, near the sleepy wee town of Greenlaw, in which case you might have been wondering what the strange block-shaped crenelated structure was on the near horizon. It’s a folly: an 18th-century curtain-wall built around the scanty remains of a very early fortress - probably 13th-century. It had been a stronghold of the Hume family and the 3rd Lord Marchmont (who was a Hume) bought the ruins and surrounded them by the mock-castle on top of whose walls you are most welcome to climb up to. If you do, your reward is an outstanding Borders panorama. Why, you might wonder, did that particular Borders toff build such a thing? Perhaps because he could - and certainly because he wished to ornament the horizon. Very odd. But worth a look - if only as a reminder that not all of the best views are further north. Actually, wait a minute, nearly all of them are...
Knock Hill, Crieff, Perthshire
Here’s a place that gives a reward for a fairly steady uphill walk - but it’s only for a few minutes. Park above the Crieff Hydro, incidentally the largest single employer in this tourism-focused town. Walk uphill and you emerge from the trees on to a flattish top with heather patches, a seat on which you can catch your breath (you should do this sort of thing more often, you know) and a view indicator so you can orientate yourself. You find yourself right on the edge of the Highlands, looking over two Scotlands. Lowland below - patchwork of fields and woods, the long reaches of Strathearn where the main lines of communications, the main road and rail links, run off to the cities of Stirling, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Swing around and you can feel the silence of the hills: and those big slopes run wave after wave to the end of Scotland. It’s quite a spot. (Down in the town, we like Delivino in Crieff for great cakes, coffee and pizzas!)
Queen’s View, near Pitlochry, Perthshire
One of at least three views associated with queens in Scotland, this one is probably the most famous. Signposted off the B8019, this is also the most,uhmm, commercially developed viewpoint, in as far as the Forestry Commission have a large carpark and a visitor centre and tearoom on site. A short stroll from all this arrives at a viewing platform with a vista: the shapely peak of the mountain Schiehallion above the long reaches of Loch Tummel that point the way to the romantic West Highlands. (Obviously, I’m thinking here of the song lyric: ‘Sure by Tummel and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber I will go / by heather tracks wi heaven in their wiles.’ Och, you’ll need a coffee and a scone after that.
Upper Deeside, west of Braemar, Aberdeenshire
Unlike the well-known views listed above, this one is a bit over-looked as well as looked over. The location is only a couple of miles west of Braemar on the Inverey road, a cul-de-sac for motorists. (See gallery on this page.) There is a pull-off area, though the best angle is probably a little way east of where you park. The young River Dee flows below and there are hints of high hills to the north and west. The little water called the Quoich comes in at right angles in little channels and rivulets - that’s a good landmark for this view. It’s classic Aberdeenshire. There is no fuss here, no interpretation board - which kinda makes it more attractive! Hungry? Taste in Braemar hits the spot!
It’s also worth continuing westwards from this point for a view of the Linn of Dee, a rocky narrows with a picturesque granite bridge.
Tullochgrue, near Aviemore, Highlands
See gallery on this page.
The outdoor choices of the Aviemore area and the Cairngorm National Park include an extensive path network through the old pinewoods and up on to the bare plateaux beyond. So this viewpoint is actually a starting point for a variety of walks. And, to be honest, I hope it pulls you in and you don’t just park and take a picture! Getting there may involve a bit of map reading. (it’s less than five miles / 8km from Aviemore, though it feels a world away.) Follow Tullochgrue signs. And here's how to get to Tullochgrue from Aviemore on Google Maps. Also, several scenes from Outlander were filmed here too.
Cairn o’ Mount, south of Banchory, Aberdeenshire
This is a viewpoint best approached if southbound. If you have been touring the valley of the River Dee or points north, then this is a way to reach the main A90 southbound without having to go anywhere near Aberdeen - a city absent from any top tens in this book anyway! What is the Cairn o Mount? Well, it’s the cairn - a pile of stones - of The Mounth, which is the old name for the high ground of the Grampian Mountains - really a dissected plateau, but we’ll pass rapidly on.
The whole point about The Mounth is that the hills so described cocooned and protected the lands to the north of them - both in a weather sense, and, historically, from, say, invading armies. There are a whole series of through-ways of course, connecting north and south but most of them are for walkers only - the Cairn o’ Mount road is only one of three motorable roads through The Mounth.
That’s why I’d like you to see this viewpoint southbound. Because it gives a real sense of leaving a land behind and looking down to another Scotland. You can see all the way down to Fife and all the lands of Strathmore in between. As for that cairn - it’s a classic northern ‘skyline’ cairn. The folk of the early second millennium BC who originally built it knew a thing or two about placing materials to create effect (though whether for landmark or monument, who can say?) But as this is such an old route the shape itself has no doubt been greatly altered over the centuries by generations of travellers.
And that’s the final reason for taking you to this view. It’s an old, old place and a fine point to contemplate the folk who went before - and all the reasons they had to climb to these high broad windy spaces. Traders, peddlers, soldiers, shepherds, settlers - you’re just one more in the passing!
From the A896 between Torridon and Shieldaig
If you have made your way west through magnificent Glen Torridon by the charming if frustrating single-track A896 road you may wonder why matters improve highway-wise beyond Torridon. Well, it’s because the road was only built in the 1960s. Before that there was only a track between the two little settlements of Torridon and Shieldaig. And on the way there is a rocky pull-off with one of Scotland’s top mountain views - of the kind of panorama that geologists enjoy and one that is also addictive to photographers.
See gallery on this page. It’s that special western seaboard light - sun-rays through black clouds, golden glows on moorland kind of thing. Irresistible. Try and crop out the clashing colours of the floats on the fish farm nets below though. Nothing is quite perfect. See the gallery on this page, though it's also the page header.
See gallery on this page.
There are views and there are views. And this one probably features in all top Scottish views. Some say it is the finest view in Scotland (or beyond?). from Broadford, take the B8083 to Elgol. Some prefer this view from sea level near the harbour at Elgol, with the rocky shore in the foreground (there is some parking here but it gets crowded.) Others park higher up, where a path along Loch Scavaig gets you even closer. Either way, this view looking into the end of the Cuillin Hills overlooking the loch has an air of wildness and grandeur hard to match anywhere else in Scotland.
Loch Garry, on the road to Skye
This is a bit of a novelty. On the road to Skye, west of the Great Glen on the A87 and climbing towards a watershed, suddenly the view opens out westwards. Look out for the “Glengarry Viewpoint / Parking” sign on the left. You are looking quite a long way west towards, eventually, Knoydart, which is probably the remotest part of mainland Scotland. In the middle distance is Loch Garry. And it resembles Scotland in outline - a fact that must have been reproduced in guidebooks for so long that this large pull-off has evolved at the side of the road and everyone now stops. But it is an essential Highland viewpoint - though the trees are growing tall and you may want to clamber up the bank opposite the pull-off for a clearer panorama.
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