10 Most Beautiful National Parks and Reserves in Scotland

by Alexander Harris

The vast Scottish Highlands are wonderfully wild and free, making them an ideal destination for any outdoor enthusiast. There are foreboding mountains dotting the hills and valleys, deep lochs hidden among the heather, and, hidden among all this barren nature, the bustling metropolises of Edinburgh and Glasgow, which are themselves full of undiscovered treasures.

Beautiful scenery can be found all around Scotland, and tourists can choose from a wide variety of activities to learn about the region’s many ecosystems.

Here are the ten best national parks and nature reserves in Scotland to get you started on your journey. You won’t be sorry if you leave the established road and plunge into Scotland’s uncharted wilderness.

10. Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve

Snowy Cairnsmore of Fleet with Big Water of Fleet Railway Viaduct in Scotland

Cairnsmore of Fleet and the Big Water of Fleet Railway Viaduct in the Galloway Forest Park, Scotland. Image source: SnapTPhotography/Shutterstock.com

Hikers seeking to lose themselves in the solitude and solitary beauty of the region will find the vast, spreading moorlands that make up the bulk of Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve to be the ideal destination. Cairnsmore of Fleet is a massive granite outcrop that provides stunning vistas of the surrounding nature reserve from its summit.

The stunning views from the top, including those of Snowdonia and the Lake District, make it one of the most popular hikes in the area. The jagged peaks and cliff faces inside the reserve’s limits are also frequented by rock climbers.

Visitors should keep their eyes peeled for the many beautiful birds that make this region their home, and they should also look for the sculptures created by local artists that have been cleverly concealed amid the landscape and blend in well.

9. Beinn Eighe and Loch Maree Islands

Aerial View of Loch Maree and Slioch in the North West Highlands of Scotland

the natural beauty of Loch Maree and Slioch in the North West Highlands of Scotland. Image source: andy morehouse/Shutterstock.com

This gorgeous natural reserve is home to a plethora of spectacular vistas, each one more breathtaking than the last. It’s easy to understand why this region was the first to be designated as a national nature reserve in the United Kingdom; the vistas on offer are spectacular.

Beautiful to see, the jagged mountains rip over the rough landscape, and their peaks, pinnacles, and plateaus gradually give way to wandering slopes covered with pine forests. Lochs, like Loch Maree, dot this wild and lovely area, with its expansive views being especially breathtaking. Its waters are home to almost sixty islands, each with breathtaking vistas.

8. Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve

Dundaff Linn Waterfall on Clyde in Scotland

This picturesque waterfall, known as Dundaff Linn, is located on the River Clyde in Scotland. Image source: Tamara Kulikova/Shutterstock.com

Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve is a beautiful park consisting of attractive trees and winding roads surrounded by an abundance of forested areas. Six distinct locations spread out around Clyde Valley provide tourists with a wide variety of stunning sights to see.

The tranquil swinging of the bluebells in the breeze is a striking contrast to the raging waters of the Falls of Clyde, which cover a far larger area of the forest floor. In addition to being aesthetically enhanced by the gorgeous forests that line the riverbanks on each side, the latter are also a dominant feature of their surroundings owing to the climax of their roaring sound.

The crumbling remains of Corra Castle, located next to the falls, are also a must-see.

7. Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve

Stac Pollaidh Mountain in Scottish Highlands

The stunning Stac Pollaidh mountain in the Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve, Scottish Highlands. Image source: LouieLea/Shutterstock.com

This remote national nature reserve near the very top of Scotland is named for the breathtaking cliffs that serve as its focal point. Incredible views of the surrounding hills and ocean can be seen from atop the cliffs, making the trip up there well worth the effort.

Trails and paths crisscross the region, allowing visitors to take in the area’s breathtaking scenery, while rock art can be found tucked away amid the area’s unique geological formations. The most notable of them is the aptly named “The Globe,” a spherical rock perched precariously atop a hill with yet another picture-perfect panorama as its backdrop.

6. Glen Roy National Nature Reserve

Roy Bridge Glen in the Scottish Highlands

The breathtaking Roy Bridge Glen in the Scottish Highlands National Nature Reserve. Image source: Fabian Junge/Shutterstock.com

Glen Roy National Nature Reserve is situated in the Scottish Highlands and is most famous for its spectacular “Parallel Roads,” which are a series of seemingly endless hills and valleys.

These amazing geological formations, which at first glance could be mistaken for the work of human hands because of their design, were really carved out of the landscape during the last ice age by the thinning ice of a long-forgotten loch.

Even if you aren’t interested in seeing the Parallel Roads, the reserve’s natural beauty is reason enough to stop by. The glen is covered with oak trees and wildflowers, and red deer are sometimes seen roaming the surrounding nature preserve.

5. Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve

Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve in Scotland

the stunning scenery of the Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve in Scotland. Image source: Standa Riha/Shutterstock.com

Travelers will be awed by the breathtaking beauty of Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve, despite the area’s reputation for being a bleak wilderness. The reserve is named after a mountain massif that is stunning to see, and from the top, visitors can enjoy amazing views of the loch and the rolling hillsides of the valleys below.

Amazing views can be seen from atop Coire Ardair’s jagged cliffs, and daring climbers will enjoy the challenge of ascending the rugged cliff face. Creag Meagaidh is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its proximity to Loch Laggan at the base of the reserve.

Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve is a refuge for several bird species that make the region their home, and the varied fauna and flora that line the pathways only contribute to the area’s inherent beauty.

4. St Kilda National Nature Reserve

Dry Stone Walls on Abandoned Island of Hirta in Scotland

the dry stone walled growing areas on the abandoned island of Hirta in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Image source: Martin Payne/Shutterstock.com

Because of its isolated location in the breathtaking Outer Hebrides, St. Kilda National Nature Reserve has been able to maintain its pristine natural state. The lush knolls that rise out of the sea and frame the islands in a dramatic fashion are a sight to see anywhere in this archipelago of islands set against a backdrop of deep blue sea.

Visitors to the reserve are hardly disappointed by the breathtaking scenery, and the towering rock faces that flank the islands never fail to astonish. In the unspoiled nature of St. Kilda, you can feel completely at one with the world as you watch the seagulls whirl in the sky and listen to the crashing of the waves below.

There are several prehistoric structures and ancient ruins scattered around the islands, and their beauty is enhanced by their relative isolation. The hills and islands are covered with verdant green grass, which provides a stunning contrast to the gray of the ancient granite structures.

3. Glen Affric National Nature Reserve

Glen Affric in Scotland

the breathtaking landscape of Glen Affric in Scotland. Image source: Susann Guenther/Shutterstock.com

Glen Affric National Nature Reserve is home to some of Scotland’s most breathtaking landscapes, including rushing rivers, towering mountains, and lush forests.

The glen is home to a variety of beautiful paths that wind through the forests and up into the depths of the mountains that surround it, all while following the course of the River Affric, which winds its way through the valley. The reserve is surrounded by beautiful mountains, and its lush forest interior is a sight to see.

The wide Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin, which is bordered by the lovely pine forests that are typical of the region, is not the only spectacular body of water in the vicinity. All of Scotland’s spectacular flora and fauna are collected in one single preserve.

2. Cairngorms National Park

View of Lochnagar in Cairngorms National Park

the stunning view of Lochnagar in Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. Image source: A. Karnholz/Shutterstock.com

The Cairngorms National Park is Scotland’s biggest protected area and is home to the namesake mountain range. The mountains are stunning, and the trails and routes that wind through the many peaks and plateaus are a pleasure to explore thanks to the breathtaking scenery on each side.

Despite the existence of many human towns within its borders, the Cairngorms have a wild and untamed atmosphere. This belies the fact that the area’s natural ecosystems are meticulously maintained to ensure that future generations can experience the same feeling of peace as we do now. The Cairngorms National Park is a fantastic destination for any outdoor enthusiast, whether you’re looking for a place to ski, hike, observe birds, or ride a mountain bike.

1. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Reflections of Trees and Clouds on Loch Lomond in Scotland

the reflections of trees and clouds on the tranquil waters of Loch Lomond in Scotland. Image source: Circumnavigation/Shutterstock.com

You may think of Scotland, and this national park will immediately come to mind. Lake Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is a picture-perfect representation of the stunning natural beauty of Scotland, with its gleaming loch waters and rugged mountain peaks on each side.

The wilderness inside the park is magnificent, and visitors will have a hard time tearing themselves away from its breathtaking beauty. This national park is a magnificent experience waiting to be found, whether you’re drawn to it by the placid waters of Loch Lomond or the Trossachs’ forest-filled regions and their tree-lined roads.

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