Cities in Scotland like Edinburgh or Glasgow offer myriad urban charms to travellers. But if you want to really get to the heart of the country, you need to get into the wild. Making up 69 percent of the UK coastline and boasting more than 800 islands, Scotland is home to some of the last great wildernesses in Europe. From the Highlands to the Outer Hebrides, here are 8 of our favourite remote and isolated places in Scotland. You might also want to discover the most beautiful places in Scotland, as voted by Rough Guides readers.
The Knoydart peninsula in the Scottish Highlands is worth a trip simply for the pleasure of sipping a pint in the UK mainland’s most remote pub, The Old Forge. They’ve got rooms too, which make an ideal base for exploring the craggy coastline or setting off for Ladair Bheinn. At 1020m, Ladair Bheinn is one of Scotland’s 282 Munros (mountains over 3000ft). On a hike to the summit, you will likely have only golden eagles and red deer for company.
Getting there: travel from Mallaig on the passenger-only ferry or walk 16km from Kinloch Hourn.
There are not many villages worth blowing a gasket on your car for, but Applecross is one of them. Tackling the famous and notorious Bealach Na Ba (Pass of the Cattle) has seen the comeuppance of many a vehicle.
The reward is a trim necklace of whitewashed houses and a legendary hideaway, the Applecross Inn. Enjoy enormous local langoustines before sinking into bed with a view of the Cuillin mountains across the sea on the Isle of Skye.
Getting there: drive the UK’s highest road on the mountain pass from Loch Carron to Applecross.
This glorious outpost lies in the northern reaches of the Orkney Islands. It offers a community-run shop, starched white-sand beaches, hikes and the remarkable prehistoric site of the Knap of Howar.
Getting there: this is half the fun. Enjoy the world’s shortest flight from Westray to Papa Westray with Loganair. In distance it is less than the main runway at Heathrow. It has been done in around 40 seconds.
The UK’s most northerly inhabited island is a Shetland Islands star. Handily, as well as superb beaches and sturdy Muness Castle, the islanders also enjoy their own Valhalla Brewery and a whisky distillery which is most renowned for producing Shetland Reel Gin.
You can hike out to gaze out over tiny Muckle Flugga, the most northerly point in the British Isles.
Getting there: even after getting to the Shetland mainland you will still need two more ferries to get here.
The UK’s most remote inhabited island is truly mind-blowing. Fewer than 40 people live in this wild Atlantic outpost, cast adrift 20 miles west of Shetland’s mainland.
Hike the hills and you’ll only have seabirds for company. There is only one shop here – it is run by the island's only school kid, Jack, for half an hour ever day after lessons.
Getting there: brave the tumultuous trip on the local ferry (which is hauled ashore after every journey to stop it being dashed on the rocks). Alternatively, enjoy the seriously scenic flight from Shetland.
North Rona is the most remote island the British Isles to have ever been permanently inhabited – it lies a whopping 71km off the coast of Lewis. Landing by boat is tricky, even the lighthouse is serviced by helicopter. But as a reward the rugged rocky coastline gives way to a grassy and wildflower-strewn meadow.
The local seabirds may not welcome your arrival, so take a protective umbrella. If you make it past them to the lighthouse you can relax with a view that it's likely no other human being has enjoyed for months.
Getting there: if you don’t have your own helicopter, Northern Light run live-aboard cruises that take in North Rona.
It is the misty-eyed lifetime dream of many Scottish sailors to make it out to St Kilda, the epic archipelago that lies over 64km west of the Outer Hebrides.
The archipelago enjoys a dual listing on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, once for its human heritage (its last inhabitants left their organic, community-led and money-free life in 1930) and again for its natural importance.
You risk being knocked off your feet by great skuas while hiking in the hills, can watch thousands of gannets and puffins swirl around the UK’s highest cliffs and see minke and even killer whales in the Atlantic waters.
Getting there: go to St Kilda run fast RIBs from Skye, while Hebrides Cruises have live-aboard expeditions that offer more than one day ashore.
Known as the "other St Kilda", the Shiant Isles is less remote, as it lies in the Minch strait between Skye and the Outer Hebrides. But the islands also enjoy a colourful history.
Today only ghosts and seabirds survive amongst the vaulting cliffs and mysterious sea caves. You can also take in majestic views of the Inner and Outer Hebrides as you hum Mendelssohn’s Hebridean Symphony.
Getting there: the most comfortable way is on Majestic Line’s new Glen Etive. There are day-trips from the mainland too.
Inspired? Travel into the wild, and remember, you should always camp responsibly and sustainably. Find out all you need to know with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Explore more of Scotland with the Rough Guide to Scotland. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.
Top image: The Cuillin mountains in the South of the Isle of Skye seen across the stretch of water known as the Inner Sound. © Derek Beattie Images/Shutterstock