With inspiring glens, glistening lochs and wind-battered coastlines, caves usually don’t take centre stage when it comes to Scotland’s natural beauty but there are many incredible ones with rich heritage regardless.
If you’re a nature enthusiast - or intereted in Scottish mythology - you’ll enjoy Scotland’s many diverse and breathtaking caves that are scattered from the lowlands to the highest peaks of the Scottish Highlands.
So, let’s crack into these seventeen Scottish caves, caverns and coves and explore their rich heritage while doing so. Disclaimer: Not every site on this list is accessible, check local authority websites for more details if you’re interested.
1. Fingal’s Cave, Staffa
You can find Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa located south-west off the Isle of Ulva. The uninhabited island is only half a mile in length and is composed exclusively of hexagonally jointed basalt columns (like the ones at the Giant’s Causeway on Ireland’s north coast.) “Fingal” is said to be an anglicisation of Finn MacCumhaill who was an Irish General who commanded the Feinne, a group who fended off the Norsemen and other such invaders. The site is also famed for its colourful folklore about giants that see Scottish and Irish mythology overlap. Photo: graeme_pow on Flickr
2. Smoo Cave, Durness
This natural sea cave is situated one mile to the East of Durness village which lies in Sutherland in the Highlands. It is thought the name “smoo” comes from the Norse word “smjugg” which refers to a hole or hiding place. In Scottish mythology, the devil himself was said to hide in the cave before one fateful encounter with the Wizard of Reay (Donald Mackay) who outfoxed him. According to Smoo Cave tours the site “is fully accessible 365 days a year public access with a walkway into the waterfall chamber, free of charge.” Photo: via WikiCommons
3. Aberdour Caves, Aberdeenshire
Aberdour Beach in Fraserburgh boasts several sea caves with ocean views, with one cave at the end of the beach acting as the main attraction. Saint Drostan is said to have arrived at New Aberdour in 580AD. He followed Saint Columba who trained him as a monk. We only know about Saint Drostan as he appears in two ancient manuscripts; the Book of Deer which dates back to the 900s and the Breviarium Aberdonense (Aberdeen Breviary) which was produced by Bishop William Elphinstone in Aberdeen in 1510. Photo: via WikiCommons
4. Bone Caves, Inchnadamph
These natural caves are embedded into a high limestone cliff located four kilometres away from the Inchnadamph hamlet in Sutherland. The name ‘Inchnadamph’ is an anglicisation of the Scottish Gaelic ‘Innis nan Damh’ which translates to ‘meadow of the stags’. The caves’ contents reflect the rich diversity of animals which once existed in Scotland. According to Hidden Scotland “their insides are rich with relics and fossils from millennia past, including polar bears, reindeer, arctic fox and Eurasian Lynx.” Photo: via WikiCommons