St Andrew’s Day: 6 wonderful sights of Scotland

From the impenetrable pine forests and rugged highland peaks to the fields of gorse mixing yellow, green and brown – Scotland inspires modern tourists just as it did the romantic poets.

But we’d wager there are few who, on seeing a picture of an azure river, a dramatic waterfall or a pristine beach, would immediately think of Scotland. Such things are more tropical, or at least Mediterranean – aren’t they?

Don’t be so sure. We teamed up with Premier Inn to find six Scottish landscapes that look very much like other exotic locations from around the world. See if you can guess which is Scottish – before reading the caption…

1. The Queen’s Way Waterfall, Galloway Forest Park

Top - the Rio Celeste Waterfall, Costa Rica; Bottom - the Queen's Way Waterfall, Scotland (Thinkstock/Alamy/PA)

Top – the Rio Celeste Waterfall, Costa Rica; Bottom – the Queen’s Way Waterfall, Scotland 

The Rio Celeste Waterfall is described in Lonely Planet as ‘one of the hidden mysteries of Costa Rica’. The Queen’s Way Waterfall is about an hour and a half drive from Dumfries.

Ensconced in an under-visited corner of Galloway Forest Park, this ‘hidden mystery of Scotland’ boasts atmospheric, moss-covered rock faces, and a picturesque forest glen with plenty of serviceable picnic spots.

The Scottish countryside may lack the tree frogs, sloths and Capuchin monkeys that frequent the Costa Rican forests, but you don’t have to check your boots for spiders and snakes.

2. The beaches of Iona, the Inner Hebrides

Left - The North coast of Iona, Scotland; Right - Gold Rock Beach, The Bahamas (Alamy/Thinkstock/PA)

Left – The North coast of Iona, Scotland; Right – Gold Rock Beach, The Bahamas

Google ‘the world’s best beaches’ and, regardless of what you click, the same places will crop up time and again. Australia, Florida, Barbados… and the Inner Hebrides.

Beaches rank just below volcanoes on the list of things Scotland isn’t known for, but the island of Iona boasts perhaps the most unexpectedly beautiful coastline in the whole of the British Isles.

The water may be cooler, the air a little brisker, but wrap up warm and this western corner of Scotland looks picture perfect: Miles of undisturbed seawater, genuinely pristine sands, and not a sun umbrella in sight.

3. The Falls of Falloch, Trossachs National Park

Left - Cascades aux Ecrevisses, Guadeloupe; Right - The Falls of Trossachs, Scotland (Thinkstock/Alamy/PA)

Left – Cascades aux Ecrevisses, Guadeloupe; Right – The Falls of Trossachs, Scotland

Two waterfalls surrounded by birdsong and foliage, separated only by 4,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean. The Falls of Falloch are not as rugged and wild as they sound – they have their own car park off the A82 – but are no less dramatic for it. A 10m cascade gives way to a rippling plunge pool, which is quickly contorted into a set of writhing rapids.

The Caribbean summer may be scorching but the Scottish Falls of Falloch are accessible by minicab and have much smaller spiders.

4. An Lochan Uaine, Glenmore Forest Park

Top - An Lochan Uaine, Scotland; Bottom - Casa Cenote, Tulum, Mexico (Alamy/Thinkstock/PA)

Top – An Lochan Uaine, Scotland; Bottom – Casa Cenote, Tulum, Mexico

A jewel of the Cairngorms, legend has it that An Lochan Uaine gets its famous green colouring from pixies washing their clothes in its waters (aka: odd mineral content). Set in the basin of a large valley covered with gorse and heather, and for any hardy souls the water is eminently swimmable.

On sunny days it bears a passing resemblance to the low-hanging foliage and greeny-blue waters of the Casa Cenote in Mexico. You can guess which one gets more visitors.

5. Mealt Falls, the Isle of Skye

Left - Duden Waterfall, Antalya, Turkey; Right - Mealt Falls, Scotland (Thinkstock/Alamy/PA)

Left – Duden Waterfall, Antalya, Turkey; Right – Mealt Falls, Scotland

It’s strange, really, that waterfalls are associated with exotic climates and far off lands, because Scotland is overflowing with them. Mealt Falls gushes 55m down the face of Kilt Rock straight into the Sound of Raasay.

It’s the sheerness of the rock face that sets this water feature apart – the cliff drops away almost at a right angle, leaving the water in free-fall the whole way down. The Duden Waterfall in Turkey is 15m its junior, but has more than twice as many TripAdvisor reviews.

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