We often focus on what can be seen on the surface of our beautiful Scottish land. We are fascinated by mountains, glens, rivers, lochs, buildings and animals. If you’re fascinated by the hidden world beneath your feet, you should visit the caves of Scotland.
These places attract everyone attention because Scotland is famous for its magnificent architecture, breathtaking landscapes and fantastic wildernesses.
Hardly anyone thinks of caves when they consider Scotland. However, I decided to dive deep into the incredible topic of Scottish caves, and split it into three groups.
The first group presents the natural caves which are considered as the natural wonders of the beautiful Scotland land. The second group are caves which are part of the cave systems located in one area but consists of many different hollows. The last group of caves is those named in honour of someone well-known.
Caves are extraordinary, a wonderful gift from nature. Most of the rocks have cavities, not all of them are large enough for a person to explore or enter their interior.
Most of the Scottish caves are limestone caves, but you will also find sea caves, crevice caves and caves formed from many other types of rocks and grounds. Numerous caves, apart from their great appearance, are also very tempting due to their stories which are told for generations.
Get ready to travel deep into the earth to discover the hidden beauty of Scotland.
The Natural Caves
The magnificent natural rock structure characterises these natural caves. Nature can create a beautiful piece of art, which is left for us to admire. The most common type of natural caves are those formed during volcanic lava coagulation.
This applies to caves formed due to the steady cooling of the flows of lava that form a perfect crusty surface. The first cave on my list and considered to be the most popular one in Scotland is the cave which represents the uniqueness and unpredictability of nature.
Fingal’s Cave is a sea cave located on the uninhabited Staffa Island, which is part of the National Nature Reserve. The walls of this magnificent cave are formed from the hexagonal basalt columns.
This natural masterpiece was created by the rapid cooling of the surface of hot lava which formed a perfect hexagonal pattern. This remarkable cave was considered to be discovered in 1772 by the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks.
I have to mention the brilliant acoustic which is noticeable inside the cave. This phenomenon appeared due to the surface of the cave due to the unique arched vaults.
The interior of the cave creates an unusual atmosphere of a natural cathedral, that is why Fingal’s Cave is also known as The Cave of Melody. Enchanting!
It is possible to see the cave from the boat, but remember that boat cannot enter into the cave, therefore you can also choose to go to Staffa Island and explore the cave on foot, climbing down from column to column.
No matter which option you choose, I am convinced that this cave will delight you because this place is a genuine gift from the mother nature.
Smoo Cave is a fantastic as well as a tremendous combination of the sea and a freshwater cave which is located close to the village of Durness in Sutherland. One of the most impressive elements of this cave is a rear outer chamber which has been created over the centuries by the sea. It is indeed a very picturesque place.
There are also a series of inner cascades and tunnels that were carved by two freshwater streams which flow through the cave. The combination of the forces of sea and fresh water has created something incredibly beautiful that can be seen through the holes in the roof, which perfectly represent the difference in power that form the caverns.
It is also worth mentioning the internal waterfall which sight is truly breathtaking.
Smoo Cave is also the place famous for many mysterious stories which are a treat for those who like to taste a bit of dark and gloomy atmosphere. Many of the stories are about supernatural events and those which tell that this place used to be considered as a hiding place for smugglers.
It is definitely worth your attention and maybe you will find out what is hidden inside this mysterious cave.
Davaar Crucifixion Cave
The cave situated on the island of Davaar is called Crucifixion Cave mainly because it contains a natural size cave painting which portrays the crucifixion of Christ. The cave painting was created in 1887 by the local artist Archibald MacKinnon.
Apparently, he was prompted to paint a crucifixion scene by the vision he had experienced during his dreams. The artwork was initially considered a sign from God, but as soon as the truth came out, that the local art teacher painted it, the inhabitants of the island were outraged by the situation. They banished the painter from the island, but after a few years, they allowed him to come back to restore the painting.
Since then, the painting has been renovated many times and still attracts tourists with its uniqueness.
The access to the cave is demanding, but possible and worth trying. The small island is connected to the mainland by a paved road, that appears only at low tide which is a piece of important information for those who plan to visit this place.
If you’re planning to visit Kintyre make sure to check out our 12 Awesome Things To Do on Kintyre.
Spar Cave is located near Elgol on the Isle of Skye. The interior of this cave is astonishing and resembles a cathedral formed by the age of dripping water through limestone.
A magical place which captivates from the very beginning because part of the journey to the cave’s interior you have to climb through steep, looking like a staircase, stalagmite.
The interior of the cave is filled with beautiful shiny pools and countless stalagmites and stalactites. Therefore, it is worth to equip yourself with a good headlamp to be able to see all the beauties of this fantastic place.
Before visiting this unusual place, note that the cave is only available at low tide. So before going deep into the cave, check the tide time and leave a reasonable amount of time for the return.
If you’re interested in the Isle of Skye check out our 10 Short Walks On Isle Of Skye.
The Court Cave is created from sandstone cliffs and is located on the northeast of East Wemyss. On the outside, the cave is hardly visible because of the trees and greenery surrounding it, however, it hides many fascinating secrets.
The beauty and mysteriousness of the interior of this cave were discovered by archaeologist Professor James Young Simpson in 1865 when he visited the cave and noticed some paintings on its walls, depicting symbols and animals as well as many hollows of unknown origin.
Note that there are parts of this cave which have been fenced off as it may be dangerous to enter.
The Crutherland Cave is located slightly beyond the borders of the Calderglen Country Park, in the East Kilbride area, known as the Crutherland Estate. This cave is nestled high in the rock wall, shaded and small but cosy.
According to many stories, the purpose of this cave was diversified. Criminals and refugees used to hide there. Other stories tell that it was a favourite place for illicit distilling of moonshine whisky in the XVIII century.
The cave located between bushes, hidden from the curious eyes, is not only an ideal place for a secret walk but also a wonderful discovery of a Scottish nature. Who said that just big natural caves are worth visiting? I think that if every place has its own charm and is worth to be explored.
The Smugglers Cave
Many caves were considered to be those in which various smugglers had been hiding for years, so many caves could be called Smugglers Cave, but this one is unique. Located just below the Culzean Castle, which towers above this fascinating cave full of complex labyrinths.
Interestingly and the very intriguing fact is that this cave was discovered very recently by employees of the National Trust for Scotland. There are also soil studies that show that the cave was occupied during the Iron Age.
It is fascinating how much can still be discovered and learned about Scotland. Every day we learn something new and see beautiful things, that’s why it’s worth travelling and exploring the world.
The System of Caves
Scotland, due to its beautiful location, is surrounded by water and thus the power of water acts very firmly on land creating many fantastic caves on the susceptible rocky ground.
The system of caves usually concerns places where you can find many caves scattered over a small area. It doesn’t matter how big the cave is, but how charming nature works with it.
Keil Caves are a place located at the southern end of Kintyre, near the village of Southend. This area is interesting not only because of the striking Keil Caves but also due to the St. Columba’s Footprints.
The excavations carried out in the cave proved that it was a place where people lived since the beginning of prehistoric times even until the eighteenth century.
Another exciting feature about this cave is the fact that Roman ceramics were found inside it, which is a scarcity in Scotland. It is a fantastic combination of impressive nature and human history.
Massacre and Cathedral Caves
These spectacular two caves are located on the southern coast of the Isle of Eigg. A tragedy took place inside this dark cave when in 1577 a group of Macleods from Isle of Skye came to the island of Eigg in search of revenge.
Afraid for their lives, all the people of the island of Eigg hid in the cave until Macleods found out where the island’s inhabitants were, and a massive fire and smoke killed 395 people imprisoned in the cave.
However, in spite of the drastic past of this cave, it is a part of Scottish history and it is worth to get to know it. I think that the unusual history only adds magic to the place and at the same time gives the opportunity to experience something more.
This cave is a part of Scotland’s largest cave system as well as a favoured destination for experienced cave explorers. Traligill Caves consist of three main entrances from which the one called the Uanh an Uisge is a very dangerous one.
I need to mention that these caves are located in Inchnadamph, a magnificent area of Sutherland.
This is a place for people who are passionate about discovering caves and not only by stop by but also by taking their equipment and go as far as possible into the depths of the cave to immerse themselves and to unite with nature. Caving is a very demanding sport, so you should remember to be particularly careful and respect the surrounding wildlife.
Aberdour is a lovely village on the south coast of Fife, which consists of many caves of various sizes and possibilities to discover them. All of those caves are the ones made of sandstone.
It is an ideal place for enthusiasts of rocky beaches, and also popular for its many rocky sea caves and fascinating sea life.
If you wish to set off on a journey through the ancient sea caves where you can find the most picturesque rock sculptures in Great Britain, I invite you cordially to a group of caves located in East Wemyss.
The network of Wemyss Caves includes caves such as The Court Cave, The Doo Cave, The Fren Cave, The Well Cave, The Jonathan’s Cave and The Sloping Cave. Each of them delights with its prehistoric nature, and the view of the wall sculptures adds even more magic to it.
It is believed that people have been visiting these caves for thousands of years, some of which date back to 4,000 years ago, which means from the Bronze Age. It is worth visiting these magnificent caves and experience a fantastic insight into the unique culture that once flourished in eastern and northern Scotland.
The Caves Named After Some Well-know People
Many of the caves have been named after people whose fate has been linked to the history of the particular cave. It is a fascinating journey into the world of legends, stories and history. In this part I will focus on such unusual places that live their own lives, continually recalling the stories of people who inhabited them in the past.
The story of this cave is unusual; apparently, Robert the Bruce had a famed encounter with a spider in it. For those who are not familiar with the legend, I will try to introduce it briefly.
According to the legend, after the Battle of Methven in 1305, Bruce hid in a cave, and during his stay inside the cave, he observed a spider spinning a web. Inspired by the unbreakable action of the spider, Robert the Bruce returned to fight with the English; thus he gained many followers and final the victory.
Oh, and to not leave any doubt about the location of this fantastic cave, it is located on the island of Arran in the Firth of Clyde bay, off the west coast of Scotland.
Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Cave
There are many caves that claim to be used as a shelter by Bonnie Prince Charlie following the Jacobite defeat at Culloden. One of them is located near
This supposedly is the cave where he spent the night before returning to France from Loch Nan Uamh on September 19th 1746.
I have no idea why these caves are usually connected with hiding, but probably staying in such a place at night had to be an extreme experience and sometimes the only way to escape from enemies.
St. Ninian’s Cave
This cave is considered to be the natural one and is located on the south-west shore of the Machars of Galloway. The story behind this cave is presented in the selection of the crosses which were found in the cave, and some of them are carved in the cave walls until today.
Since the earliest crosses found in the St. Ninian’s Cave date back to the 6th and 7th centuries, they suggest that early Christian hermits used the cave, probably associated with the St.Ninian Monastery in Whithorn.
The cave is quite small because it is only about 7 meters deep and 3 meters high, moreover, it is believed that it may have been larger in the past but has been partially blocked due to the subsidence of rocks.
There is no evidence that the cave was associated with the St. Ninian and that the saint has ever visited the cave.
However, from the early Middle Ages, St.Ninian’s Cave was a popular pilgrimage destination and has remained so to this day, as it is still visited by many pilgrims who leave flowers or small gifts as well as brings beach stones marked with crosses.
MacKinnon’s Cave is considered of being the deepest sea cave in the Hebrides on the Isle of Mull. Carved from rocks, mainly psammites, it is situated on the edge of some of the most diversified coastal landscapes of the island of Mull.
It is a place of beauty, clean cliffs, rocky shores and dramatic scenery with caves, arches and coastline.
In this cave, as in most of the Scottish caves, it should be noted that the outflow of water is necessary to enter the cave. This area is characterised by the magnificent high cliffs, waterfalls and continuous sound of waves.
Wallace’s Cave is located in Roslin Glen which is in Midlothian, and this cave is also known as Hawthornden Castle Cave because it is situated near the Hawthornden Castle.
The name of the cave comes from the Scottish national hero William Wallace, who took part in the Battle of Rosslyn on 24 February 1303 near the cave. The cave itself is located in a breathtaking scenery surrounded by magnificent flora.
Rob Roy’s Cave
What could be more beautiful than Scottish nature combined with a splendid lochside? Rob Roys Cave is located on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, half a mile northwest of Inversnaid.
The cave has a narrow entrance and, according to legend, it was named after Rob Roy MacGregor, who supposedly used it as a shelter during his cattle rustling years.
Despite the dramatic situation, I think that he could gaze at the beautiful scenery that surrounds this cave.
Sawney Bean’s Cave
The Sawney Bean Cave, also known as the Bennane Cave, is not very accessible. The cave is located in an isolated area near a former mining town on the Galloway coast in Ayrshire.
Stretched almost 200 metres deep into the rock, and the entrance is completely flooded during the tide.
The cannibal killers’ clan would leave the cave at night and look for victims to eat them. Inhabitants of nearby towns and cities were reportedly found body parts that were thrown away at the shore from time to time.
The story itself curdle one’s blood, so it’s probably worth going on a journey and discover these mysterious areas of Scotland by yourself.
Being inside the caves is something remarkable. Sounds are changing extremely smoothly here, lack of light stimulates the senses and your imagination runs wild. Stories of heroes, smugglers and refugees and villains unintentionally enter our minds, making us extremely curious about nature which surrounds us.
How long ago they were created? What events have these stone walls witnessed? How long can we stay here before the cave fills up with water and takes all the stories back to the sea? Discovering nature and its extraordinary gifts are miraculous.
Let us respect what’s left to us and travel because by facing mother nature, we find out how small we are compared to the ubiquitous nature.
Let me know if you have visited any of the caves that I have listed.
Or maybe you know other caves that I have not included in this post, but which are worth discovering.