WHEN it comes to natural wonders, Scotland has us spoiled.

Narrowing down a list of favourites was no easy task, but we’ve given it a bash, bringing together a mix of well-known spots and lesser-visited gems deserving of more column inches.

If you are heading out to explore this weekend, here’s some mesmerising and memorable locations courtesy of Mother Nature.

Here are 12 natural wonders of Scotland:

Eshaness, Shetland

You can feel the raw power of nature pulsating from what has been described as one of the most high energy coastlines in the world. Battered by the colossal force of the North Atlantic, this corner of Shetland is home to caves, stacks, arches, blowholes and geos (narrow, steep-sided clefts).

The peninsula is formed from the remains of the extinct Eshaness volcano, dating back some 350 to 400 million years. The cliffs you see today cut through the flank of the volcano, revealing layers of lava and pyroclastic rock blasted from its crater.

Visit shetland.org

An Lochan Uaine, Glenmore, near Aviemore

The emerald waters of An Lochan Uaine, aka The Green Lochan, in Glenmore Forest Park are an enchanting sight to behold. According to legend, the distinctive hue came about when pixies washed their clothes here.

The Herald:

Scientific bods will tell you it’s more likely down to the algae generated by decomposing wood that lines the lochan’s floor or a fluke of the light reflecting off the trees around its edges. Pah, spoilsports. I mean, who do you believe? Keep your eyes peeled for pixies on the gentle walk through the ancient Caledonian pines.

Visit forestryandland.gov.scot

Fingal’s Cave, Staffa

This mysterious sea cave on the uninhabited Hebridean island of Staffa looks intricately hand-carved rather than formed by a quirk of cooling lava. The 227ft (69m) cavern has tremendous acoustics.

Fingal’s Cave gained its moniker from the eponymous hero of a poem by the 18th-century Scots poet-historian James Macpherson (also the “translator” of the Ossian literary hoax).

Composer Felix Mendelssohn wrote an overture in its honour, artist J M W Turner has painted it and author Jules Verne mentions it in three novels, including the famed Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Visit staffatours.com

Bow Fiddle Rock, near Portknockie, Moray

There’s no big secret to how this incredible natural formation got its name: it looks uncannily like a bow perched atop the strings of a fiddle. Located just off the coast from Portknockie, the distinctive shape was forged over time as the force of the waves eroded a type of rock called Cullen Quartzite.

The Herald:

It is a place that you can photograph a hundred times and each one captures something slightly different – be it the colour of the sky, the swell of the sea or a hint of brooding atmosphere. Bow Fiddle Rock forms part of the North East 250 route as it traverses the Moray Firth coastline.

Visit northeast250.com and visitscotland.com

Fortingall Yew, Perthshire

The Fortingall Yew, pictured, found growing in the churchyard of the Perthshire village which shares its name, is among the oldest trees in Europe. There is some debate about its age. Modern experts estimate the tree is between 2,000 and 3,000 years old.

The Herald: Fortingall YewFortingall Yew

According to folklore, Pontius Pilate – the Roman governor who oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus – was born in its shade and played there as a child. More recently this legend has been credited as a hoax devised by Sir Donald Currie, a shipping magnate who bought the Glenlyon Estate in 1885.

Visit visitscotland.com

Orkney’s sea stacks

The rugged cliffs and coastline around Orkney boast a raft of spectacular sea stacks with The Old Man of Hoy, a 449ft (137m) high monolith of towering, red sandstone perhaps its most famous. That said, he/it has many handsome siblings, such as The Needle on Hoy’s south-west coast.

The Herald: The Old Man of Hoy. Picture: Cameron McNeish/Scottish Walks MagazineThe Old Man of Hoy. Picture: Cameron McNeish/Scottish Walks Magazine

There’s the striking Yesnaby Castle on the west mainland, and North Gaulton Castle which the eagle-eyed may recognise from a 1994 car advert for Rover. Further up the mainland coast, just north of the Bay of Skaill, there’s the brilliantly named Stack o’ Roo.

Visit orkney.com

Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, Dumfries and Galloway

When did you last see the Milky Way? For those of us residing in urban areas, it’s more likely we are familiar with the sweet treat found in corner shops than the bright band arching across the night sky. Galloway Forest Park is a perfect spot to go stargazing.

The Herald:

Very few people live within its 300 square miles area which means the nights are jet black. A clutch of planets and more than 7,000 twinkling stars are visible with the naked eye. The Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak from August 11 to 13 this year. Top tip: take a sun lounger because it saves on neck craning.

Visit scottishdarkskyobservatory.co.uk and forestryandland.gov.scot

The Cuillin, Skye

Red or black? It’s almost impossible to choose, like being asked to pick a favourite child. The Cuillin is made up of two ranges – the Black Cuillin and the Red Cuillin – separated by Glen Sligachan. They were formed by volcanic and glacial activity, then further sculpted by weathering over the millennia to emerge looking very different indeed.

The Herald:

The jagged outlines of the Black Cuillin are the remains of a magma chamber belonging to a giant volcano and comprised largely of rough gabbro rock, while the rounded humps of the Red Cuillin are made mainly of granite.

Visit visitscotland.com

Corryvreckan Whirlpool, Argyll

A perilous, swirling vortex with a formidable reputation. The Corryvreckan Whirlpool, between Jura and Scarba, is infamous for strong tidal currents and standing waves that make it one of the most dangerous stretches within the British Isles. At times, the mighty roar is so loud that it can be heard 20 miles away. The whirlpool is the third-largest in the world and caused by an unusual underwater topography in the Gulf of Corryvreckan that creates the so-called speckled cauldron. There are boat tours available for those brave enough to venture here.

Visit craignishcruises.co.uk and juraboattours.co.uk

Grey Mare’s Tail, Moffat, Dumfriesshire

Talk about a beautiful image. Even if you have never seen this thundering waterfall in the flesh, you can imagine what it looks like – the swishing grey tail of a mare – as it cascades down 200ft (61m) where the Tail Burn flows from Loch Skeen into the Moffat Water Valley.

The Herald: Grey Mare's Tail. Picture: National Trust for ScotlandGrey Mare's Tail. Picture: National Trust for Scotland

Its majesty was celebrated in verse by Sir Walter Scott who wrote in Marmion about the frothing water as being as “white as the snowy charger’s tail”. There is historical evidence in the nearby area of Iron Age settlers and the Covenanters who sought sanctuary in the 17th century.

Visit nts.org.uk

Bass Rock, East Lothian

Sure, it’s a big lump of rock covered in bird poo, but, in geological and natural history terms, the Bass Rock is a stunner. The steep-sided volcanic plug rises 330ft (100m) out of the Firth of Forth.

It is regarded as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is renowned for its vast gannet colony – some 150,000 at the peak of the breeding season – hailed by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the 12 wildlife wonders of the world”.

The Herald:

The Bass Rock has been a retreat for early Christian hermits, welcomed royal visits and served as a notorious gaol for religious and political prisoners.

Visit seabird.org

The beaches of Sanday, Orkney

Sanday by name, sandy by nature. Seen from the air you would be forgiven for imagining you had flown through a tear in the space-time continuum and were seeing a tropical island in the Caribbean or South Pacific rather than Scotland. Bays and beaches, white sands and turquoise waters abound.

The Herald:

Among the many gems on Sanday is Tresness, a sliver of a peninsula with divine dunes sandwiched between a sheltered tidal bay to the west and the North Sea on the east. There’s also the gorgeous Whitemill Bay, Lopness, Sty Wick, Scuthvie Bay and Sandquoy – the list goes on.

Visit orkney.com