In these challenging and uncertain times, we all may need to find a way to restore inner peace, remember to take a breath and remove ourselves from reality for a brief period of time.
Many will find different ways to relax and relieve stress — escaping into a weathered copy of an old favourite book, exploring a new running route and listening to music are just a few popular ways that people are able to get some headspace and immerse themselves in something they love.
But don’t overlook the power of nature. If you are lucky enough to be in close proximity to a peaceful woodland, tranquil expanse of water or rolling green hills, you probably already have an appreciation for the comforting and life-affirming qualities of the natural world.
Studies have shown that naturalistic sounds promote relaxation and improve mental wellbeing, and arguably there has never been a more important time to take a minute to simply listen, breathe and focus on our own mental health than in the current climate.
Even just opening a window to reconnect with nature and allow our minds to focus in on the dawn chirp of the birds, or take in the wind whispering its way through springtime trees can help ourselves re-centre, reduce anxiety, and simply help us to remember that despite whatever else is going on in the world, nature continues to tick along and remains ready and waiting for us to enjoy and admire.
This is where the Hidden Scotland Instagram account can help. Through our immersive content, your mind and senses can leave the cosiness of your sofa, while your body remains comfortably reclined, as you are transported to some of Scotland’s most beautiful, stunning and peaceful locations through calming, restorative sounds.
Permit yourself to be whisked away and breathe in the salty sea air at Dunnottar Castle, be soothed by the sounds of nothing but nature at Loch An Eilean and be mesmerised by the cascading water at Wailing Widow Falls.
We’ve put together some of our favourite locations and sounds for you to enjoy. So, grab yourself a cuppa, put your feet up and take yourself away to unwind in one of the spectacular destinations below.
Loch An Eilean, Cairngorms
The perfect place to start. You’ll be hard-pushed to find somewhere more serene in the whole of Scotland. Loch An Eilean, towards the east of Cairngorms National Park, is a beautifully tranquil expanse of water, safely wrapped in the big, strong arms of the Rothiemurchus Forest. Close your eyes and let the gentle sounds of the Loch’s water lap up and tickle your toes.
Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire
Dunnottar Castle, perched atop a dramatic landscape, provides the perfect place to escape and take in the wonders of both natural and man-made majesty. The clifftop ruins, overlooking the rolling waves of the North Sea, wouldn’t look out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster and in fact, some scenes in the 1990 film Hamlet, which starred Mel Gibson and Glenn Close, were shot there. For our purposes of relaxation, the setting is simply breath-taking, and the crashing waves are somehow so other-worldly, they are intimidating yet calming at the same time.
Balmoral Castle & Estate, Aberdeenshire
As the Queen’s chosen summer retreat, there must be something pretty special about Balmoral Castle and we can confirm it is the perfect place to discover the four seasons in all their natural beauty. With sweeping landscapes taking in magical woodlands, Prince Albert’s Cairn, Prince Arthur’s Cairn, Princess Alice’s Cairn and more besides, it’s a wonderful place to explore all nature has to offer, 12 months a year, in peace and tranquillity.
Victoria Street, Edinburgh
Believed to form part of JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books, Victoria Street in Edinburgh’s old town is swathed in charm and character. On a typical day, the street is abuzz with tourists bustling up and down it’s cobbled path. The footsteps and awe-struck chatter provides a calming presence, allowing you to be swept up in the hustle and bustle.
Loch Muick, Aberdeenshire
Nestled in the south east of Cairngorms National Park, Loch Muick offers a rustic retreat for mind, body and soul. Hidden in the shadows of Lochnagar, it provides a dreamy spot for gazing across the still waters or watching the sun set over the mountain’s peak, often with just the gentle hum of local wildlife for company.
Wailing Widow Falls, Sutherland
These dramatic falls provide a contemplative spot as visitors are mesmerised by the cascading water, plunging down the Wailing Widow’s 15m drop. Legend has it that the name derives from the story of a woman whose husband — a hunter — slipped and fell into the Falls when chasing a deer during a thunderstorm. So devastated was she at his death, the widow threw herself into the Falls as well, and her anguished cries are believed to still echo off the cliff faces on stormy nights. With several distinctive layers, the falls are absolutely stunning when the sunlight hits and provide a treat for the eyes as well as the ears.
Dean Village, Edinburgh
A quiet oasis located just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh’s centre, Dean Village is the perfect tranquil escape. It’s historic water mills, higgledy-piggledy lanes, and relaxing stream make this an idyllic haven. Relax your shoulders, close your eyes and take in its charm and urban exquisiteness as you catch a breath from the daily hustle and bustle.
Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire
Our final retreat is a truly fairytale setting. Let your mind escape to Craigievar Castle and you won’t be disappointed. Serene yet stunning in equal measure, you could be forgiven for expecting a knight to appear on a white horse to whisk away a damsel in distress. The National Trust site is surrounded by luscious green landscapes and if you’re able to draw your mind away from your fairy story, the tranquillity of the location should be enough to clear your mind of all else.