Residents and visitors have voted on their top ten hidden gems in Angus. These are the hidden places and lesser-known destinations that most visitors (and even some locals) don’t know about.
There is an abundance of secret experiences to enjoy here, from secluded beaches and spectacular cliff walks to ancient forts and intriguing museums.
So, in no particular order, here are just some of the most unexpected and enjoyable hidden gems in Angus, as voted for by the people who live here and those who love to visit.
Auchmithie is a small village on the coast of Angus around three miles northeast of Arbroath. The village stands high above 120ft cliffs. Below, you’ll find an attractive pebble beach, an old harbour, and some fascinating rock formations. An interesting fact about this special hidden gem is that the origins of the Arbroath Smokie began here many years ago.
This is a spectacular section of coastline offering memorable walks along a challenging but rewarding coastal path. The path takes you from Auchmithie along the red sandstone cliffs to Arbroath. At the halfway point you descend to a sandy beach in Carlingheugh Bay where you’ll discover fascinating rock formations and caves.
Among the pebbles on the beach, you’ll find some Jasper; a silica-rich stone containing iron. They are predominantly dark red, with rarer examples green or yellow. On warmer days, you can enjoy a bracing swim in the clear, calm waters.
2. Castle Hill, Forfar
A Pictish fort with great views, Castle Hill is a hidden gem, especially if you enjoy Scottish history.
The entrance is on Canmore Street, off Castle Street. The gate is kept locked, but you can request a key from Mr Ali’s newsagent or the Chapter and Verse restaurant on Castle Street. There is nothing more exciting than collecting the key and letting yourself in to explore a true local hidden gem.
Reach the top of the quaint old cobbled lane, and you’ll be standing where King Malcolm Canmore built Forfar Castle in the 11th century. This location was once surrounded by water, as the Loch came right into the town at that time.
Castle Hill is also home to Forfar’s Market Cross. Built in 1684 as a replacement of a medieval cross, it was transferred to its present site on Castle Hill in 1799, because it was causing traffic congestion on the High Street.
3. Craigmill Den, Carnoustie
Situated just outside Carnoustie, Craigmill Den offers a quiet woodland walk with plenty for nature lovers to enjoy.
This area is a haven for wildlife and home to many species of birds, including Dippers, Grey Wagtails, Linnets, Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammers as well as more common garden birds such as Blackbird, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Dunnock and Wren. In fact, more than 70 species of bird have been recorded in Craigmill Den.
On your walk through the den, you will pass the remains of a weir and then follow the Mill Lade, a channel that carried the swift current of water used to drive the mill wheel that was once part of Panbride Bleachfield.
We recommend your walk here is included as part of a longer route from Carnoustie or East Haven as parking is limited and the route through the den is relatively short.
When walking dogs in this area, please keep them on a short lead from 1 April to 31 July to protect the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds.
4. Friockheim Woods and Village
Friockheim is a small village outside Arbroath that dates back to 1814. The name Friockheim translates as ‘Heather Home’, with Friock being a derivative from the Gaelic ‘fraoch’ (heather) and ‘heim’ from the German for home. A flax spinning mill was built and it attracted textile workers to come and settle here.
You can choose from two woods on your walk from the village. Enjoy the new forest planted in the mid-1990s where you’ll find red squirrels and deer. Or you can continue along the farm track from Gordon Place and walk through the short wood which will lead you onto a tarred road. Go right and follow the route to Lesmill or turn left and head toward Friockheim Play Park.
If you’re looking for something to do on a cold or rainy day, The Hub at Friockheim offers lots of indoor activities including a cafe, gym, sensory room and much more.
And you can take a break from all that activity with something to eat and drink at The Star Inn or The Railway pub.
5. Kirriemuir Den
Kirriemuir Den is a quiet, leafy place close to the centre of the town. It was opened in 1867 and extended later in the 19th century. It is situated in a small valley with the Gairie Burn running through it and includes many pleasant walks, a bandstand, children’s play area and toilet facilities.
The main gate is located in Tannage Brae where there is a public car park opposite. Several footpaths will lead you to ‘The Den’ (as it’s known locally) from the town as well.
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the waterfall at the northwest end of The Den. It can be quite spectacular when the burn is in spate. The waterfall is best viewed from the High Bridge near Lochmill.
Another feature worth seeing while you’re here is the ‘Cuttle Well’, a natural spring recently restored by local volunteers, the Kirriemuir Regeneration Group. It sits near to the High Bridge close to the waterfall.
Kirriemuir Den is an excellent spot for a family picnic, games, walking, and cycling.
6. Pictish Stones at Aberlemno
The Aberlemno Pictish Stones feature some of the finest surviving Pictish carvings in Scotland. The four stones, dating between about AD500 and 800, can be found in the little village of Aberlemno on the old Brechin Road.
You’ll find three of these ancient stones standing on the roadside, each displaying a range of characteristic Pictish symbols. The other stone stands in the village churchyard – an upright cross-slab made of red sandstone, standing over two metres tall. This is one of the few Pictish Stones that depict a battle scene. It has been interpreted as representing the Battle of Dunnichen in 685AD.
Please note that all four stones are covered with wooden boxes from 1 October to 1 April each year to protect them from wintery conditions.
Be sure also to visit The Pictish Room, located at the rear of the Aberlemno Village Hall. Here you’ll discover a wonderful collection of Pictish replica stones, carvings and interpretation boards that celebrate our Pictish heritage. You can check the opening times online.
7. Queen’s Well, Glen Esk
Queen’s Well is an unusual crown-shaped monument that was built over a natural spring in 1861 in honour of Queen Victoria.
Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert purchased Balmoral Castle and delighted in travelling the mountain routes that surround the castle. In 1861, they rode the 15 miles (24 km) from Balmoral to Glen Mark and met with Lord Dalhousie beside an artesian well.
Here they were refreshed by the spring water before continuing to Invermark Lodge where they stayed overnight. To commemorate the visit, Lord Dalhousie erected a monument in the shape of a royal crown over the well.
You can walk to the well using one of the many memorable hiking routes set in stunning natural beauty around Glen Esk. The main trail offers a fairly easy walk when the weather is good and eventually leads to the wilder but equally beautiful Glen Mark.
8. St Vigeans Museum
St Vigeans was an important Pictish religious centre, judging by the number and quality of the Pictish Christian carvings found here. Visit the museum to see for yourself the outstanding collection of 38 Pictish stones found in this small Angus village.
The carved stones were dotted in and around the village church, which sits on a natural mound where a Pictish church or monastery may have once stood. Some stones were even incorporated into the walls of the late medieval church – and a few even remain in place.
The most famous item in the collection is the Drosten Stone, a cross-slab with an ornate cross and fantastic beasts, as well as a rare Latin and Pictish inscription, dating from before 843AD.
You’ll see some unusual and macabre features on the stones, including the carving of a man taking blood from a bull. And one of the carved grave-covers shows a man consumed by beasts, perhaps warning of Hell.
9. Tayside Police Museum
The Tayside Police Museum is a small volunteer-run museum located in the existing police station on Reform Street, Kirriemuir. It’s one of only a few police museums in Scotland and lets you explore the history of policing in Dundee City, Perth & Kinross, and Angus from the early 1800s through to the 1980s.
Visit this hidden gem of a museum to see some unique and fascinating artefacts including uniforms, equipment, weapons, as well as documents and photographs. There are displays dedicated to Special Constables, Awards & Medals, and the Police Pipe Band. You can also venture into the old prison cells and try on some of the costumes.
There is also an exhibit referencing the last person to be hanged in Dundee, William Henry Bury, who went to the gallows in 1889 for the murder of his wife. During his confession to the crime, he claimed to be Jack The Ripper.
10. The Scott Wilson Memorial
The Scott Wilson Memorial is an impressive sculptured monument which was unveiled in 2012. It was erected in memorial of the Antarctic explorers Captain Robert Scott and Doctor Edward Wilson of the Discovery Antarctic Expedition. They planned their ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1912 at Wilson’s home.
Dr Edward Wilson was employed by the government to undertake the Grouse Disease Survey during this time. He lived and worked from nearby Burnside Lodge and Captain Scott visited him frequently.
The granite sculpture replaced an earlier fountain which was damaged. The memorial depicts both men, their ponies, dogs and penguins, as well as inscriptions written by both men.
You can find it at the roadside on a bend at the entrance to Glen Prosen nearly a mile from Dykehead. You can make your visit to the monument part of a pleasant circular walk with fine views that takes in the Airlie Monument and Dykehead.
More days out in Angus
There is so much to see and do here in Angus. Take a look at the variety of places to visit, plus our other Insider’s Guides.
Insider’s Guide to Places to Eat
Insider’s Guide to Nature and Wildlife
Insider’s Guide to Food and Drink
Insider’s Guide to Family Days Out
Insider’s Guide to Coast and Waters
Insider’s Guide to Cycling Routes
Insider’s Guide to Beauty Spots
Insider’s Guide to Walking Routes
Insider’s Guide to Visitor Attractions