24 Beautiful Scottish Villages and Towns That You Must Visit (2023)
I’m highly partial to Scotland, having gone there on numerous occasions, and, much like Depeche Mode in the 1990s, I’m still enthralled with it.
The nation is wonderful due to its low population. With just 5.5 million inhabitants, Scotland offers plenty of room for small towns and villages situated near rivers, beaches, lochs, and the impressive mountains that surround them.
In this guide, I’ve shared a selection of my favorite Scottish villages and towns that I consider to be the most beautiful.
1. The Fort William.
Let’s begin this list with a location that is familiar to everyone.
Fort William, renowned as one of Scotland’s most renowned small towns, is situated at the conjunction of Loch Eil and Loch Linnhe beneath Ben Nevis. It is a great place to go trekking, biking, and discovering the local towns, mountains, and lochs. Moreover, it has all the services that a traveler might need.
In addition, the West Highland Way, which is arguably the most renowned long-distance hiking trail in Scotland, culminates here.
Despite its fame, there are plenty of other better Scottish villages and towns to visit. Therefore, if there is no particular reason to visit Fort William, it would be wiser to opt for another destination.
Fort William is well-known, but unfortunately, it doesn’t offer much in terms of attractions or beauty. Furthermore, there are other locations in the country that are worthier of visiting. With a population of just 6,000, it is not as quaint as other places that have been featured.
2. Fort Augustus.
Approximately 50km to the north east of Fort William lies Fort Augustus, a renowned small town in Scotland.
Perched on the southern bank of Loch Ness, Fort Augustus is beautiful.
The village is renowned for the five locks at its core, right before the canal of the village flows into Loch Ness. It’s a popular spot for picnics as you can observe the boats travelling up and down the locks.
Apart from that, Fort Augustus is an excellent starting point for discovering Loch Ness (and its most renowned attractions) to the north, Glencoe to the south, the Cairngorms to the east, and much more. Furthermore, the whole village (albeit small) is aesthetically pleasing and endearing.
Fort Augustus makes for a great starting point for discovering many parts of the Scottish Highlands due to its easy access and central location.
3. The town of Ullapool.
Ullapool is definitely my top pick for a town in Scotland, especially since it’s located in the best region of the country. The northwest coast of Scotland is simply breathtaking, and Ullapool is perfectly situated in the middle of it.
This coastal settlement, shaped like a square and filled with boats, fishermen, delicious seafood and picturesque views, is so charming that everyone who visits falls in love with it. I certainly did, you will too, and whoever you are with will undoubtedly also be enamored. You’ll never want to leave.
Ullapool is a fantastic option for a home-away-from-home. Its quaintness and beauty are balanced by its size, allowing it to offer a variety of amenities like pubs, eateries, lodgings, and a grocery store.
You should definitely make a trip to the Seafood Shack in Ullapool and experience the amazing menu of fresh seafood they have to offer. I am a huge fan of this restaurant.
4. Durness .
Approximately 110km/70 miles north of Ullapool is Durness, which is a widely visited area along the northwest coastline of Scotland.
Durness is situated at the northernmost tip of the area, and its beaches are particularly renowned. Notable spots include Durness Beach, Balnakeil Beach, Sango Bay, and Achmelvich Bay.
Although the population of Durness is only 350, this part of Scotland is so tranquil and sparse that it appears like a bustling city. As it is surrounded by cliffs, coves, far away hills and magnificent beaches, its scenery is simply stunning.
Departing from Durness, boat excursions to reach Cape Wrath, a very secluded promontory, are available and the only way to get there is either with a boat or on foot.
It’s a great idea to take a trip to Cocoa Mountain when you’re in Durness; it’s a charming little chocolate shop located in a remote area.
5. I’m talking about Plockton.
Located south of Ullapool and Durness, on the west coast of Scotland, is the charming Plockton.
This location is absolutely stunning, yet there’s not much to do. Nevertheless, you’re sure to be enchanted by the village. To get there, you’ll need to take single-lane roads that lead to a tiny harbor, an itty-bitty beach, and a miniscule wood. Although Plockton is home to only 450 people, it seems like a much less populated area.
When you pay a visit to Plockton, it’s a good idea to drive via Duirinish, which is situated a few minutes to the south. The village centre is a stunning sight to behold, featuring a stone bridge, a tranquil river, Highland cows freely roaming the grass, and approximately six houses.
6. In Portree.
Located west of Plockton is the popular Isle of Skye in Scotland, and its capital is Portree.
Portree, the biggest town on the island, with an approximate population of 2,500, is often used as a starting point for trips to the Isle of Skye. This is understandable, as it is centrally located and provides all the necessities for any type of traveler.
Portree is renowned for its row of vibrant homes that look out to the ocean in the heart of the city. Nearby is a stunning harbour, where you can capture some wonderful pictures.
Despite its popularity, Portree is not necessarily the best option. It’s nice enough, and makes a convenient home base, but there are more picturesque villages and towns on the Isle of Skye. Therefore…
7. Elgol .
I absolutely love this place.
Elgol is made up of merely a few homes that are scattered, making it more like a group of isolated dwellings than a village. It is one of the most isolated places I have included on this list, located on the extreme south of one of the most tranquil parts of Skye. There is an oddly apocalyptic atmosphere here.
I’m not saying that everyone has an uncontrollable desire, rather I’m implying that it has a captivating effect.
In spite of its remoteness, Elgol provides some great attractions, such as beautiful beaches, impressive cliffs, Spar Cave, and superb boat trips to Loch Coruisk, where, in the appropriate season, you can observe dolphins, whales, sharks, and other marine life.
If you’re yearning for a wild island experience, Elgol is the place to be – but you’ll have to go elsewhere if you’re looking to buy groceries, as there aren’t any supermarkets around!
From one west coast island to another.
Brodick serves as the chief gateway to the wonderful island of Arran, which is one of my personal top picks in Scotland. It is also the chief settlement on Arran, and it makes a great launching point.
From Brodick, it’s possible to climb Goatfell (the highest mountain on the island) and traverse much of the Arran Coastal Path, an outstanding multi-day trek which encompasses the whole circumference of the island.
Aside from everything else, you can enjoy Brodick Castle, wonderful nearby beaches, excellent restaurants and bars, as well as a lively small port city with straightforward routes to the rest of the island.
Have you ever watched the British children’s program Balamory? It was recorded in this location.
Tobermory is similar to Portree, but with even more vivid colored houses – the Balamory houses featured in the show are actual dwellings in Tobermory. Seeing them in person, snapping a selfie, and sharing how vibrant they are is a must!
The Isle of Mull, situated between the islands of Arran and Skye, is part of Scotland and its capital is Tobermory. This quaint fishing port town offers visitors hills, forests, a pleasant bay, and some great places to dine and socialize.
Tobermory is a peaceful, attractive, and endearing spot, and it would be wise to use it as a starting point for discovering the entirety of the Isle of Mull (though, unfortunately, it is quite far to the north).
We have now travelled southwards along the west coast of Scotland.
Stranraer, my top pick for an underrated Scotland municipality, boasts a population of about 10,000 inhabitants.
Many fail to venture into this region of Scotland. Tourists flock to the Highlands and Edinburgh, or take a trip along the North Coast 500, but not many make their way to Dumfries and Galloway, which is the most southwestern corner of the country.
The harbour town of Stranraer may not be aesthetically pleasing, however it has a warm hospitality. The areas in the vicinity of it however, are beautiful. The nearby beaches, lochs, a large shoreline, great drives and the underrated Galloway Forest Park make it a wonderful place to visit.
If you’re looking for a lesser-known base in the south of Scotland, Stranraer is an outstanding option.
If you ever drop by, give my buddy Derek a shout-out. He’s a good guy and would likely take you on a stroll.
Situated only 8 miles (13km) from Stranraer, Portpatrick is undeniably the most picturesque coastal village in Dumfries and Galloway. Therefore, if you desire a stunning Scottish village without having to travel too far up the west coast of the country, Portpatrick is your ideal destination.
In comparison to Stranraer, it’s much smaller and tranquil. The best part is, it has a distinct appearance.
Many of the buildings in Portpatrick are painted in pastel hues, making it a great spot for taking pictures, unlike other Scottish coastal towns and villages that often have white homes, stone walls, or vivid facades.
The harbor is quite attractive, and the town provides amazing boat tours for fishing and observing wildlife.
If you’re a fan of going on long hikes, Portpatrick marks the beginning of the Southern Upland Way – a 214-mile (344km) journey that traverses from coast to coast, finishing in Cockburnspath (and we’ll have more about that soon).
12. A Melrose.
Melrose, which is situated in the Scottish Borders, is the southernmost destination on our list. It is just east of Stranraer and quite near England.
If you’re searching for a location that is not very popular with tourists, you have come to the right place.
Melrose is renowned for being the commencement point of St. Cuthbert’s Way, an ancient pilgrimage trail which transverses England and culminates at the isolated coast of Holy Island. The entire trek is approximately 62 miles (100km) and incredibly beautiful.
Aside from that, Melrose has a beautiful abbey, a pleasant town center, and easily accessible hikes to the Eildon Hills. To get the best perspective of Melrose, climb the hills and turn around.
13. The Eyemouth.
Hidden away on the southeastern coast of Scotland, Eyemouth makes the ideal spot for a cozy family vacation. If you’re traveling with kids, this destination is the one for you.
Eyemouth offers a classic British seaside atmosphere with caravans, buckets and spades, welcoming people, playgrounds, beaches that are easy to access, and an abundance of fish and chips. It will be cherished by everyone in your family and you’ll likely be eager to return.
This area of Scotland may not be the most daring, yet it is incredibly enjoyable and hospitable. Furthermore, it is visually appealing, enclosed by stunning cliffs, and neighboring areas like Dunbar, North Berwick, and St. Abbs are picturesque.
At a mere 5 miles from the English border, Eyemouth is an ideal destination for those eager to discover the southern regions of Scotland.
14. St. Abbs .
St. Abbs lies to the north of Eyemouth, differing greatly from the more entertaining atmosphere of the latter.
Boasting some of Scotland’s most stunning clifftop walks, the small and rugged St Abbs is much more tranquil than Eyemouth. It is a great place for hikes, with nesting seabirds and Coldingham Bay and the renowned St Abbs Head lighthouse.
This picturesque port town of St Abbs boasts a charming collection of white houses perched atop stunning cliffs. If your ideal getaway includes a tranquil village atmosphere and gorgeous scenery, St Abbs is the perfect destination.
The ten-mile/sixteen-kilometer section that lies between here and Cockburnspath is my favorite part of Scotland. Taking a rollercoaster-like journey up and down the cliffs, past wind farms, oceans frothing with crashing waves and panoramic vistas, it is truly spectacular. If you are tackling the Coast and Castles cycling route, you will be traversing this area and it is sure to be your favorite part.
15. St. Andrews.
If you’re searching this list for a day trip from Edinburgh, St. Andrews should be your choice.
Located approximately 50 miles (80km) away from Washington D.C., This is an excellent spot to spend a few hours or, if you have the time, a whole weekend.
St. Andrews is renowned for its golf, boasting seven courses at St. Andrews Links, the biggest public golf facility in Europe. Beyond the golf, the city offers a ruined church, an old cathedral, a picturesque university and some lovely beaches.
The town is aesthetically pleasing, boasting orange-tiled roofs on its stone structures, grand architecture, and a picturesque hilly landscape.
St. Andrews is a huge area, with approximately 17,000 residents, so there are a lot of restaurants and bars to explore.
The village of Shieldaig is very small, so your visit won’t take long. However, the short time you spend will be full of enjoyment.
Shieldaig is home to only around 85 inhabitants, with the village consisting primarily of a school, a church, a couple of eateries, a few dwellings, and not much else. Yet, it offers an abundance of stunning vistas.
The village is situated next to the beautiful Loch Shieldaig, surrounded by mountains and perfect for exploring. Therefore, if you have the opportunity, take the chance to explore outside of the village’s small boundaries.
Here’s a tip : if you’d like to witness the area’s natural beauty, take the relatively short and easy Shieldaig peninsula walk , which is roughly 3 miles (4.5km) in length.
Be sure to check out the Loch Torridon Smokehouse in Shieldaig for a delicious smoked salmon experience like no other.
Gairloch is located about 15 miles (25km) in a northerly direction from Shieldaig, though due to the winding roads in this region of Scotland, the total driving time is significantly longer.
Despite the length of the journey, you must visit Gairloch. This diminutive settlement (home to approximately 700 inhabitants) features a beach framed by hills and many cheerful white dwellings. Some are located close to the shoreline, while others are further up the inclines. Nonetheless, each is absolutely delightful.
Be sure to take in the sights of the hills, mountains, lakes and the town itself. This area of western Scotland is a delight to behold.
Head to the Mountain Coffee Company and Hillbillies Book Shop for a cozy experience. The two establishments are connected and offer the unique specialty of coffee from Bob Marley’s brother.
Oban is super beautiful.
This town, located atop a small hill, is made up of multiple levels that overlook the edges of a bay. It even has an imitation of a colosseum on top! People come to this town for more than just pictures; they come to fish, go hiking, and explore the islands along Scotland’s west coast.
Oban is renowned for its seafood, and there are lots of great restaurants to choose from, such as Oban Seafood Hut and Ee-Usk. With an array of options including lobster, oysters, mussels, crab, salmon, haddock and more, it’s arguably the best seafood spot in Scotland.
A word of advice: Oban is more crowded with tourists than many other locations we’ve featured. Therefore, if you want to experience it without a great deal of people, it’s best to visit during a time other than summer.
Pitlochry, like most other towns and villages in the Cairngorms, is located on a main road, making it a convenient destination to visit. It is a charming Scottish town, so if you are looking for a place that is easy to get to, Pitlochry is a great option.
The town is visually pleasing, composed of several small brownstone structures. However, the true beauty lies within the Cairngorms National Park, the largest national park in the UK. You’ll find mountains, lakes, valleys, rivers, cascades, scenic drives, and more. You could easily spend a decade there and never be tired of the scenery.
Here’s a tip: Aside from Aviemore, which is the most renowned, other nice places to visit in the Cairngorms are Ballater, Breamar and Boat of Garten. On the other hand, although it is not within the park’s official boundaries, Pitlochry is my personal favorite.
If you are a fan of hiking, road trips, and beautiful scenery, then Glencoe is the place for you.
Unless you have an exceptionally negative outlook, you will be enchanted by Glencoe.
In proximity to Fort William, Glencoe and its environment are more picturesque, yet it is overshadowed by its nearby neighbor due to Fort William having more amenities and restaurants, pubs, and lodgings.
The village, which only has 400 inhabitants, looks absolutely charming and inviting, but the true beauty lies in the mountains that encircle it. It is located in the center of a steep valley, with stunning mountain peaks surrounding the village and its shoreline at Loch Leven. The journey to get to Glencoe village is spectacular, but the hikes, trips by car, and bike rides around it are even more so.
This is a very small location, one that you would likely not stay in for more than two hours.
When you reach Lochcarron, you’ll understand why I included it in this list.
Perched atop the banks of Loch Carron (which has the same name as the village, creating some confusion), it’s a great spot to grab a cup of coffee or a bite to eat and take in the view. Not many activities are available here, but when the mountains look this beautiful, just gazing at them is enough.
Here’s a great suggestion for a mini-adventure: take a ride around Loch Carron (the lake, not the town) on either the A896 or A890 roads. It’s a great way to catch a glimpse of the entire lake, and the views are stunning. For the best experience, it’s best to do it on a bike, but you can do it by car as well.
22. In Stromness.
It’s been some time since I last spoke of island towns and villages, so let’s rectify that.
Stromness is the second largest settlement in the Orkney Islands, a sizeable chain of islands located in the northeastern part of Scotland’s northern shore. This archipelago consists of 70 islands, many of which have lovely towns and villages. However, in my opinion, Stromness is the most attractive of them all.
The charming and vibrant port of Stromness in Orkney is filled with winding alleyways, residences atop hills, and a picturesque village that borders the harbor.
Stromness is stunningly gorgeous, and it provides an excellent starting point for exploring the hills, trails, and coastlines of Orkney.
23. The town of Lossiemouth.
Few people are aware of Lossiemouth, yet it is one of my favorite underrated places.
However, more people ought to. And now, you are one of them.
I had never heard of Lossiemouth until I visited there to see a friend. I was astonished by how beautiful it was.
Lossiemouth is a fishing village located in Moray, at the border of Aberdeenshire near Elgin. Being remote, it’s a great destination if you’re looking to explore Scotland’s eastern seaboard. Here, you will find two remarkable beaches, heaps of sand dunes, friendly locals and an attractive town.
This spot is quite popular among locals for day trips with their families, so there are plenty of opportunities to gorge oneself on ice cream, fish and chips.
24. Bridge of Allan
This last destination has a greater number of inhabitants than our other stops, boasting a total of around 5,500 residents.
Many of the places included in this list offer abundant chances for activities such as hiking, cycling, and exploration.
If you’re more of a person who enjoys taking it easy in towns rather than participating in outdoor activities, you’ll likely find Bridge of Allan delightful. It is picturesque, hospitable, and amiable and is a great place to spend a few days or hours. However, to really get to know the town, it’s best to visit its eateries, pubs and eateries.
Head to The Hideaway Cafe if you’re in search of an unforgettable brunch.
If you’re in Bridge of Allan, don’t miss out on a trip to Stirling, which is often overlooked despite being Scotland’s most underrated city.
Final Thoughts and Further Reading.
I believe these 24 towns and villages in Scotland are the most lovely. Thank you for taking the time to read!
I apologize if I omitted your favorite spot. Scotland has an abundance of stunning locations, so I trust you can excuse my oversight.
Topic: 24 Beautiful Scottish Villages and Towns That You Must Visit (2023)
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By: Travel Pixy