UNITED KINGDOM  |  Great Towns of Scotland, United Kingdom Travel Guide
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Best Small Towns in Scotland

Pitlochry, Scotland (cc)
 

The 10 Best Small Towns in Scotland

Scotland has an interesting array of colorful little fishing villages and small towns with a whiskey distillery or two or a castle steeped in history. And of the lot, here are the 10 most rewarding and best small towns and villages in Scotland.

[ Pages of interest: Best Small Towns in England and Best Small Towns in Ireland ]

 

1. Pittenweem

Charming little fishing village cum tourist destination. Pittenweem has its fair share of pubs and provincial restaurants, and a lively art scene, with a vibrant community of resident artists and an increasingly popular Art Festival that is among the most respected in Scotland. The Pittenweem Harbour is certainly worth visiting, as are the 14th-century Pittenweem Priory and greystone Parish Church, and some of artists' studios.

[ Pittenweem Travel Guide ]

Location: Corner of Fife, east coast of Scotland

Population: 1,650

 


 

2. Pitlochry

One of the loveliest small Victorian towns in Scotland, which has morphed into a popular tourist resort, beginning with Queen Victoria's visit to the town in 1842 and the arrival of the railway in 1863. The town has a fabulous collection of stone-built Victorian buildings, a couple of whiskey distilleries with visitor centers that are popular with visitors, an atmospheric town center, a hilltop church that dates from 1858, and a fish ladder at its dam that remains a major draw. The town also has a lively Festival Theatre, a roster full of events in summer, and some of the best hillwalking countryside for miles around.

[ Pitlochry Travel Guide ]

Location: In the Perth and Kinross Area, on the River Tummel

Population: 2,600

 


 

3. North Berwick

Small harbor town turned fashionable holiday resort, North Berwick is particularly popular with the well-heeled lot. It has two sandy bays, with golf courses at the ends of the bays, the ruins of a 14th-century castle on its periphery, a well-attended multi art-form festival, Fringe by the Sea, and the National Museum of Flight at the nearby village of East Fortune which is well worth a visit. There is also no dearth of pubs and good restaurants here, and quaint shops to boot. Robert Louis Stevenson's Catriona, by the way, is set locally.

[ North Berwick Travel Guide ]

Location: East Lothian, on the Firth of Forth, 25 miles (40 km) east of Edinburgh

Population: 6,250

 


 

4. Killearn

Picturesque little village in the shadow of the volcanic plug of Dumgoyne, with locally-quarried stone fences and centuries-old houses. In the vicinity of the village are the 19th-century Glengoyne Whiskey Distillery, the stunning 720-square-mile (1,865-square-kilometer) Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, and the long distance walking route known as "West Highland Way."

[ Killearn Travel Guide ]

Location: Stirling Area, 15 miles (24 km) north of Glasgow, 50 miles (80 km) north of Edinburgh

Population: 1,700

 


 

5. Gargunnock

Small, unpretentious and somewhat secluded rural village at the foot of the Gargunnock Hills. The village is rich in history and is typically filled with traditional houses. There's a well-stocked general store here, as well as a worthwhile restaurant-cum-bar.

[ Gargunnock Travel Guide ]

Location: Stirling Area, 7 miles (11 km) west of Stirling

Population: 950

 


 

6. Dunblane

Small, prosperous cathedral town, built around the picturesque, pre-Romanesque 12th-century Dunblane Cathedral, on the banks of the river, Allan Water. In the Old Town center of Dunblane, one can discover a trove of lovely old buildings, including the cathedral, and the 17th-century Leighton Library, believed to be the oldest existing library in Scotland. There are a few good restaurants and pubs in town, and the imposing, Hilton-owned Dunblane Hydro Hotel, housed in a huge Victorian building and set on on a wooded, grassy slope, that offers good overnight accommodations.

[ Dunblane Travel Guide ]

Location: Stirling Area, south of Perth

Population: 8,850

 


 

7. Portree

Lovely harbor town on the Isle of Skye, bordered by sea cliffs. Portree is a popular tourist destination, with a Gaelic heritage that's still palpable. It has a colorful row of houses fronting on the harbor, an atmospheric main street that was pictured in the 2008 American romantic comedy A Maid of Honor, a pier built by noted civil engineer and architect Thomas Telford, and associations to a "Quidditch" team in Harry Potter. There are also a couple of pubs to quench visitors' thirst and the Royal Hotel for overnight accommodations.

[ Portree Travel Guide ]

Location: On Skye, Inner Hebrides of Scotland

Population: 2,500

 


 

8. Strathblane

Small, historic village in a picturesque setting at the foot of the Campsie Fells and Kilpatrick Hills, on the banks of the River Blane, in central Scotland. It has ruins of the Clan Graham's 13th-century Mugdock Castle on its periphery, a pub and hotel in the heart of the village to cater to visitors, and walking trails in the surrounding moors.

[ Strathblane Travel Guide ]

Location: Greater Glasgow, 12 miles (19 km) north of Glasgow, or 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Stirling

Population: 1,810

 


 

9. Drumnadrochit

Touristy Highlands village, where the principal draws are the Loch Ness Exhibition – think "Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster" – and the close-at-hand ruins of the 13th-century Urquhart Castle which sits on a small, grassy knoll overlooking Loch Ness. In late August each year, the village hosts the Glenurquhart Highland Games, which are well worth seeing, and a Bonfire Night fireworks display in early November. There are two small inns and three hotels in the village, a store housed in an historic building, and a microbrewery.

[ Drumnadrochit Travel Guide ]

Location: In the Highlands, West Shore of Loch Ness

Population: 1.020

 


 

10. Stirling

Stirling, once the capital of Scotland, is arguably the loveliest small city in Scotland, and, too, the smallest. It has a fairly well preserved medieval old town, with cobbled streets lined with craft shops, and a large fortress, the photogenic Sterling Castle, which perches on a hill overlooking the town. There are spires and clock towers, scores of pubs and inns, and the lovely old Church of Holy Rude, founded in 1129, where sovereigns have been crowned in years past.

[ Stirling Travel Guide ]

Location: On the River Forth, between the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands

Population: 37,000

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Last updated November 11, 2013
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