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The prettiest villages and towns in Scotland [and how to visit]

What are the best town or villages in Scotland to visit? Looking for the prettiest towns in Scotland to stay for a weekend, or the most beautiful or quirky Scotland villages? If you are looking for small town life, complete with picture perfect views and fabulous places to stay – here are my favourite of Scotland’s towns and villages. 

Pretty villages and towns in scotland

Plockton - towns in Scotland

Plockton, Highland

The pretty town of Plockton sits on the shores of Loch Carron as it makes its way out to the Isle of Skye. With a sheltered position, Plockton has such a mild climate palm trees to prosper on the waterfront. Once famous for its herd of free ranging Highland Coos, the village is now a destination for foodies dining at the Plockton Hotel (Wester Ross & Highland’s Camra pub of the year) which serves a great pint and The Plockton Inn which is renowned for its seafood – making Plockton one of the best towns in Scotland for a weekend break.

East Neuk - villages and towns in Scotland

The East Neuk of Fife – Crail, Pittenweem and St Monans

The ‘East Neuk’ or eastern corner of the ‘Kingdom of Fife’ is one of Scotland’s hidden gems – a string of gorgeous harbours and pretty villages hidden along the Fife coastline. Start in Crail, with its lobster hut and lovely high street, before moving on to Anstruther for its famous fish and chip shop. Watch the fishing boats do their thing at bustling Pittenweem, head to the beach at Elie and Earlsferry, or St Monans, probably the quirkiest of all the East Neuk villages with its welly garden and wiggly pier. The East Neuk has some of my favourite villages in Scotland.

Luss - towns in Scotland

Luss, Loch Lomond

With its setting on Loch Lomond and flower laden quaint cottages, the village of Luss was used for the classic Scottish TV series Take The High Road – making it one of the most famous of the villages and towns in Scotland.

Named after the gaelic for herb, Luss is named after the herbs laid on missionary St Kessog’s grave who came from Ireland to the village Clachan Dhu (the dark village) in around 500 AD. Stroll down to the banks of the loch and out onto the pier and gaze over a spectacular view of Ben Lomond looming over the water. From the pier you can catch water buses around the loch. 

towns in Scotland

Portnahaven, Islay

On the Rhinns of Islay sits the gorgeous whitewashed village of Portnahaven with views over the Rhinns of Islay lighthouse on the island of Orsay. Stroll ​​along the coastal path between Portnahaven and Port Wemyss for beautiful views and to spot nosy grey seals popping out of the water in the bay. Down in the heart of the village, the An Tigh Seinnse pub serves amazing seafood platters (order in advance) and is characterful with a real fire.

Dunkeld houses

Dunkeld, Perthshire

Perthshire is famed for its big trees and autumn colours and some of the prettiest villages and towns in Scotland including my favourite Dunkeld. Sitting on the River Tay, Dunkleld has a cottages restored by the National Trust for Scotland, a magnificent cathedral, great pubs and quirky shops and lovely walks along the river. Take a stroll at the Hermitage, an 18th-century pleasure garden filled with giant Douglas Fir trees to Ossian’s Hall, where a viewing platform reveals the tumbling Black Linn Falls below.

St Abbs

St Abbs, Scottish Borders

St Abbs might not be the first place you think of if you are hankering for a fresh crab sandwich, but for those in the know, it’s a hallowed destination. The village of St Abbs has a thriving fishing harbour, providing a home for six lobster boats who bring in daily catches of lobster and local edible crabs known as Poos! With its own St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve offering up spectacular cliffside walks, links to Hollywood (hint, it’s New Asgard) seals, diving, crab butties, fishing and seabirds galore, the village of St Abbs is perfect for a day trip. 

Crovie - pretty towns and villages in Scotland

Crovie, Aberdeenshire

The Banffshire villages which make up Gamrie – Gardenstown and Crovie – are probably the most picturesque of the Moray Firth villages and towns in Scotland – and a popular spot for photos of the traditional fishing cottages hugging the coast. Gardenstown has a lovely 19th Century Harbour and Crovie has no road – the cottages are only accessed by foot.  If you want to take the popular shot of Crovie there is a car park at the top of the village with a good viewpoint of the string of cottages below.

Scotland travel blog

Fort Augustus, Loch Ness

Where else in Scotland offers up the odd sight of hundreds of people watching sailing boats and cruisers traversing down five canal locks and out onto a loch? Grab lunch at one of the canal-side pubs and cafes and watch the boaters ‘walking’ their boats through the locks.

Hungry? The Lock Inn does great pub grub (fab fish & chips and mac & cheese!) and serves real ale. After lunch walk a short stretch of the Great Glen Way, a 3 mile round trip to the pretty and remote Kytra Locks. The lock is a great spot for a picnic beside the canal as you watch the boats go past, or for a short walk, explore the village on the Fort Augustus path around one of the more popular of Scotland’s towns and villages.

Culross - towns in Scotland

Culross, Fife

Culross (actually pronounced ‘coo-ris’, not ‘cull-ross’) is one of Scotland’s best-preserved and prettiest 17th-century villages and famous for its role in the TV series Outlander. Now restored by the National Trust for Scotland, Culross has a townhouse once used for witch trials, a palace, a castle and an abbey and beautiful views over the River Forth. Stroll amongst the cottages and visit the Palace gardens to picture yourself in 17th century Scottish village.

  • Make it a weekend: stay at the Old Schoolhouse or the Dundonald
  • Get there: Catch the train to Dunfermline and then bus 74 from Dunfermline bus station. From Edinburgh and Glasgow the drive will take around 40 mins to an hour depending on traffic on the Queensferry Crossing and Kincardine Bridges. Free parking is available at each end of the village.
  • Stay longer: things to do in Culross

Dysart, Fife

Whilst Culross and Falkland in Fife are two of Scotland’s most well know villages which welcome tourists to explore their pretty streets, there are other beautiful villages in Fife. My favourite is the village of Dysart, which stands in for Le Harve in 1740s Outlander – where Claire and Jamie arrive in France and home to Jamie’s and his uncles’ wine business. The hidden harbour at Dysart is lovely – and you have to walk through a cliff to get to it! You can also stroll along the coastal path to Ravenscraig Castle. 

Stromness, Orkney

Stromness is a a quirky but traditional example of port towns in Scotland where buildings hug – and expand out onto the coast of mainland Orkney. Take a stroll along the high street winding your way along the waterfront – today it is just wide enough for a car. Look down the alleys – most houses have a slip for a boat reflecting on Stromness’ role as a major trading port for the Hudson Bay company. The town is now the port for ferries arriving from Scrabster. 

  • Stay for the weekend: Try the lovely Instabillie Self Catering. Sleeping up to 5, the cottage is super handy for exploring Skara Brae and West Mainland, but only 35 minutes from Kirkwall, 40 minutes from the Italian Chapel and 15 minutes from Stromness. Other accommodation options in Orkney include staying in the main towns of Kirkwall* or Stromness* or have a look at all the options in Orkney*.
  • Get there: Flights to Orkney are run by Scotland’s lovely wee airline Loganair* or there are four ferry routes to the islands.
  • Stay for longer: How to visit Orkney 

Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway

Kirkcudbright is one of my favourite wee towns in Scotland. With a thriving artist community along with beautiful cottages and a waterside location, Kirkcudbright (pronounced Kirkcoobree) is a great place to spend an afternoon wandering around. 

Artists have long been attracted to D&G due to the incredible light and a must-do in Kirkcudbright is a visit to the National Trust for Scotland’s Broughton House home of one of the Glasgow Boys and a stunning Japanese inspired garden – a lovely oasis in the middle of this bustling wee town. Make sure you tour the house – the gallery is quite something!

Which is your favourite of the villages and towns in Scotland?

Read more: more places to visit in Scotland