Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Scotland is among my favorite locations on earth. I have visited the country numerous times, and like the 1990s band Depeche Mode, I can’t get enough.

The nation’s low population density is one of its finest qualities. Because there are only about 5.5 million people in Scotland, there is an abundance of space, which results in an abundance of small towns and villages. You will encounter them near rivers, beaches, lochs, and looming mountains.

In this guide, I’ve provided a sampling of each. I consider the following to be the most beautiful villages and small towns in Scotland…

1. Fort William

Let’s begin this list with a location that everyone has heard of.

Fort William, one of the most renowned small towns in Scotland, is situated directly beneath Ben Nevis, where Loch Eil meets Loch Linnhe. It is ideally situated for hiking, cycling, and exploring towns, mountains, and lochs, and it has all the necessary amenities.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
Aerial view of Fort William with Loch Linnhe in the distance

In addition, it is the terminus of the West Highland Way, Scotland’s most renowned long-distance hiking trail.

Despite this, however, there are far superior villages and small towns in Scotland. So, yes, Fort William is incredibly popular, and I couldn’t compile this list without including it; however, unless you have a compelling reason to visit Fort William, you should consider going elsewhere.

Yes, Fort William is well-known, but it is replete with subpar tourist attractions, is not particularly beautiful, and there are far more appealing destinations in the United Kingdom. And with a population of approximately 6,000, it is not as cozy as other places we’ve highlighted.

2. Fort Augustus

Fort Augustus, located approximately 50 kilometers north-east of Fort William, is one of the most renowned small towns in Scotland.

Fort Augustus, located on the southern shores of Loch Ness, is lovely.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
Fort Augustus on Loch Ness’s shores

It is most famous for the five locks in the center of the village, just before the canal of the village flows into Loch Ness. This is a popular picnic spot where it’s enjoyable to watch boats pass through the locks.

Fort Augustus is a great base for exploring Loch Ness (and all of its most famous attractions) to the north, Glencoe to the south, the Cairngorms to the east, and numerous other destinations. And, as a bonus, the entire town (not that there is much of it) is incredibly beautiful and charming.

Fort Augustus is an excellent option as a convenient and central location from which to explore the Scottish Highlands.

3. Ullapool

Ullapool is possibly my favorite town in Scotland, and it is located in my favorite region. Ullapool is situated right in the middle of the magnificent northern portion of Scotland’s west coast.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
Sunset over Ullapool, Scotland’s North West

Everyone falls in love with a square-shaped coastal community teeming with boats, fishermen, delicious seafood, and innumerable breathtaking views. I did, you will, your traveling companions will, and you will want to stay indefinitely.

Ullapool is a great place to use as a base because it is small, charming, beautiful, and conveniently located, but it is also (just) large enough to have convenient amenities, such as pubs, cafes, excellent lodging, and a supermarket.

4. Durness

Durness, located approximately 110 km north of Ullapool, is another popular location along Scotland’s northern west coast.

Durness is located at the northernmost tip and is renowned for its beaches. Durness Beach, Balnakeil Beach, Sango Bay, and Achmelaich Bay are among the finest.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
The beach at Sango Bay in Durness

The population of Durness is approximately 350 people. However, this region of Scotland is so tranquil and sparse that Durness appears to be a relative metropolis. And because it is surrounded by cliffs, coves, distant hills, and gorgeous beaches, it is absolutely stunning.

From Durness, you can take boat trips to Cape Wrath, a ridiculously remote cape that can only be reached by boat (or your own feet).

5. Plockton

South of both Ullapool and Durness, as well as on the west coast of Scotland, is the adorable little town of Plockton.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
Loch Carron kayaking near Plockton village in the Scottish Highlands

Despite being absurdly beautiful, there is not much to do here. Nevertheless, you will love the location. The route to the village is comprised of single-lane roads that lead to a miniature pier, a beach, and a forest. About 450 people reside in Plockton, but it feels like there are fewer.

6. Portree

Just west of Plockton is Scotland’s most famous island, the Isle of Skye. Portree is the capital of the Isle of Skye.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
Colorful houses of Portree

Portree, the largest town on the island (but with only about 2,500 inhabitants), serves as a hub for most Isle of Skye excursions. This makes sense, given that it is centrally located and offers all the necessary amenities, regardless of who you are or who you are traveling with.

Portree is most well-known for its colorful row of houses overlooking the sea in the town’s center. Additionally, there is a beautiful harbor nearby where you can take wonderful photographs.

However, here is a controversial viewpoint: Portree is not all that good. Yes, it’s nice and pretty, and it serves as a good base, but there are much more picturesque towns and villages on Skye. This brings us to…

7. Elgol

I absolutely adore this location.

Elgol resembles more a collection of solitary houses than a village due to its small number of scattered dwellings. And it’s one of the most remote locations I’ve featured on this list; right here, on the southernmost tip of one of Skye’s most tranquil regions, there’s a strangely post-apocalyptic vibe.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
Elgol village, Isle of Skye

However, I say this in an enticing manner, not as if everyone is wandering around and salivating.

In any case, Elgol is isolated, and there are few conveniences here. You can see dolphins, whales, sharks, and more (during the appropriate season) on boat trips to Loch Coruisk, where you can also find excellent beaches, cliffs, Spar Cave, and ridiculously good boat trips.

Go to Elgol if you want to feel like you’re on a rugged island and not just in a tourist trap. However, you will have to travel to go shopping. No supermarkets here, young man!

8. Brodick

From one island on the west coast to another.

Brodick is the primary point of access to Arran, my favorite island in Scotland. It is also the largest town on Arran and a great place to base yourself.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
The village of Brodick on the Isle of Arran

From Brodick, you can hike up Goatfell, the island’s tallest peak, and access a large portion of the Arran Coastal Path, an excellent multi-day trail that encircles the entire island.

In addition, there is Brodick Castle, beautiful nearby beaches, great places to eat and drink, and a bustling port town that provides easy access to the rest of the island.

9. Tobermory

Have you ever seen the British children’s television program Balamory? It was shot here.

Tobermory is comparable to Portree, but with more vibrantly colored homes; the fictional Balamory houses are actual Tobermory homes. Visit them, take a selfie with them, and boast about how vibrant they are.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
The vibrant town of Tobermory

Isle of Mull lies halfway between the islands of Arran and Skye (yeah, Scotland has a lot of islands). Tobermory is the capital of the Isle of Mull. There are hills, woods, a lovely bay, and a couple of nice places to eat and drink in this picturesque fishing port.

Tobermory is tranquil, charming, and lovable, and it’s advisable to use it as a base for exploring all of Mull (even though it’s quite far north).

10. Stranraer

We’re still on the west coast of Scotland, but we’ve traveled quite a distance south.

Stranraer is one of the larger towns on our list, with a population of approximately 10,000, and it is my favorite underrated Scottish town.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
Stranraer is a city in south-western Scotland.

This area of Scotland is not sufficiently explored. They travel to the Highlands, to Edinburgh, or along the North Coast 500. However, few individuals visit Dumfries and Galloway, the most southwesterly region of Scotland.

Stranraer is a busy little ferry port that is not particularly appealing (though it is welcoming and friendly). But the surrounding areas are all beautiful, with beaches, lochs, a surprisingly extensive stretch of coastline, scenic drives, and the vastly underrated Galloway Forest Park.

Stranraer is an excellent option for those seeking an underrated base in the southern region of Scotland.

Also, if you ever visit, please say hello to my wonderful friend Derek. He’ll probably take you on a walk or something, he’s so nice.

11. Portpatrick

Portpatrick is without a doubt the most beautiful coastal community in Dumfries and Galloway, located only about 13 kilometers (8 miles) west of Stranraer. If you desire a charming Scottish village without having to travel too far up the nation’s west coast, Portpatrick is the place to go.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
Village of Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway

It is not nearly as large and busy as Stranraer, but it is much more beautiful. And best of all, it appears quite distinctive.

While most Scottish coastal towns and villages have white homes, stone walls, or brightly colored facades, many buildings in Portpatrick have pastel-colored fronts. Therefore, it is a great place to take photographs.

The harbor is also very attractive, and the village offers fantastic (and lovely) boat trips for fishing and nature observation.

Portpatrick is the official starting point for the Southern Upland Way, a 214-mile (344-kilometer) coast-to-coast hike that ends in Cockburnspath (but more on that place coming soon).

12. Melrose

Melrose, the southernmost location on our list, is situated in the Scottish borders, east of Stranraer, and very close to England.

You have discovered an underrated location with few visitors.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
A small street with old houses in the Scottish Borders village of Melrose.

Melrose is most renowned as the starting point of St. Cuthbert’s Way, an ancient pilgrimage route that traverses England and ends on the remote shores of Holy Island. The total distance of the walk is approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles), and it is absolutely fantastic.

Melrose has a beautiful abbey, a pleasant town center, and easy access to the Eildon Hills for hiking. For the best views of Melrose, climb those hills and turn around.

13. Eyemouth

Eyemouth, located on the south east coast of Scotland, is a charming destination for a family vacation. If you are traveling with children, this recommendation is for you.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
The Scottish municipality of Eyemouth

There is a traditional British seaside atmosphere in Eyemouth, complete with caravans, buckets and spades, friendly faces, play areas, accessible beaches, and an abundance of fish and chips. You and your children will enjoy it, and you will likely all want to return.

It is not the most adventurous place in Scotland, but it is one of the most enjoyable and welcoming. In addition, it is surrounded by beautiful cliffs and some of the nearby towns (such as Dunbar, North Berwick, and St. Abbs) are also beautiful.

And because it is only 8 kilometers north of the English border, Eyemouth is an ideal location for those who wish to explore the lower regions of Scotland.

14. St. Abbs

St. Abbs is located just north of Eyemouth, but it is completely different from its entertaining neighbor.

St. Abbs, which is rocky, tiny, and surrounded by cliffs, is considerably more tranquil than Eyemouth. It has some of the best clifftop walks in all of Scotland, making it a great place for hiking. Along and around these cliffs are nesting seabirds, Coldingham Bay, and one of the nation’s most renowned lighthouses, St. Abbs Head.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
St. Abbs town north of Eyemouth

St. Abbs is merely a handful of white houses overlooking a picturesque port, but it is incredibly charming and alluring. St. Abbs is the place to go if you enjoy small, attractive villages backed by large (and equally attractive) cliffs.

This 10-mile/16-kilometer stretch of coastline between here and Cockburnspath is one of my favorite parts of Scotland. It is ridiculously beautiful, with its dramatic ascent and descent past cliffs, wind farms, crashing waves, and dramatic views. If you are cycling the Coast and Castles, you will traverse this section, which will likely be your favorite portion of the route.

15. St. Andrews

If you are perusing this list in search of a day trip from Edinburgh, St. Andrews is for you.

It’s a lovely place to spend a few hours, and it’s only about 50 miles (80km) north of the nation’s capital (or even a full weekend, if you have the time).

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
St. Andrews village in Scotland

St. Andrews is best known for its seven golf courses at St. Andrews Links, Europe’s largest public golf complex. St. Andrews also features a ruined church, an ancient cathedral, a beautiful university, and wonderful beaches.

In addition, the entire city is incredibly attractive, with orange-roofed stone houses, grand architecture, and a hilly background.

St. Andrews, one of the largest cities on this list, is home to approximately 17,000 people, so there are numerous places to eat and drink.

16. Shieldaig

Shieldaig is incredibly small, so you will likely not spend more than two hours here. However, the couple of hours you’ll spend will be incredibly enjoyable.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
The Shieldaig village in Scotland’s Northwest Highlands.

The village of Shieldaig is comprised primarily of a school, a church, a couple of restaurants, a handful of homes, and not much else. However, it does have numerous views.

It is situated on the shores of Loch Shieldaig, a scenic sea loch backed by mountains. If you have the time, you should walk beyond the village’s tiny confines.

17. Gairloch

Gairloch is roughly 15 miles (25 km) north of Shieldaig (but because all the roads in this part of Scotland are really windy, the actual drive clocks in at much longer).

Regardless of the length of the drive, you must visit Gairloch. The tiny village (population approximately 700) consists of a hill-backed beach and numerous bright-white homes. Some homes are in close proximity to the sands, whereas others are tucked away in the hills. However, they are all extremely cute.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
The small village of Gairloch on Scotland’s west coast

Be sure to explore the surrounding hills, mountains, lochs, and the town itself. This is one of the most diverse regions of western Scotland, and all of its inhabitants are beautiful.

18. Oban

Oban is super beautiful.

It is a multi-tiered town built on a small hill overlooking a small bay and crowned by a replica of the Colosseum (no, I’m not joking). In addition to taking photographs, many visitors also fish, hike, and explore the west coast islands of Scotland.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
Oban Harbor is located along the Argyll Coastal Route.

If you’ve heard of Oban, it’s probably because of its world-famous seafood; there are a multitude of excellent eateries in Oban. Oban Seafood Hut and Ee-Usk are two of the city’s most popular restaurants, but there are many others. It is the most diverse seafood destination in Scotland, with lobsters, oysters, mussels, crab, salmon, and haddock, among others.

19. Pitlochry

Like most Cairngorm towns and villages, the main street of Pitlochry is bisected by a major road. Therefore, if you wish to visit a charming and easily accessible Scottish town, Pitlochry is a good option.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
The small Scottish town of Pitlochry

The town is comprised of a collection of small brown-stone buildings that are quite attractive. Cairngorms National Park, the largest national park in the United Kingdom, contains the most beautiful features. With mountains, lochs, valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and road trips, you could probably explore the park for a decade without becoming bored.

20. Glencoe

Those who enjoy hiking will adore Glencoe. If you enjoy road trips, you will enjoy Glencoe. If you enjoy beautiful scenery, you will enjoy Glencoe.

Unless you are the world’s most miserable cynic, you will essentially adore Glencoe.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
A remote Scottish mountain bothy at the base of Glencoe.

Close to Fort William, the location is always overshadowed by its next-door neighbor, because Fort William has significantly more amenities, restaurants, and hotels. But Glencoe and its environs are considerably more beautiful.

The small number of houses that make up the 400-person village appear quaint and cozy, but the real beauty lies in the surrounding mountains. There are innumerable peaks surrounding the village, which is situated on the shores of Loch Leven and nestled in the heart of a steep valley. The drive into Glencoe village is spectacular, but the hikes, road trips, and bike rides in and around the village are even more enjoyable.

21. Lochcarron

Another tiny location and village that you will likely not spend more than a couple of hours in.

When you reach Lochcarron, however, you will understand why I included it on this list.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in ScotlandSitting atop the shores of Loch Carron (a loch with the same name as the village, which is confusing) is a wonderful way to relax with a cup of coffee or some food. There is not much to do here, but when the mountains are this beautiful, just looking at them is sufficient.

22. Stromness

It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned any island cities and towns, so let’s remedy that.

Stromness is the second-largest settlement on the Orkney Islands, a vast archipelago off the northeastern coast of Scotland. Orkney is comprised of seventy islands and is filled with quaint towns and villages. I believe Stromness is the most attractive, however.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
Stromness, an Orkney port city with a waterfront view of houses and a hill, is framed by a view of a hill and houses.

Stromness, the main port of Orkney, is a bustling and enticing little town. There are winding alleyways, hilltop homes, and a beautiful village that spills into the harbor below.

Stromness is an ideal location from which to explore all of Orkney’s hills, trails, and shores due to its breathtaking beauty.

23. Lossiemouth

Lossiemouth is one of my top under-the-radar picks on this list, and far too few people are aware of it.

But more individuals should. And now, you do.

I was only in Lossiemouth to see a friend. I, too, had never heard of the location, so I was blown away by its beauty.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland
The beautiful Lossiemouth village

Lossiemouth is a small fishing village in Moray, bordering Aberdeenshire, and close to Elgin. It is quite distant from most of the other places on this list, so if you’re exploring the more northern parts of Scotland’s east coast, head in its direction. In Lossiemouth, there are two fantastic beaches, numerous dunes, a large number of friendly people, and a very attractive town.

It is a popular destination for locals on day trips with their families, so there are numerous places to stuff your face with ice cream and fish and chips.

24. Bridge of Allan

With a population of approximately 5,500, my final entry is significantly larger than the majority of other locations we’ve discussed thus far.

The majority of the locations on this list are renowned for their abundance of opportunities for hiking, cycling, and wandering.

Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in ScotlandEven though there are many opportunities for that in and around Bridge of Allan, the best way to explore the town is by dining and drinking in its cafes, bars, and restaurants. Bridge of Allan will likely appeal to you if you prefer to spend your time indoors rather than on outdoor excursions. It is attractive, hospitable, and friendly, and a good place to waste a few days or hours.

Topic: Top 24 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Scotland

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