History and heritage sweep across Scotland from Highlands to Lowlands, from Orkney to the Hebrides. Centuries-old castles, ancient ruins dot the land, some of the most dramatic coastlines, rolling hills, calm lochs and a wealth of islands to explore and there’s even more reason to visit Scotland. But where should you go? Here’s a look at the prettiest small towns in Scotland you can base yourself in.
10 SMALL TOWNS TO VISIT
Balmoral Castle, sometime-residence of the Royal Family is just a few miles down the road. Braemar is also the site of the Braemar Gathering, an annual Highland Games traditionally attended by the Royal Family, since Queen Victoria. Highlights of the town is the 17th century antique-filled Braemar Castel, the 14th century ruins of Kindrochit Castle and hiking in Morrone Birkwood Nature Reserve, as well as a steep ascent up the nearby hill of Creag Choinnich.
The historic High Street in this ancient town boasts a very famous landmark, the Linlithow Palace. The present building was begun in 1424 and is possible the finest example of late medieval architecture. It is also the birthplace of James V and Mary, Queen of Scots. The palace is surrounded by an idyllic stretch of parkland and Linlithgow Loch. To the south of town is a portion of the Glasgow-Edinburgh Union Canal.
The town is located at the southwest end of the most famous of all lochs: Loch Ness. The loch is the second largest in Scotland and draws tourists form all over the world – with the hope to actually spotting the cryptozoological Nessie. You can learn about the Highlands culture at the Clansman Centre, or visit the 19th century abbey or take a cruise on Loch Ness itself.
Founded in the 12th century, the town rows of pastel-coloured houses and medieval buildings.The Collectives Glasgow Boys (from the late 1800s) and early 20th century Scottish Colourists both of which visited and stayed in the area, establishing an artists’ colony that lasted roughly 30 years. Today the artist kept coming, cementing a reputation for art and artists that lives on today. You can also visit the 16th century McLellan Castle, which add to the town’s allure.
Located very near the raucous Falls of Dochart at the western end of Loch Tay. It is also the family burial ground (on the Inchbuie, and island in the River Dochart) for the famous MacNab clan, with a prehistoric stone circle in the grounds of there old seat of power, Kinnel House. Visitors can visit just North of town the ruins of 17th century Finlarig Castle, or you can walk or hike on the nearby mountain Beinn.
The little white houses with detail around the windows in different colours was a planned village built in the 19th century. The sheltered harbour attracts grey seals, white the town is a haven for birdwatchers: shearwaters, petrels, gannets and auks can be in abundance in Autumn. The remote setting alone, however, with dramatic waves crashing against the shoreline, is attractive enough by itself.
On the largest island of Inner Hebrides you will find the largest town with its very attractive pastel-coloured houses, a harbor fringed by cliffs and a pier designed by Thomas Telford. The town is perfectly situated as a gateway to the rocky scenery of the Trotternish peninsula, nearby to the famous landmark the Old Man of Storr, as well as for exploring the rest of Skye. The Skye’s Gaelic culture is celebrated at the Aros Centre.
The white walled houses with there red roofs was influenced by the trade with Belgium and the Netherlands. One of the most active fishing village in this area of Fife, it became even more busy from 1982 when the village launched its first Arts Festival, which is now one of the best-loved in Scotland. The winding alleys of this picturesque place also brim with history: an abbey dating from 1318 stands over a sacred gave associated with St Fillan.
The town is situated on the ‘Mainland’ - the largest of the Orkney Islands. The town is all about rugged coastal charm, with brownstone buildings huddled down by the choppy sea. At the pier you will find the very comprehensive Pier Arts Gallery with a lot of the 20th century art on show. North of the town, about 20 minutes drive, you will find the Neolithic site predating both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, a collection of mind-bogglingly well preserved houses and just one part of Orkney’s ancient sites.
On the Isle of Mull the colourful shops and restaurants is famous for being featured on the children’s television programme Balamory. There’s lots to do in the town, you can visit the Tobermory Museum, aquarium, and the Tobermory single malt whisky distillery. Otherwise it’s perfect as a base to explore this island of the Inner Hebrides. Scotland is best visited during late March to May and September to November months. By spring, the temperatures are warmer, although there will still be snow in the mountains of the Highlands and the Cairngorms. The summer months of June through to August are the warmest of the year.