19 Best Cities and Towns in Scotland to Visit + Map

We have already written an extensive guide on the most picturesque villages in Scotland. So, we thought it was about time that we put together some of the best towns and cities this country has to offer.

Scotland has no shortage of lively cities, from the crowded cobbled streets of Edinburgh to the epic music scene of Glasgow. Officially, Scotland has eight cities.

But the beauty of Scottish towns can rival any bustling hub, with its stunning setting in nature, hilltop views and ruined castles

So, whether you like buzzing cities or cosy small towns, we have rounded some of the best cities and towns to include in your Scotland itinerary.

Best cities and towns in Scotland

1. Edinburgh

The capital city of Scotland is steeped in hundreds of years of history. Also, the list of things to do in Edinburgh is extensive. 

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh are UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city skyline is dominated by the iconic Edinburgh Castle. It sits over an extinct volcanic plug. This mighty fortress was once the residence of the Scottish kings and queens.

For an awe-inspiring view of the city, climb to Arthur’s Seat or Calton Hill.

Stroll along the colourful Victoria Street, rumoured to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books.

Make your way to the stunning Dean Village, a peaceful oasis in this busy city. Take a short walk along the Water of Leith to reach the buzzing Stockbridge. Search for Circus Lane, one of the most picturesque streets in Edinburgh.

2. St Andrews

The charming town is famous for being the birthplace of golf – but also for its fascinating history, cultural scene and vast sandy beaches. There are plenty of tourist attractions in St Andrews to explore.

St Andrews Cathedral was once the largest church in the whole of Scotland. It was built in 1158 and became the centre of the catholic churches in Scotland. Some of the ruined towers still stand today.

Golf lovers will love a visit to the historic Old Course. It is known to be one of the oldest golf courses in the world.

This seaside town has two beautiful sandy beaches. Also, be sure to explore the medieval ruins of St Andrews Castle.

3. Glasgow

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and one of the biggest cities in the UK. There are plenty of things to do and see in Glasgow to keep your Scotland trip memorable.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the best museums in Glasgow. It has an extensive collection of 8000 objects which include famous paintings, armour and ancient historical artefacts.

History buffs will love a visit to the Glasgow Cathedral. It is the oldest building in this city and should be a must-visit place on your Glasgow itinerary.

For a beautiful panoramic view of the skyline, climb to the nearby Necropolis. This Victorian cemetery is a hidden gem in Glasgow.

This city is renowned for its many colourful street art. You can follow the Glasgow mural trail to explore them. Also, Glasgow has the best nightlife in Scotland.

This bustling city is not too far from the famous Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, which is the most popular day trip destination from Glasgow.

4. Fort William

Known as the Outdoor Capital of the UK, this picturesque town is located on the shores of Loch Linnhe with mighty Ben Nevis in the backdrop. From hiking to wildlife spotting, there are many unmissable things to do in Fort William for a perfect holiday in nature.

There are numerous walking trails around this area for all abilities. Expert hikers will love to climb the iconic Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland and the UK.

Hop on the world-famous Jacobite Steam Train, popularly known as the Hogwarts Express. It crosses the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct on its way to the coastal town of Mallaig.

Enjoy a scenic gondola ride at Nevis Range. From the top, you will be greeted with some of the most stunning views over the town and the surrounding mountains and lochs.

Stroll around the Old Inverlochy Castle. It was built in the late 13th century.

5. Inverness

Inverness and the nearby Loch Ness are undoubtedly must-visit attractions for anyone visiting Scotland. From tranquil riverside walks to exploring the Victorian market, there are many exciting places to visit in Inverness.

Known as the capital of the Highlands, Inverness is one of the smallest cities in Scotland.

Spend a day exploring the serene Loch Ness. Take a boat tour to spot Nessie, the famous Loch Ness monster. Don’t forget to visit the historic Urquhart Castle, one of the best castles in Scotland.

Head up to Inverness Castle. From the castle viewpoint, you will get a stunning panoramic view of the city, River Ness and beyond.

Take a leisurely nature walk in the Ness Islands. Visit the Victorian Market in the city centre. The covered market is the home to a plethora of shops, cafes and restaurants.

6. Inveraray

Nestled on the western banks of Loch Fyne, Inveraray is one of the prettiest small towns in Scotland.

One of the main visitor attractions in Inveraray is the Inveraray Castle, the ancestral home of the chief of Clan Campbell. This fairytale dreamy building is one of the most picturesque castles in Scotland. After a visit to the castle, take a leisurely stroll around the surrounding gardens.

For a birds-eye view over this town and the surrounding landscapes, hike to the top of nearby Dun Na Cuaiche hill.

Take a tour of the Inveraray Jail, a historic 19th-century prison and courtroom turned living museum.

Also, walk along the shore of Loch Fyne and admire the serene beauty of this place. Watch out for wildlife in Loch Fyne, a designated Marine Protected Area in Scotland.

7. Stirling

This is one of the must-visit cities in Scotland. There are plenty of lovely things to do in Stirling.

Stirling Castle sits on an ancient volcanic crag. Most of the buildings date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. It served as the residence of the Scottish monarchs in past centuries. 

Two important battles in Scottish history were fought near this historic city – Battle of Stirling Bridge and Battle of Bannockburn.

Another main tourist attraction in this city is the National Wallace Monument, an iconic landmark of Scotland. It commemorates Sir William Wallace, a national hero. You can climb 246 steps to reach the viewing platform. The breathtaking panoramic view is well worth the effort.

Take a ramble around the Church of the Holy Rude and the adjacent cemetery. You can also follow the Back Walk. It’s a lovely walk around the old town walls and provides lovely views over the city.

8. Dundee

Located on the shore of the Firth of Tay, Dundee is the fourth largest city in Scotland by population. It is known as the ‘City of Discovery’ owing to its glorious industrial past.

One of the main tourist attractions in Dundee is the V&A Dundee, the first design museum in Scotland. It showcases the Scottish creativity over the years. After all, Dundee was the UK’s first-ever UNESCO city of design.

Right next to V&A is the RRS Discovery, a historic ship built in Dundee. Captain Scott went on this ship to do the Antarctic expedition in 1901.

Browse through the priceless art and natural history collection of The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum.

Stroll along the vibrant waterfront. Climb Dundee Law for a cracking view over the city, River Tay, Fife, and beyond.

9. Aviemore

Situated in the stunning Cairngorms National Park, Aviemore is one of the best towns in Scotland for outdoor adventure activities. It is a popular site for skiing, hill walking and other winter sports. 

Also, Cairngorms is one of the best places to visit in Scotland.

Surrounded by magnificent mountains, scenic lochs and lush forests, this pretty town is an excellent base for travellers exploring the national park. 

Enjoy a thrilling funicular ride in the Cairngorms Mountain Resort. You will get a spectacular view of the Cairngorms mountain ranges.

Make a brief stop at the serene Loch Morlich, a freshwater loch surrounded by sandy beaches. Also, it is a popular spot for various water sports.

Aviemore is buzzing with various shops, cafes and restaurants. There are many hiking trails around this town.

10. Melrose

Located on the bank of River Tweed in the Scottish Borders, Melrose is one of the most historic towns in Scotland. It is the birthplace of Rugby Sevens.

One of the main tourist attractions in Melrose is the historic Melrose Abbey, which dates back to 1136. It faced significant destruction by the English army in 1385. Also, this magnificent ruin is the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s heart.

This pretty town sits next to the Eildon Hills, which is perfect for hillwalking. From the summit, you will get a magnificent view of Melrose and the surrounding rolling hills of Scottish Borders.

If you are visiting during summer, wander around the lovely Priorwood Garden and Harmony Garden.

Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott, a legendary Scottish author, is not too far from this town. 

11. North Berwick

Located on the shore of the Firth of Forth, North Berwick is one of the most attractive coastal towns in Scotland.

It takes only 35 minutes to get here by train from Edinburgh, making North Berwick one of the best day trip destinations from Edinburgh.

The town centre is filled with cosy cafes, busy fish and chips shops, and restaurants.

Roam around the beautiful beaches, which boast picturesque views of the Firth of Forth, Bass Rock and the nearby islands. 

Take a look inside the Scottish Seabird Centre. From the harbour, catch a boat tour to the Bass Rock, the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets.

Climb North Berwick Law for a superb view over the town, Bass Rock and the sea. 

12. Oban

Tucked away in a sheltered bay on the Firth of Lorne, Oban is one of the largest towns on the West Coast of Scotland.

This coastal town is popularly known as the seafood capital of Scotland and the gateway to the Isles.

Oban has excellent ferry links to the islands of the Inner Hebrides. So, you can embark on an island-hopping adventure from here.

Climb to the McCaig’s Tower, which looks over this harbour town. The circular structure was built in 1897 by local banker John Stuart McCaig. Admire the stunning view over Oban Bay and the faraway islands.

Take a guided tour of the Oban Distillery, one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. 

13. Aberdeen

Nicknamed the Granite City, Aberdeen sits in North East Scotland on the shore of the North Sea.

One of the main tourist attractions in Aberdeen is the gorgeous Aberdeen Beach. The golden sandy beach stretches for about two miles. It is a perfect place to spend a sunny summer day. 

Ramble around Footdee, a quaint fishing settlement in Aberdeen and a hidden gem of this city.

Make your way to the Aberdeen Art Gallery to admire one of the finest collections in the UK. 

Not too far from this bustling city is the magnificent Dunnottar Castle, one of the most dramatic castles in Scotland.

There are many castles to explore in Aberdeenshire. The most famous one is perhaps the Balmoral Castle, the residence of the British royal family since 1852. It is located very close to Braemar, one of the most beautiful villages in Scotland.

14. Pitlochry

Surrounded by majestic mountains, mystical glens, atmospheric rivers and lochs, and dense forest, this Scottish town surely has an enviable setting.

Located in Perthshire on the River Tummel, Pitlochry is a nature lovers’ paradise. There are various scenic walking trails around this town. Ben Vrackie, Faskally Wood, Craigower and Killiecrankie are some of the popular hiking spots. 

Also, white water rafting, cycling, golfing, and fishing are very popular in this area.

You can’t miss a visit to the spectacular Queen’s View vantage point. You will get to admire one of the finest views of Scotland from here.

There are two distilleries close to this Victorian town – Blair Athol Distillery and Edradour Distillery. Whisky lovers can take a guided tour and tasting.

15. Falkirk

Falkirk is home to the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel. Located in the central belt of Scotland, this bustling town is one of the best places for a day trip from Glasgow.

Standing proudly in Helix Park, The Kelpies are two gigantic horse head sculptures made from steel and bronze. They are the world’s largest equine sculptures. Named after a Scottish mythological character, the Kelpies are one of the best tourist attractions in Scotland. Created by artist Andy Scott, it honours the horse-driven industrial heritage of this area.

Another must-visit attraction of this town is the Falkirk Wheel, the only rotating boat lift in the world. It joins the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal and lifts boats 115 ft above.

16. Perth

Sitting on the bank of River Tay, the ‘Fair City’ Perth is one of the eight cities of Scotland. It was once the capital of Scotland.

Take a tour of the historic Scone Palace, the ancestral home of the Earls of Mansfield. Many significant events in Scottish history took place in this palace. Several Scottish kings and queens were crowned on the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny. Today, the stone resides in the Edinburgh Castle.

For a striking view over this city and the surrounding rolling hills of Perthshire, hike to Kinnoull Hill.

Art lovers will enjoy a visit to the Perth Art Gallery. It features works of many famous modern Scottish artists.

17. Eyemouth

This small seaside town in the Scottish Borders has a picturesque harbour, rich wildlife and a dramatic coastline. 

The town of Eyemouth sits on the Berwickshire Coastal Path on the section from St Abbs to Berwick.

Meander around the Eyemouth pier. The colourful fishing boats are very photogenic. Watch out for seals. They are frequently spotted here playing. 

The town centre is buzzing with many cafes, seafood restaurants and shops. 

Take a tour of the Gunsgreen House. It was once a notorious smuggling spot. Other illicit trades also used to take place here in past centuries. 

You can take a boat trip to explore the stunning coastline of Berwickshire. We would also highly recommend a short trip to the nearby village of St Abbs.

18. Ayr

Ayr is a popular seaside town on the southwest coast of Scotland. You can visit Ayr on a day trip from Glasgow.

This bustling town is famous for its long sandy beach. It’s a perfect spot for a family beach day and on hot summer days, it gets very busy with people coming from Glasgow and nearby areas. There are restaurants, an entertainment centre and a children’s play area along the promenade.

This town is famous for its connection to Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland. He was born in Alloway, on the outskirts of Ayr.

Fans of the bard would love a visit to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. Also, Take a stroll around the picturesque Brig o’Doon, immortalised in Burns’s poem.

Make a short trip to visit the lovely Culzean Castle, not very far from Ayr. 

19. Kirkcudbright

Located on the Solway Coast within Dumfries and Galloway in southwest Scotland, Kirkcudbright is a pretty harbour town. 

Its picturesque setting has attracted many notable artists and creative personalities over the years, including Francis Cadell and Samuel Peploe from the Scottish Colourists and the Glasgow Boys, who lived and worked here. Today, Kirkcudbright is known as the Artists’ Town.

Kirkcudbright Galleries houses an extensive collection of works by local artists. Here, you can find paintings and drawings as well as silver jewellery, book illustrations and ceramics.

Culture lovers will enjoy a visit to the Broughton House & Garden, home of Reputed Scottish painter Edward Atkinson Hornel. Inside, you will find many paintings, photographs and sculptures. Take a look at Hornel’s studio as well. Later, stroll around the beautiful Japanese-inspired garden.

Map of the Best Towns and Cities of Scotland

Here is a map of all the lovely towns and cities mentioned in this travel guide. Click on the link to open this on Google Maps. You could save it to use later.

We hope this article has motivated you to travel to Scotland and explore all these places for yourself.

Love, Sankha and Moumita.

1 thought on “19 Best Cities and Towns in Scotland to Visit + Map”

  1. Fantastic mooie site.voor Schotland bezoekers zoals wij uit Nederland. Gaan in mei dit jaar weer richting ons geliefd Schotland😊

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