Nestled in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Cairngorms National Park is the largest national park in the whole of the United Kingdom. There's no shortage of exploring to be done here; the park offers beautiful waterfalls, peaceful old-growth forests, and five of the six highest mountains in the UK Set in a truly idyllic part of the Scottish Highlands, Pitlochry is a well-equipped resort town with a charming Victorian atmosphere. Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to spas, restaurants, pubs, and shops, but the town is also a great place to base yourself if you want to hike, fish, golf, or otherwise enjoy the beauty of the surrounding countryside.
Scotland is renowned for its historic towns, but it’s not just the famous sites like Edinburgh and the historic university town of St Andrews that you should look out for when exploring Caledonia.
Here’s a guide to 10 of the most charming, picturesque and historic towns that might be little less known. Portree is famed for its natural beauty. Portree is the largest town on the island and makes for a superb view when seen from above on the cliffs that surround it, or looking back from the waters of Loch Portree.
The town looks out across the loch and towards the Sound of Raasay, and it is the main cultural centre for Skye, with the Aros Centre hosting exhibitions of Gaelic culture.
The name Portree comes from the Gaelic word Port Righ, meaning ‘King’s Port’, and was named as such when James V visited with his fleet in 1540. Over the centuries the harbour has seen many Highlanders and Islanders leave Scotland for the New World, and in 1746 it was in Portree that Bonnie Prince Charlie took his leave of his protector Flora MacDonald as he fled the English. Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com Portree, Isle of Skye | © Nataliya Hora/Shutterstock Plockton The picturesque harbour town of Plockton lies on the west coast in the Highlands, looking out onto Loch Carron.
It has a unique appearance, with the North Atlantic Drift creating a mild climate. You’ll find cabbage-palms growing on the harbour front, a tree normally found in tropical climes like the Antipodes. The town grew in the 19th century as a fishing village established by Highlanders who had been cleared off their lands. Just south of Plockton runs the Kyle of Lochalsh railway line, one of the . The town has been used as a location for TV shows and was where the great horror film (1973) was made.
Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com Plockton village in the Highlands, Scotland | © Bucchi Francesco/Shutterstock Tobermory Tobermory is the main town on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides and another beautiful harbour site.
The aptly named Main Street faces out onto the Sound of Mull with many of the shops and houses being painted bright colours. If you recognise the town it might be because it was the location for the filming of the BBC TV series Balamory. The name Tobermory comes from the Gaelic for the ‘well of the Virgin Mary’, and the town was founded in 1788 as a purpose-built fishing port designed by the great engineer Thomas Telford. There’s a local legend that a Spanish gold ship from the Armada lies sunk in the harbour.
The literary-minded among you may notice that from the town. Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com Colorful Town of Tobermory – Capital of Mull | © trotalo/Shutterstock Millport Millport is the sole town on the island of Great Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde off the west coast and close to the beautiful islands of Bute and Arran.
It’s also home to the smallest cathedral in Britain, the Cathedral of the Isles, built in 1851 with money from the Earl of Glasgow and designed by William Butterfield, the great gothic revivalist famous for Rugby School and . Millport lies on the south side of the island looking into Millport Bay, a settlement developed in the 18th century as a base for customs officers to help monitor the passage of ships into the Clyde.
Much of the town dates back to the Victorian era when it became a popular tourist spot for visitors from Glasgow. Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com Millport – Isle of Cumbrae – Scotland | © David Falconer/Shutterstock Kirkcudbright Kirkcudbright lies in Dumfries and Galloway in the Lowlands, close to Castle Douglas and Gatehouse of Fleet and overlooking the River Dee. Once the county town of Kirkcudbrightshire, it was home to the relics of St Cuthbert during the Anglo-Saxon period and became a royal burgh in the 15th century.
The town today surrounds MacLellan’s Castle, built by Sir Thomas MacLellan in the 1580s. More recently the town became famous in the first half of the last century as an artists’ colony to rival the likes of St Ives in Cornwall and Walberswick in Suffolk. Many of the spent time working in Kirkcudbright, including the likes of Samuel Peploe and Francis Cadell. Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com Row of White Painted Cottages in Kirkcudbright | © Kevin Eaves/Shutterstock Kelso Kelso stands where the rivers Tweed and Teviot converge in the Border country.
Sir Walter Scott called the town ‘the most beautiful’ in all of Scotland. It developed around the magnificent Kelso Abbey in the 12th century, once among the grandest monastic houses in Scotland and now a spectacular Romanesque ruin after it was destroyed during the Reformation.
The town is also home to the Dukes of Roxburghe at the grand Floors Castle, built in the 18th century for the Kerr family just north of the town centre on the banks of the Tweed. Their original home, at Roxburghe, can be seen across the river in ruins, having once been one of the great royal centres for the Scottish kings in the Middle Ages.
Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com Man fly-fishing on the River Tweed, Kelso, Scotland | © Ulmus Media/Shutterstock Linlithgow Linlithgow in West Lothian was once home to one of the great royal courts of Europe. Lying on the road between Edinburgh and Stirling, Linlithgow was a favorite haunt of the Stewart kings of the 15th and 16th centuries and a center of political intrigue and faction until the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603.
What that period has left is the vast Linlithgow Palace that rises spectacularly above the shores of Linlithgow Loch. When Bonnie Prince Charlie took the town during the Jacobite rebellion on 1745, it was said that the fountains ran with wine.
The handsome town hall also dates back to the 17th century. Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com The Ruins of Linlithgow Palace and St. Michael’s church, Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland | © Ulmus Media/Shutterstock Melrose is the site of one of the most picturesque of all monastic ruins in Britain. Melrose Abbey is the centerpiece of the town, built by the Cistercians in the 12th century and the burial site of many Kings of Scotland including the heart of Robert the Bruce.
The town is built around the ancient marketplace and cross and is surrounded by important and intriguing sites. To the south lie the rolling Eildon Hills. And to the east are the remains of the Roman settlement of Trimontium, the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey and west is Abbotsford House, the home of the great romantic novelist Sir Walter Scott. Most curious is the Rhymer’s Stone, the site where the 13th-century poet Thomas the Rhymer was said to have fallen asleep and been taken by the Queen of Elf-land.
When he returned he was said to have the gift of prophecy. Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com Melrose – Small town on the Scottish Borders, Scotland | © Nella/Shutterstock Crieff Crieff in Perthshire is famous for whisky, the Victorian Hydro, and its role as a key commercial centre for Highlanders.
It was to Crieff that many Highlanders brought their heards of cattle to in order to sell them on to merchants and traders from the Lowlands to feed . This made it a place where many thieves and Highland bandits rubbed shoulders, with countless feuds developing during market-time in Crieff.
The famous outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor came to the markets many times. Today there is a strong Victorian feel to Crieff, with the Hydro opening in 1868 for wealthy convalescents. Other notable sites include the Glenturret Distillery which claims to be the oldest in Scotland, dating back to 1717, and the Innerpeffray Library, the oldest lending library in Scotland, opened around 1680 and still free to visit.
Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com Looking over the Scottish town of Crieff, Scotland | © James McDowall/Shutterstock Pittenweem The small fishing town of Pittenweem is among the most unspoilt sites in Scotland. Located on the east coast in the East Neuk of Fife, the name Pittenweem comes from the ancient Pictish language and means ‘The Place of the Caves’. James V granted the town the status of royal burgh in 1541. Over the centuries there was considerable trade with merchants from the Low Countries sailing up the eastern coast of the UK.
This is reflected in red and white architecture and crow-stepped gables common in the town and in Holland and Belgium too. Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com
best dating scottish highland towns - Scottish Highlands Tourism 2018: Best of Scottish Highlands, Scotland
A Highland town which hosted Madonna's wedding to Guy Ritchie has been chosen for another celebrity marriage. Hollywood actress Ashley Judd and her racing driver fiance Dario Franchitti have formally given notice of plans to marry in Dornoch. The couple have moved their wedding banns to Dornoch and have given the proposed date for the ceremony as 12 December. Ashley Judd: Plans brought forward Madonna and husband Ritchie were married at nearby Skibo Castle last December, and their son was christened in the town's cathedral.
Guests at that event included the pop star Sting and designer Stella McCartney. Edinburgh-born Indycar driver Franchitti and actress Judd had originally posted their notice of intent to marry at nearby Bonar Bridge, giving the proposed date as 31 January.
However, new banns have been put on display in Dornoch. The couple's names were given as George Dario Marino Franchitti and Ashley Tyler Ciminella.
Registrar Lesley Connor said she had received notice of the change from the General Register Office in Edinburgh on Thursday. She said: "I had notification of it yesterday. "They have requested through the GRO to have it changed. Edinburgh agreed that rather than having them go through another 14 days' notice, their notice would just be displayed here." Carnegie Club The couple were reported to be planning an extravagant ceremony at a cost of about £1.3m.
The venue was understood to be the prestigious Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle. Those believed to be on the guest list include Carnegie regular Michael Douglas and his wife Catherine Zeta Jones, as well as Speed star Sandra Bullock. Dornoch provost and councillor Duncan Allan said: "I hope that the people who come north will receive true Highland hospitality, which includes not interfering with their privacy. "In Dornoch we treat celebrities with amusement, we see a lot of them coming here to play golf, we're quite used to it."
History and heritage sweep across from Highlands to Lowlands, from Orkney to the Hebrides. Centuries-old castles and ancient ruins dot the land, evidence of a past that encompassed internal conflicts as much as struggles against invaders, including Norse kings as much as the English. Glens and bens are the order of the day for the Scottish outdoors are simply stunning: the highest mountain of the British Isles is to be found here, Ben Nevis, as well as some of the most dramatic coastlines you’re likely to encounter.
Add that to rolling hills, calm lochs and a wealth of islands to explore (over 790), 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. dreamstime/ A trip to this picturesque fishing village would not be complete without visiting the Anstruther Fish Bar – and yes, that’s a fish and chip shop.
It’s won bags of awards for its fare (the mushy peas are of particular notoriety) and has served the likes of Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, and Prince William.
Another award-winning place in town is the Scottish Fisheries Museum, where you can learn about the Scottish fishing industry from prehistory to present day and soak in the museum’s historic buildings, including the 16th century Abbot’s House. The Royal connection in this town is strong. First of all, Balmoral Castle, sometime-residence of the Royal Family, is just a few miles down the road, and is partially open to the public when it’s not being lived in.
Secondly, Braemar is the site of the Braemar Gathering, an annual Highland Games traditionally attended by the Royal Family, since Queen Victoria. History abounds: there’s the 17th century antique-filled Braemar Castle, and the ruins of 14th century Kindrochit Castle, for instance.
It’s also on the doorstep of easy hiking in Morrone Birkwood Nature Reserve, as well as a steep ascent up the nearby hill of Creag Choinnich. dreamstime/ Just a stone’s throw from the English border and full of historical and architectural interest, Kelso came to life when the construction of its monastery was given permission in 1138. Almost a millennium later, the ruins of Kelso Abbey are still imposing and well preserved.
More recent is the grand Floors Castle, which dates from 1721; outside, the size and scale of this palace are impressive, but interior is majestically hung with tapestries. Situated on the confluence of the Tweed and Teviot rivers, this historic town is packed with things to do, eat, and drink. The ancient town of Linlithgow, with its historic High Street, boasts a very famous landmark: Linlithgow Palace. Although the present building was begun in 1424, it lies on the site of an even older original building.
Possibly Scotland’s finest example of late medieval architecture, it’s the birthplace of James V and Mary, Queen of Scots and is surrounded by an idyllic stretch of parkland known locally as “the Peel”, which includes the idyllic Linlithgow Loch.
To the south of town is a portion of the Glasgow-Edinburgh Union Canal. dreamstime/ Although St Andrews is most well known for being the location of the third-oldest university in the English-speaking world – and the place of higher education for the British Royal Family – the town is an attraction in itself, with historic sites dotted throughout its streets. On the coast there’s the spectacular clifftop ruins of 13th century St Andrews Castle, complete with dungeons and secret passageways, and further inland there’s the 18 acres of sculpted nature at the Botanical Gardens.
Elsewhere there’s the now-ruined 12th century cathedral – the largest church ever to built in Scotland. dreamstime/ Fort Augustus lies at the southwest end of the most famous of all lochs: Loch Ness. This second-largest of Scotland’s lochs draws tourists from far and wide – a few in the hopes of actually spotting the cryptozoological Nessie.
Aside from taking a cruise on Loch Ness itself, learning about Highlands culture at the Clansman Centre, or checking out the 19th century abbey, it’s the natural setting in an attractive area of the Scottish Highlands that Fort Augustus enjoys which make this an albeit well-trodden charmer of a town. dreamstime/ Pastel-coloured buildings, shops, pubs, and the atmospheric ruins of 13th century Tarbert Castle make this little town a slice of aesthetic joy on the isthmus that links the Kintyre peninsula to Knapdale.
Mentioned as far back as 731 AD, Tarbert was previously known as the place where ships and boats could be carried across the relatively narrow strip of land to avoid going all the way round the Mull of Kintyre. For walkers, hikers and runners alike, this is the starting point of the 100-mile Kintyre Way, which encompasses the landscape of this incredible peninsula.
This small village began life as a planned community based on fishing, an attempt to stem emigration from the Highlands. As such most of the houses are 19th and 20th century. But its location is very attractive: though on the west coast Plockton faces east, giving it a mild climate and allowing quaintly out-of-place cabbage tree palms to grow here. The town was popular with 20th century art collective the Edinburgh School and continues to attract artists (and tourists) today.
dreamstime/ This town has association with art. 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 in Kirkcudbright that lasted roughly 30 years.
But the artists kept coming, cementing a reputation for art and artists that lives on today. Founded sometime in the 12th century, Kirkcudbright’s rows of pastel-coloured houses and medieval buildings, such as the 16th century McLellan Castle, clearly add to the town’s allure. flickr/ Situated at the western end of Loch Tay, scenic Killin is in a prime position for Highlands exploration. It’s set very near the raucous Falls of Dochart, which you can see from a stone bridge that crosses the wild white-water.
The famous MacNab clan were dominant here – there’s a prehistoric stone circle in the grounds of their old seat of power, Kinnell House; and you can find their family burial ground on Inchbuie, an island in the River Dochart. To the north of town are the ruins of 17th century Finlarig Castle. But the walking and hiking on nearby mountain Beinn Ghlas alone is worth a trip to this out-of-the-way spot. Pretty Portnahaven is a planned village built in the 19th century – its little white houses are detailed round the windows with different colours, feeling warm and cosy set amidst the rugged scenery.
Its harbour is sheltered and as such attracts grey seals, who have been known to pop in for a spot of sunbathing on the rocks. This is also 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. The largest town on the largest island of the Inner Hebrides, Portree is very attractive with its pastel-coloured houses and harbour fringed by cliffs – with a pier designed by Thomas Telford to boot.
The town is perfectly situated as a gateway to the rocky scenery of the Trotternish peninsula (one of Scotland’s 40 National Scenic Areas), nearby to the famous landmark the Old Man of Storr, as well as for exploring the rest of Skye. The Aros Centre at Portree celebrates Skye’s Gaelic culture – there are a fair few speakers of the language on the island. Trade with Belgium and the Netherlands influenced the very pretty style of the houses in Pittenweem, with their white walls and red roofs.
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; in 2013 over 25,000 turned up – almost 25 times its population. 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.
Situated on the ‘Mainland’ – the largest of the Orkney Islands – this town is all about rugged coastal charm, with brownstone buildings huddled down by the choppy sea. First recorded in the 16th century as the site of an inn, Stromness became important in the next century as a port due to war with France encroaching on the English Channel.
Its pier houses the very comprehensive Pier Arts Gallery, with a lot of 20th century art on show. Less than 20 minutes’ drive north is Skara Brae, a 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. The colourful shops and restaurants of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull are famous for being featured on children’s television programme Balamory, amongst other things.
You can see why: they look incredibly picturesque against the green trees, glassy black water and (often) grey sky. There’s lots to do in town, with the Tobermory Museum, an aquarium, and the Tobermory single malt whisky distillery to visit. Otherwise it’s perfect as a base to explore this island of the Inner Hebrides.