There are so many uniquely beautiful and picturesque villages in Scotland to visit. The small villages have a wonderfully charming atmosphere and are often the most welcoming locations in Scotland on any trip to the country.
I asked a collection of talented travel bloggers what they felt were the best and most beautiful villages in Scotland to visit. We pulled together this collaboration to highlight those villages ranging from the highlands, to the lakes, to the lowlands and islands.
Which one will you add to your next Scottish itinerary?
Submitted by Ela & Beata from Stunning Outdoors
Glencoe and Ballachulish lay just 2miles apart from each other, hence when you visit Glen Coe you are most likely to visit both villages. They both are located at the banks of Loch Leven and the mouth of one of the most beautiful and dramatic valleys (or glen in Scottish) Coe.
The area is known for its stunning beauty, and it attracts many hikers and mountaineers who all want to conquer the mountains rising proudly on both sides of the valley. Hence when visiting Glencoe village have your boots at the ready.
You could also enjoy many of the mountain bike and road bike routes near the village and go kayaking at Loch Leven.
Glencoe has its own visitor centre and Folk Museum. A visit to both is highly recommended as you will learn about local geology, wildlife, and turbulent history.
If you visit the iconic and traditional inn ‘The Clachaig Inn’, you will have a chance to enjoy the best of Scottish hospitality and live music.
Glencoe is beautiful in every season, so you could really visit the whole year-round. However, winter hiking skills may be required if you want to visit and hike in months from November to end of March.
Submitted by Monique from Trip Anthropologist
Callanish (or Calanais) is a village on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The village has an important Visitors Center (and charming café) that explains how the village sits in the middle of incredible historical and ancient monuments. Its opening times change according to the season.
Only a 10 minute drive away is the 1st-century broch of Dun Carloway and two small stone circles are nearby. On the brow of the hill next to the village are standing stones that take their name from the village. The Standing Stones of Callanish are a major tourist destination in Scotland and the Callanish Standing stones are eerie and beautiful. They were erected by Neolithic peoples sometime between 2900 and 2600 BC.
The stones make a perfect cross inside a circle with an enormous monolith in the center. The Standing Stones are a powerful sight at any time of the day and in any season but moonlit and starry nights and sunrise are particularly haunting times. There is a car park at the site and also at the Visitors Centre in Callanish village.
Submitted by Allan from BangorNI
Tarbert is a charming wee fishing village found on an inlet of Loch Fyne which is probably best known for its convenient vantage point for travel to-and-from the islands on this west coast of Kintyre. For example, to reach Islay, it’s within walking distance from the Kennacraig Port, and then there’s the ferry to Portavadie just next to the village seafront. But Tarbert Loch Fyne is an attraction in itself, found along the whisky routes, and is full of local charm.
Nestled between choppy seas on one side, and lofty hills the opposite, the village sits beneath a 14th-century castle, known as Robert the Bruce’s Castle, which marks the start of some of the most scenic walks in the region.
The village itself is not overly touristy, and is very much an active fishing port, but there are some places of interest including art galleries, a scenic promenade, as well as a handful of hotels, bars, and restaurants. It is always best to visit in the summer when the village hosts various maritime events including an annual seafood festival, as well as hosting the Scottish Series which is the UK’s second most popular Yacht race.
Submitted by Charlotte from BurstingMyBubbles
Situated on the North East coast of Scotland and stretching over beautiful golden beaches Dunnet is truly a gorgeous place to stay. And as Scotland has a smaller population in its entirety than Yorkshire, you are not going to be surrounded by hoards of people. Which is more than can be said for its capital Edinburgh!
The village itself is small and self-contained with a harbour and plenty of places to eat, drink, shop, and stay. With very friendly locals!
The aforementioned beach is a beautiful place where you can sit, relax and enjoy a thistly cross (amazing Scottish Cider) as you watch the sunset/ sunrise. In the daytime you can surf, where you might even be joined by a friendly local seal. Talk a nice walk and even spot the many different birds that nest there.
The best time to go would be between March and May just before midge season. As the further North you go the worse they get, and in beautiful weather, they come in in their thousands. You don’t really want to be clothed head to toe in glorious sunshine to avoid being a meal for midges.
Callander is a small town on the eastern edge of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, close to Stirling. It may mostly be used as a getaway to the rest of the park, but there are still some places of interest around the area. One of them is Bracklinn Falls and another one is Ben Gullipen, a small hill at 414m.
There are designated trails to reach both places of interest, and both offer beautiful views along the way. For example, on the Bracklinn Falls (circular) trail, after passing the falls and exiting the dense forestry that lies ahead, there are amazing views of the upper glen of Keltie Water. On the other hand, the Ben Gullipen (linear) trail has the best views at the summit, for where, on a clear day, you will be able to enjoy views of up to seven different lochs.
You can visit Callander year-round, but if you want to avoid the cold, then it is better to visit during a warm summer day. Snow and sun make a great combination, so if you get the chance to have weather like this, dress in layers and go out to explore the area. Lastly, remember to wear sturdy shoes, especially if you are going to Ben Guillipen, as the hike can get a bit steep towards the summit.
Submitted by Suzanne from Meandering Wild
Stromness is a large village located on the west coast of Orkney mainland. For many people, it is the first place that they will see when they arrive on the islands. The ferry from Scrabster close to Thurso on the Scottish mainland docks here.
Stromness has a unique feel with a cobbled main street that winds between small houses and many leads down to small piers on the edge of the harbour.
Stromness has a really interesting history with the story being told in the Stromness Museum. An Arctic explorer – John Rae was from Orkney and the town was the starting point for his numerous expeditions in the Arctic for the Hudson Bay Company.
Stromness can be visited year-round, but the winter months see limited daylight and the town can be quite quiet and the weather wild. In the summer months, it is a great place to wander and explore including the Pier Arts Centre which has changing exhibitions and events.
Top Tip – If you visit Stromness, park in the car park by the ferry, do not attempt to drive through the centre of the village as it is really narrow.
Submitted by Gemma from Two Scots Abroad
Gairloch is a small scenic village on the west coast of Scotland’s North Coast 500 route. The area is officially called Wester Ross, which sounds awfully like an area from the TV show Game of Thrones!
A longtime favourite holiday destination for Scottish families, the village sits by the shores of Loch Gairloch. Due to its proximately to the water, many of the fun activities around the village happen on or in it.
Visitors can hop aboard a boat tour to find out more about the marine life in the area. There’s even a glass-bottom boat that takes you around three islands. Look out for Bob, the resident seal.
Gairloch’s beaches are also a big attraction, with families enjoying sandy days at Gairloch Beach, Sands Beach and Big Sand. Even smaller than Gairloch is the village of Sheildaig, which is a personal favourite of mine.
Enjoy a pub meal, grab a pint and catch Sheildaig Island at sunset for a memorable trip to the Scottish Highlands.
Submitted by Angela from WhereAngiesWanders
Submitted by Jumana from Planet Hopper Girl
Luss is a scenic village in the Loch Lomond National Park in Scotland which is perfect for a staycation, especially for those who would like a quiet place to avoid the crowd. The shore is very scenic with a view of Ben Lomond and there is a pier here for a perfect Loch view hangout- the Scottish way.
Luss is a small village but has charming houses and cafes that will take your breath away and cottages for your perfect staycation. The village houses reminded me of the Cotswolds in England. There are multiple walks in this area, ranging from 15 minutes to 1 hour to take a tour of the village. There are also loch cruise services and opportunities for water sports in this area.
The famous Balloch castle, one of the best castles in Scotland is very nearby. You can also take a hike in the Luss Hills. The best time to visit Luss is spring and summer, with flowers decorating the village in the spring making it pretty scenic. I would recommend Luss as one of the top stops for a Scotland road trip itinerary if you drive around Loch Lomond National Park.
Submitted by Gemma from Everything Edinburgh
Culross is a popular village in The Kingdom of Fife.
Locals visit for weekend walks along the cobbled streets with sea air, and day trips from Edinburgh swing by to see where the STARZ show, Outlander, was filmed!
Culross is less than 20 minutes drive from the ancient capital of Scotland, Dunfermline. There are two main car parks. However, the village centre roads can be tight since this picturesque West Fife area has retained its 17th and 18th-century charm.
You can also reach Culross by public transport, taking the train to Dunfermline then the bus to Culross.
The most popular things to do include wandering through the tiny streets while checking out the historic houses. Walk up towards Culross Abbey, a former Cistercian abbey.
Pilgrims have stopped at this abbey to rest, making Culross the ideal starting point for the signposted 70 miles Fife Pilgrims Way multi-day walk.
Culross Palace is another landmark. It stands out with its ochre-coloured walls and its orange roof. The gardens are well worth paying to see, especially if Outlander fans want to see where Claire’s herb garden was located!
Submitted by Rachel from Average Lives
Dornie is an old fishing village in Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands and is around a 4-hour drive from both Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is a famous village for two reasons; the first is that it is on the road to the Isle of Skye, and the second is that it is home to the Eilean Donan Castle. The 13th-century castle is an obligatory photo stop and is the most photographed castle in Scotland. A visit allows you to travel into the past and roam the inside rooms and art on display. The charming village is full of colourful houses, and you can grab a bite to eat at the Dornie Hotel.
The best time to visit Dornie depends on the opening hours of the castle. These are 10am-4pm in winter, 10am-5pm in spring and 10am-6pm in summer. Remember, the busiest but warmest months are in the summer, and the quietest and coldest are in the winter. Undeniably, Dornie looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale, and you will not be disappointed by a visit to this small, quaint village surrounded by quintessential Scottish scenery.
Submitted by Kristin from AdventuresWithEnsuite
Scarista village is on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, a group of islands north of mainland Scotland, reached by ferry or a domestic flight.
The main reason to visit is the fantastic scenery and the amazing Hebrides beaches, one being right on your doorstep. Scarista beach has a pretty horseshoe shape with crashing waves coming in from the Atlantic. The best views of the beach are from a layby adjacent to the eastern end of the village’s golf course or from the top of Ceaphabhal, the small hill located at the opposite end of the beach. After climbing the hill stop at cosy Temple Café in Northton village.
April and May are the best months for clear skies but all the summer months are considered high season. These months have the highest chance of nice weather although you should prepare to experience all four seasons every day. Another reason to visit at this time is that many cafes, restaurants and shops have very limited opening times during other times of year.
Submitted by Victoria from GuideYourTravel
Newburgh is a tiny town located in the north of Scotland around one hour north of the city of Aberdeen. Not many tourists visit Newburgh although it is a favourite amongst locals in the area. The town of Newburgh is very small and there isn’t much to see here except the impressive Holy Rood Chapel that sits in the centre of town. Newburgh once functioned as a seaport but today is home to only a few hundred people.
What makes this town special is its incredible seaside location close to the Ythan Estuary. Most people coming to Newburgh visit Newburgh Seal Beach which lies just a short walk outside of town. Here thousands of seals gather on the sandy shores to sun themselves. They can be spotted swimming in shallow waters and laying on the shore in large groups.
With beautiful hiking paths through the nearby sand dunes, you’ll love how close to nature Newburgh is. Come in early spring for the best chance at spotting seals.
Submitted by Cazzy from Dream Big, Travel Far
If I had to pick a small yet memorable village in Scotland, none is more charming than Braemar. This quaint village may be my favorite place to visit in Scotland. It’s located in one of the highest peaks at the Cairngorms National Park and surrounded by the majestic Grampian Mountains.
The 360-view of woodlands is nothing short of breathtaking, but what’s so unique about Braemar is its amount of walking, hiking and cycling routes. A heaven for you who thrive on outdoor activities! In fact, there are over 24 Munros (mountains measuring 3000 ft or higher) in this village.
If you’re a sports enthusiast, the Braemar Golf Club is definitely not one to miss. It’s the highest golf course in the country, perching 1,200 ft above sea level. You can also visit Glenshee to experience Scotland’s largest ski resort.
I recommend visiting Braemar around the first Saturday in September as that’s when the annual Braemar Gathering and Highland Games take place. Aside from extraordinary festivities and a firsthand account of local traditions, you might spot the Royal Family if you’re lucky! They have been known to attend each year since the first Gathering in 1832.
Submitted by Maja from AwayWithMaja
Durness is a remote village on the northwest tip of Scotland, and one of the most popular stopping points on the North Coast 500—Scotland’s epic version of a Route 66 road trip.
You can learn about the history of the Highland clearances at the Ceannabeinne Township Trail, or relax at Sango Sands beach. Don’t miss a visit to Smoo Cave when in Durness—in summer, you can take a boat tour into the cave itself. The village of Durness itself is small, with a few shops and accommodation establishments. Just outside of the village, you can head to Balnakeil Craft Village, which is home to many local artists and businesses (don’t miss the hot chocolate from Cocoa Mountain Café).
Stroll along the white sand of Balnakeil Beach for great views out towards Cape Wrath in the distance—it’s possible to visit Cape Wrath itself if you want to book a half-day excursion (by ferry/minibus) from Durness.
The best time of year to visit Durness is probably the peak season of May-September, when it stays light out until late in the evening, and the weather is warmest.
Submitted by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
Portree is the largest town and capital of Isle of Skye, one of the popular islands in Scotland.
Portree was originally a fishing village, said to have got its name Port Righ (meaning king’s port), when King Janes V of Scotland visited the village in 1540. Later in 1700, the village came to the limelight for being the most popular port of departure for Scottish people fleeing to America.
Today, Portree is a buzzing town and a place one cannot miss when travelling on the Isle of Skye. With a wide choice of accommodation, cafes, restaurants, and shops around, Portree is a perfect base to explore the Isle of Skye.
Visit Portree Harbour, one of the picturesque settings with sweeping views of mountains. It is one of the instagrammable spots in Isle of Skye with colourfully painted buildings adorning the waterfront.
From Portree Harbour, you can take a boat tour to take day trips to the neighbouring islands of Raasay and Rona, or spot seals and otters.
Summertime in Portree is buzzing and lively, with restaurants and cafes full of people. Winter is relatively quiet but equally breathtaking as the mountains are usually covered with snow.
Hotel Stay: Cuillin Hills Hotel offers stunning views of the harbour and the surrounding mountains.
Submitted by Sonja from MigratingMiss
Doune is a small village located near Stirling, and although it’s on the A84 which is a common road to travel on an Edinburgh to Glencoe road trip, it’s easy to miss! The village itself is small, but it does have a few B&B’s and places to grab a bite to eat, and is close to attractions like Blair Drummond Safari Park, Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, and all Stirling has to offer.
However, the main attraction of the village is nearby Doune Castle, which is part medieval fortress and part manor, and was built in the 14th century and fell into ruin around the Jacobite Uprising in the late 17th century. It’s made up of a walled courtyard with several building on one side that you’re free to explore.
Doune Castle has also been a popular spot for filming and was used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Outlander, and Game of Thrones. The admission price for adults is £9 and includes an audio tour voiced by none other than Terry Jones from Monty Python, and Sam Heughan from Outlander.
Submitted by Jennifer at FamilyTripGuides.com
One of the most charming villages in Scotland is Plockton, located on the western coast. It makes for a fantastic stop on any road trip to the Isle of Skye or the western coast of Scotland. Situated on Loch Carron the charming village of Plockton is known as the “Jewel of the Highlands” and has a gorgeous view of the bay. Loch Carron opens up to the Inner Sound and eventually the Irish sea, so the water here is saltwater and allows for a variety of boats to come in and out of the sheltered bay. It’s highly popular with tourists in the summer months and hosts a variety of vessels in its harbor.
Plockton has great access to fantastic hiking, with incredible scenery ranging from moorland to coastal walks. The bay is a key feature draw for activities that include sea kayaking, sailing, and boat trips including wildlife cruises. There are charming shops in the village and the beautiful Attadale Gardens, which features over 20 acres of cultivated gardens.
Given its proximity to Skye, there are fantastic opportunities to take minibus tours from Plockton to Skye and see the best that the west coast of Scotland has to offer.
The menus around Plockton are dominated by seafood and it’s easy to see why. The best restaurants in the area including the charming Plockton Inn and local Plockton Shores Restaurant. If you’re looking for a place to stay the Plockton Inn has a variety of reasonably price rooms or the Plockton Hotel is another fantastic choice as well.
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