Scotland is a magical country worth visiting for a short city break, road trip or longer stay. The country is rich in some of the wildest and most breathtaking natural landscapes contrasting with a wealth of ancient and modern attractions in its cities. Towns and cities in Scotland are well connected, allowing you to travel out of the city to explore more of this beautiful country or to call into multiple destinations during your trip. You will find a myriad of award-winning attractions, exciting tours, stunning architecture and delicious food.
Each city in Scotland has its own unique atmosphere generated from its history, culture, friendly locals and location within Scotland. So, a trip to Scotland’s cities is the perfect thing to do for a weekend away regardless of season or weather, as both sun and rain bring out different sides to the city and offer new things to do when the weather changes. Here are 20 cities and towns in Scotland that you cannot miss.
- 20 Scottish Cities and Towns To Visit
20 Scottish Cities and Towns To Visit
*3-Day Isle of Skye and The Highlands Tour
If you’d prefer to hire a car and drive around independently, compare rental car rates here.
Cities in Scotland
Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city and the seat of its parliament.
The city is incredibly hilly, with its castle seated at the highest point atop an extinct volcano from which you get incredible views of the streets, buildings and parks below.
The city has important historical locations, and a staggering 75% of its buildings are heritage listed.
To see some of the city’s most ancient and historical buildings, visit Edinburgh Castle, Greyfriars Kirk, Holyrood Palace and St Giles Cathedral.
The Old Town is the city’s medieval heart and is ideal for wandering the narrow cobblestone streets in search of a quaint bookshop, cosy restaurant and to surround yourself with ancient architecture.
Visit the city’s many museums and art galleries, make the most of its 112 parks and, of course, try some local whisky in a traditional Scottish pub.
Top tour: Edinburgh Underground Vaults Tour.
Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city and was once an important trading and shipping post on the River Clyde.
Today Glasgow has been transformed into a must-visit cultural destination, home to over 20 galleries.
In Gaelic, the name Glasgow means ‘green space’, and thanks to its 90-plus parks, the city is lush and green year-round.
Visit one of the parks to take a break and have a picnic, or venture out of the city to explore larger parks for a short hike.
Music lovers should make Glasgow top of their Scottish bucket list as it has been named a UNESCO City of Music.
The city has a variety of live music venues, including the iconic Barrowland Ballroom, easily identifiable by its neon sign, and the Britannia Panopticon, the city’s oldest music hall.
Top tour: Glasgow Hop On Hop Off Bus.
Dundee has been named a UNESCO City of Design and is the home of many incredible feats of engineering, innovation and design throughout its history.
Recently a branch of the V&A Museum opened in Dundee and is dedicated to design.
Kengo Kuma, a Japanese architect, designed the museum on the city’s historic waterfront.
Explore the museum’s collection of Scottish design and innovation, coupled with examples of inspiring design from across the world.
Continue your expedition into Dundee’s design and innovation heritage at one of its many museums celebrating the sciences or arts.
Dundee Science Centre is perfect for visiting with young children and is filled with interactive and hands-on exhibits that are bound to interest young ones in the field.
Top tour: Made in Dundee and App Guided Tour.
Aberdeen is another of Scotland’s port cities on the North Sea coast.
A city break in Aberdeen is perfect for those looking for both bustling streets and architecture and being close to nature as the vast Cairngorms National Park surrounds the city.
If whisky is your preferred tipple, visit one of the city’s 17 distilleries, many of which have been making whisky for hundreds of years.
The distilleries often are open to the public on tours and typically include a whisky tasting.
Aberdeen’s coastal location is ideal for taking a short cruise out to sea on a dolphin and whale-watching tour.
Off the city’s coast, basking sharks have been sighted swimming serenely.
Top tour: Speyside Whisky Trail 1-Day Tour from Aberdeen.
Inverness is the largest city in the Scottish Highlands and is rife with ancient history and legend.
Inverness is steeped in ancient stories and legends, the most famous of which comes from its location by the River Ness, which flows through the city from Loch Ness, home of the famous monster Nessie.
Other local legends in Inverness include the Mermaid of Cassock and the Ghosts of Culloden.
Book a walking tour of the city to hear the stories in detail and maybe even catch a sighting yourself.
Those interested in English Literature and the works of Shakespeare should pay a visit to Inverness Castle, where Macbeth murdered King Duncan and his descent into madness began.
The castle is open to the public and offers access to several period rooms and their viewing platform for unrivalled views over the city.
Top tour: Inverness: Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle Day Trip.
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Perth is the gateway to the Highlands and was once the capital of Scotland, making it an important and historical location.
Visit Scone Palace, the ancient seat of Scotland where Scottish Kings, including Robert the Bruce and Macbeth, were crowned between the 9th and 15th centuries.
The palace is open to the public, offering self-guided and guided tours.
Escape the city’s noise and enjoy the tranquillity of Branklyn Garden, a 1920s botanical paradise on the River Tay.
The garden has winding walkways, alpine plants and fragrant flowering trees like magnolia.
Stirling is an important city for Scotland’s rich history, as it was the site of many great battles, including Bannockburn.
Visit Stirling Castle, a centuries-old palace and stronghold that has served as a seat for Scottish kings, a battleground and today as a museum and grounds.
Perhaps the most famous building in Stirling is the National Wallace Monument.
The monument is dedicated to Scotland’s national hero, Sir William Wallace, who led the Scots to victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
There are 246 steps to reach the top of the monument, and the views are worth the climb.
Top tour: Rosslyn Chapel, Stirling Castle & Dunfermline Abbey Tour.
Dunfermline is the newest city in Scotland, having received the title during Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee celebrations in 2022.
Dunfermline is another ancient capital of Scotland and is famously the burial place of Robert the Bruce who is buried at Dunfermline Abbey.
If you happen to be taking a walk through Pittencrieff Park, keep your eyes peeled for the resident peacocks.
The peacocks have been known to occasionally leave the park and be sighted along the high street.
Enjoy a musical or theatrical performance at the 20th-century Carnegie Hall, named after Andrew Carnegie who was from the city.
Visit Carnegie’s birthplace to discover more about a man who was once the richest in the world.
Towns In Scotland
9- St Andrews
St Andrews is a medieval town on the east coast of Scotland and is most famous as the home of golf.
Golfers should take a guided tour of The Old Course, one of the most famous golf courses in the world.
Guided tours take in the 1st, 17th and 18th holes and recount the history of the course and tales of some of its most famous players.
Make the most of the historical architecture in the town and climb to the top of St Andrews Cathedral Tower.
The cathedral is now in ruins, but its 12th-century tower remains remarkably intact and has great views over the town and the rest of Fife.
Top tour: St Andrews & Fife’s Fishing Villages.
10- Fort William
Fort William is the perfect base if you spend some time in the mountainous Glen Nevis Valley and Ben Nevis.
Keen hikers and mountain climbers will enjoy the challenging climb to the summit of Ben Nevis with its spectacular and rugged views over the glacial valleys below.
If climbing isn’t for you, head instead to the Ben Nevis distillery, one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland, and enjoy a dram in stunning surroundings.
To see the best of the town and its natural landscape, board the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William Station.
The steam train visits Arisaig, the most western station in Britain, runs alongside Loch Morar and ends its journey at Loch Nevis, the deepest seawater loch in Europe.
Top tour: Fort William Seal Spotting Loch Linnhe Cruise.
11- Castle Douglas
Like many of Scotland’s cities and towns, Castle Douglas is steeped in history but is a far newer addition to the landscape in comparison to others.
This 18th-century market town is famous for its food and drink and has been named a designated Food Town.
Delight in flaky pastry, delicious sweet treats and crisp yet fluffy loaves at Earth’s Crust Bakery.
This must-visit bakery is perfect to stock up on picnic food such as pies and quiches or seasonal bakes such as fruity hot cross buns and spiced winter pastries.
Threave Garden and Estate is a homely yet grand country house ideal for a stroll, picnic and to learn some history.
Its gardens are particularly spectacular during spring when its roses start to bloom.
Venture away from the mainland and spend a few days in Stornaway, located on the Outer Hebrides and the capital of Lewis and Harris.
Explore the port at sunset for some great photographic opportunities out towards the sea, or arrive early in the morning to see the fishermen bringing in the latest catch.
Harris Tweed has its origins in both Stornaway and the Outer Hebrides, and its history and worldwide impact can be uncovered at the Harris Tweed Story Room.
Here you will find authentic machines for making tweed and examples of the fabric from history.
Dunbar sits on the North Sea coast and experiences more sunshine per year compared to other cities and towns in Scotland.
Dunbar has a wild and rugged coastline that is perfect for a hike before heading into the town to relax and unwind.
Stroll along Victoria Harbour to see plenty of fishing boats, seafaring paraphernalia and lobster pots before pausing to admire the ruins of Dunbar Castle.
The ruined castle was an important site to protect the Scots from English invasion throughout the 13th century.
While in Dunbar, look out for the statue of the Dun Bear located at Scott Roundabout.
Andy Scott, who also designed The Kelpies in Falkirk, designed the bear as a tribute to John Muir, a famous conservationist born in Scotland who is considered the father of the American national parks system.
On Scotland’s southwest coast lies Ayr, a beautiful coastal town backed by stunning natural landscapes in Ayrshire.
Uncover the story behind Scotland’s most famous writer at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.
Behind the modern facade is the cottage where Burns was born and spent part of his childhood.
After exploring the museum, call into their cafe to try some dishes favoured by Burns himself.
Continue learning about Burns by walking the Lang Scots Mile, a beachfront walk that pays homage to ‘Tom O’Shanter’, one of his poems.
Round off your day with a trip to Culzean Castle, a clifftop castle with unrivalled views over the sea and River Ayr.
Inside the castle are displays of historical weaponry, however, it is the gardens that truly make a visit here worthwhile.
The garden is filled with several water features, a swan river and a deer park.
Top tour: Isle of Arran: 3-Day Adventure Tour from Edinburgh.
Dumfries is a quaint Scottish town that is perfectly laid out to explore independently or on one of its many walking tours.
If the paranormal interests you, embark on a Mostly Ghostly Tour to uncover some of the city’s ghoulish residents, or follow in the footsteps of Robert Burns on a Burns Tour, taking in some of the writer’s favourite haunts.
Walk around the grounds of the ruined Caerlaverock Castle, a unique triangle castle surrounded by a moat.
Once inside, the ruins reveal the secrets of its medieval role as a fortress before enjoying tea and cake in the tearoom.
Oban in Scottish Gaelic translates to ‘The Little Bay’, a fitting title for this beautiful coastal town.
Oban is ideally placed for access to neighbouring towns Helensburgh and Fort William and also to head out to the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
When visiting Oban, explore the town centre with its cosy seaside feel, calling into its range of restaurants, cafes and shops.
Brave the climb to the top of Oban’s iconic McCaig Tower for spectacular views over the surrounding landscape.
A banker, John Stuart McCaig built the tower in 1897 to create a unique family monument and provide work for the townspeople.
Top tour: From Glasgow: Oban, Glencoe, Highland Lochs & Castles Tour.
Falkirk has undergone somewhat of a regeneration in recent years that has seen tourists return to the town and its industrial heritage preserved.
When in Falkirk, you cannot miss the awe-inspiring sight of the Kelpies, located inside Helix Park.
Andy Scott designed The Kelpies to mirror the mythical creatures written about in Scottish lore.
The Kelpies’ heads are above ground and tower 30m (98.43ft) above the surrounding parkland.
This magnificent installation is litat night to make ity a magical experience.
Another unusual sight in Falkirk is its famous Falkirk Wheel, a rotating connection between two canals.
This unique structure allows two canals of vastly different heights to be fully connected and offers a canal route from Edinburgh to Glasgow.
Portree is the capital of the Isle of Skye and is a welcoming and bustling town well worth a visit when in Scotland.
One of the best things to do in Portree is to wander its streets and shoreline to experience the raw and rugged beauty of the island’s landscape.
Portree has colourful pastel houses lining its port, creating an excellent opportunity for photography.
Overlooking these houses is the church and a tree-covered mound offering spectacular sea views when climbing.
If the weather is favourable, climb the small hill to Apothecary Tower, a beautiful folly-like structure with incredible views and plenty of places to rest and picnic.
Top tour: Portree: Best of Isle of Skye Full-Day Tour.
Another spectacular and quaint seaside town in Scotland is Kirkcudbright, located in the southwest.
Explore the town on foot and meander through its narrow cobblestone streets, often lined with plants, climbing ivy, and colourful front doors.
Kirkcudbright is truly an artist’s paradise in its visual appeal and artistic history.
Immerse yourself in creativity at Jessie M King’s house, a museum in the illustrator’s former home.
Following your visit to King’s home, continue your artistic jaunt at Kirkcudbright Galleries to explore a range of artwork from local artists and some unique historical finds.
Kelso is on the Scottish border with England and is an attractive market town filled with history.
Once a centre for shoemaking and leatherwork, the town is architecturally fascinating and was considered by Sir Walter Scott to be ‘the most beautiful if not the most romantic village in Scotland’.
Visit Kelso Abbey, a partially ruined structure built in 1128 in the Romanesque style.
The magnificent abbey is nestled among greenery and colourful flowerbeds.
Another must-visit historical building in Kelso is Floors Castle & Gardens, a vast and still inhabited Scottish castle.
The castle was built in 1721 and is still open for the public to visit despite still being the home of the 10th Duke of Roxburghe.
Top tour: From Edinburgh: Alnwick Castle and Scottish Borders Tour.
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