The Prettiest Villages in Scotland

A Hidden Scotland Guide

Scotland is home to thousands of picturesque villages and towns, from seaside retreats to rural, countryside spots remote from the bustling nearby cities. Pack your camera, prepare to get back to nature and add some of the prettiest villages in Scotland to your ‘to-travel’ list – here are some of our favourites.

Braemar

In the dip of the Grampian Mountains is the picturesque village of Braemar, just west of Aberdeen. Walkers and climbers rejoice as the nearby Cairngorms National Park is packed with mountains over 3000ft high and walking trails of varying difficulty. Sitting alongside the River Dee, the village is also home to the Braemar Gathering and Highland Games, which are held on the first Saturday in September and regularly attended by the Royal Family.
FifeArmsHotel

Ballater

Surrounded by the Cairngorms in the heart of Royal Deeside, Ballater is a charming Victorian village that sparkles when the mist comes in over the mountains. The closest village to Balmoral Castle, many of the shops and boutiques in the town proudly display their ‘By Royal Appointment’ signs. Don’t be fooled by its small size – there are plenty of must-visit spots, including Royal Lochnagar Distillery, the Royal Station and the 18-hole Ballater Golf Club.

Crovie

On the dramatic cliff-edges of Aberdeenshire, Crovie is one of three tiny villages that make up the length of the coastline. The steps of the collection of houses in the village are often dampened by the waters of the North Sea, marking it as one of the best-preserved fishing villages in the country. Here, the locals have to park at one end of the village and walk to their homes, transporting shopping across the cliffs via wheelbarrow!

Pennan

Along the cliff edge from Crovie is Pennan, a small fishing hamlet set further back from the coastline. At the bottom of a rather steep hill, the village consists of just a row of cottages and a grade-listed payphone that was featured in the 1982 film, ‘Local Hero’. With the mountains rising behind them when the sun sets across the village, it’s truly a sight to behold.
Pennan
Pennan

Gardenstown

The third of the small fishing hamlets on the Aberdeenshire coast, Gardenstown is more densely populated than its two neighbours. Still an active harbour village, the village is made up of holiday cottages and permanent residents whose homes climb up the nearby hillside. A nearby coastal path makes for a dramatic walk to nearby Covie and the village is just steps away from the famous Old Kirk of St John.

Portnahaven

Travel to the top of the Rinns of Islay and you’ll find Portnahaven, a charming village near Port Charlotte. A handful of white-washed cottages sit on the shoreside, with seals lounging on the nearby rocks. A few islands jut out just beyond the small village, one of which is home to the Rhinns of Islay Lighthouse – first built in 1825 by the father of famed Scottish novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson.
Portnahaven

Shieldaig

A small island managed by the National Trust for Scotland, Shieldaig is a stunning village on Loch Torridon in the Northwest Highlands. An active fishing village, the island is overlooked by Caledonian pine trees and looming mountains that, when sprinkled with snow in the winter months, make a picture-perfect postcard scene. The village is still used by fishermen today and is considered one of the most picturesque villages in the country.

Portree

A port town on – and the capital of – the Isle of Skye, Portree is a popular tourist destination. Its central harbour is home to its iconic row of rainbow-coloured houses and is often used as a base for those looking to explore the majesty of the island further. Overlooked by cliffs and hillside, there are many famous natural landmarks found nearby, including Kilt Rock and the scenery at Trotternish Ridge.

Tobermory

Speaking of colourful harboursides – for children who grew up in the early 2000s, the Tobermory harbour is most recognisable as the setting of the TV show, Balamory. The central town on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides, Tobermory is a harbour town with plenty of attractions for visitors. The village is home to the famous Tobermory Distillery and the Tobermory Bay Golf Course, a challenging 9-hole course on the clifftops over the village.
Tobermory

Photograph by @traveltwo_

Photograph by @traveltwo_

Stromness

Found in the Southwestern part of mainland Orkney, Stromness is a maritime town built around the quiet, sheltered harbour and ascending into the surrounding hills. Often visited by those who have travelled to Scotland by boat, Stromness’s welcoming harbour lights and flagstone streets offer a charming home-away-from-home for tourists. The area is also the hub of Orkney’s diving culture – as well as a thriving renewable energy industry.

Plockton

Known as the ‘Jewel of the Highlands’, Plockton sits on a sheltered bay in Wester Ross, overlooking Loch Carron. The village itself has a population of less than 500 people but remains a popular destination for tourists in the area – particularly during the summer. With a background landscape of pine and heather, the village is popular with artists and photographers hoping to capture the area’s beauty.

Photograph by @ali.horne

Photograph by @ali.horne

Kirkcudbright

On the banks of the River Dee and just ten miles from Castle Douglas is Kirkcudbright, a beautiful harbour town in Dumfries and Galloway. The town was once a calling spot for Scottish creatives, quickly becoming known as ‘The Artists’ Town’ in the 19th century. It remains an artistic town, with local galleries, exhibitions and local craftspeople dotted around the place. It’s also home to the Dark Space Planetarium and the famous Dark Art Distillery.

Pittenween

An active port in Fife, the town of Pittenweem has been built around its central harbour. Its houses – many of which have been restored to their former glory by the National Trust of Scotland – are designed in the traditional Fife style, with red and grey roofs. Packed with traditional charm, no trip to the village is complete without visiting the famous St Fillan’s Cave and the nearby Kellie Castle that dates back to the 14th century.

Tarbet

Visit Argyll and you’ll want to stop by Tarbet, a charming village in Argyll & Bute. Sat alongside the Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond, the name of the town comes from the traditional Scottish Gaelic, meaning ‘crossing place’. Though there’s plenty to explore in the village, you’ll want to keep a special eye out for the red squirrel population in the nearby woodlands – an animal whose population has decreased significantly over the last few decades in the UK.

Cullen

On the edge of Cullen Bay, which is supposed to have the best bathing waters in Europe, Cullen is a popular seaside resort on the Moray of Firth. Home to Cullen Auld Kirk – where the remains of Robert the Bruce are believed to have been buried – and the remarkable Cullen Golf Club, the town’s most famous landmark isn’t a building – but a dish. The town is home to Cullen Skink – a Scottish soup made of fresh smoked haddock and creamy potato.

St Abbs

Visit to the Scottish Borders and you’ll find St Abbs, a village with links to Hollywood! Not only did it appear as New Asgard in Avengers: Endgame, but it acted as the backdrop to Harry Styles’ music video for ‘Adore You’. Head further upward into the hills and you’ll find St Abbs Head, a coastal headland and nature reserve that stretches along the cliffside. You can explore the local landscape and the wildlife, from swans and ducks to butterflies and seabirds.
St Abbs

Wigtown

Welcome to Scotland’s National Book Town in Dumfries and Galloway. Home to the annual Wigtown Book Festival and a huge variety of independent bookshops, this idyllic location makes for a great place to recharge and relax. If you want a break from reading, there are plenty of sea and hillside walks to explore, as well as spots to bird watch along the bay.

Pitlochry

Step into Perthshire and make a stop in Pitlochry, a gorgeous town that often asks a base for the wider county to be explored. Home to plenty of beauty spots like Queen’s View – a particular favourite of Queen Victoria – Pitlochry is a vibrant town with plenty of see and do, particularly for visiting tourists. Head up into the hills to breathe in the clean, Highland air, dine at some of Scotland’s most respected restaurants and properly unwind.
Pitlochry

St Monans

If you’re travelling along the Fife Coastal Path, the town of St Monans is a harbour town on the East Neuk of Fife. With views over North Berwick and the Firth of Forth, the town is full of distinctive, colourful buildings that are well worth visiting. Hike up to St Monans Church and make sure to stop by the Bowhouse Food Market.

Stonehaven

Fifteen miles south of Aberdeen, you’ll want to visit the beautiful harbour town of Stonehaven around Hogmanay thanks to its famous fireball ceremonies. Around the rest of the year, this working harbour sits on the cliffside jutting out towards the water and just a few miles from the sensational ruins of Dunnottar Castle.
StonehavenHarbour5 (1)

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