Scotland Stories and Tips

Best Towns and Cities to Visit in Scotland

Market Cross Photo, Stirling, Scotland

Scotland boasts a richness of natural beauty and historical interest that would easily fill many months of exploration. Most travellers combine Scottish cities with the countryside, and every visitor should try to include some of the following towns and cities in their itinerary.

(1) Edinburgh. The capital city and undoubtedly the one not to miss, Edinburgh's architecture is perhaps the most European of the British cities, and it is full of historical significance and modern interest. Explore the grandeur of the magnificent, Georgian New Town and see the contrast between its wide streets and wealthy crescents and the medieval maze of the Old Town. Visit Scotland's best museums and art galleries, take a tour of the Castle on its high rock, climb Scott's monument and look at the vista stretching from the old volcano of Arthur's Seat. Don't forget the marvel of Victorian engineering that is Forth Rail Bridge, chosen by Scots itself as one of the seven wonders of Scotland. Children will enjoy the Zoo and the Deepsea World.

(2) Glasgow. The biggest and for some the baddest of the Scottish cities, branding itself a Merchant City, its brash commercialism and industrial working class culture contrast with the ostensible (and snobby) genteel feel of Edinburgh. Glasgow merits a visit, as much for its industrial heritage (check out the regeneration efforts along the River Clyde) as for the wonderful Burrell Collection and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the magnificent Cathedral. Glasgow night-life is excellent while children will enjoy the science centre called Stratosphere (where Nina and the Neurons hail from).

(3) Stirling, less than an hour's drive from both of the large cities of the Central belt, is sometimes thought to be Edinburgh in miniature, and certainly there is a similarity between the architecture and feel of both places, though Stirling is much more of a provincial back-water. It's eminently worth visiting for its magnificent castle, though, possibly the best in Scotland, very explorable, informative and attractive. While in the area, you might also want to visit the Wallace Monument on the Abbey Crag nearby.

(4) Anstruther, more a village than a town on the north coast of the Firth of Forth, in what's known as the East Neuk (eastern corner, or nook) of Fife, is an old fishing village that became a seaside resort. Great for a day trip, but could occupy a weekend (some even come for beach holidays here), it has an interesting Fisheries Museum, picturesque harbour and officially the best fish and chips shop in Scotland. Not too far from Anstruther in the Fife countryside is the underground bunker, and eerie reminder of the Cold War.

(5) St Andrews, the most attractive and interesting of the towns in Fife is a seat of the oldest Scottish university. The lovely streets of the town centre abound in small shops, pubs and restaurants, while near the coast (and two good beaches) are excellent ruins of ancient cathedral and bishops' castle. It's perhaps best know as a birthplace of golf, and the famed Old Course is still used for the big tournaments.

(6) Dundee, having successfully regenerated and reinvented itself while celebrating its industrial and maritime past has several interesting attractions, the chief of them being the Royal Research Ship Discovery and its adjacent, cutting edge Antarctic museum.

(7) Aberdeen, located further up the east coast of Scotland, is now the centre of Scottish oil industry, which gave it a nickname of Scottish Dallas. It is however, an ancient city, and a striking one, with an imposing centre built of indestructible granite: grey, solid and with a grim beauty all of its own.

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