Scotland is a stunning land of ancient castles, winding hiking trails, Hogwarts, the best whisky, interesting musical instruments, and, of course, brave fashion choices when it comes to traditional outfits. In the last decade, this amazing region finally got the attention it deserves and became one of the most popular European travel destinations. Edinburgh is crowded with tourists during the summer months, every town now claims to house the best museum in Scotland (and neither of them is wrong), and you will have to book your hop-on hop-off Scotland tour in advance to be able to reserve a seat. But what about the off-the-beaten-path gems? Luckily, Scotland trains can take you pretty much everywhere. The country's rail system is very advanced and covers even the remote parts of the UK, allowing to travel the spectacular region far and wide. In this article, we've put together the list of authentic highland villages and towns you should put on your travel bucket list, so you could fully admire all corners of incredible Scotland.
You've probably never heard about this village, as it's not usually listed among the best places to visit in Scotland, while it's one of the most remarkable towns to stop by if you are looking for the authentic spirit of the region.
Like any highland village, it offers spectacular views and great hiking trails, but Cromarty's calling card is its architecture. Can you imagine, there are just 209 buildings in the village, and, roughly, every fifth is A-listed? From a majestic medieval church to an old cottage where Hugh Miller was born, a walk around Cromarty offers a lot to see for such a small town.
After a stroll, don't miss your chance to check out the local restaurants. They offer an excellent examples of the traditional cuisine of the region. Plus, there is an award-winning Courthouse Museum in town, so make sure to add it to your sightseeing itinerary.
The picturesque village of Cullen is another great spot to visit during your epic Scotland vacation. Located on the Moray Firth, this beautiful place is divided into two parts - Seafront, a scenic bunch of colorful fishing houses, narrows streets, and fantastic views, and New Cullen, the part of the village that sits a bit behind. The settlement has a divinely beautiful harbor where, if you are lucky, you can see a family of friendly dolphins. Within walking distance, you can find the ruins of Findlater Castle. Although it's not the most spectacular castle in Scotland, the ancient ruins look majestic nestled on a steep cliff and surrounded by grass and rock.
Another "must" thing in Cullen is checking out the local eateries. You've probably heard (and some even tried) about the famous Cullen Skink Soup, served in restaurants all over the world. Unsurprisingly, this small coastal settlement is the birthplace of this delicious dish, so make sure to try the local version during your stay. And the village is famous for its mouthwatering ice cream, so make sure to eat some while you are in Cullen. Regardless of the weather conditions. Trust us, it's worth it!
Although the town of Oban is rather modest in size, it boasts quite an impressive reputation. Recognized as a Gateway to the Isles, this population center boasts a great location and offers plenty of things to explore, as well as brilliant day trip opportunities.
Adults will love a tour around the Oban Distillery, one of the oldest in Scotland, and kids (and their parents) will adore visiting the Scottish Sea Life & Marine Sanctuary and a local chocolate shop. The Gylen castle's ruins provide fantastic photo opportunities, and the beautiful beaches surrounding it call for long walks.
Neighboring Isles of Mull, Iona, and Staffa are amazing places to admire the unspoiled beauty of Scottish nature and are perfect for a hike. Or, alternatively, you can enjoy a boat trip around the famous islands, if hiking is not your cup of tea.
The north coast of Aberdeenshire boasts three beautiful villages: Pennan, Crovie, and Gardenstown. And calling either of them one-of-a-kind wouldn't be correct, as they are very much alike and equally amazing. All three boast inspiring, calm atmosphere and stunning location. All are made up of colorful cottages, have ruins of ancient fortresses in the area, and have long sandy beaches. A paradise for an introvert and a dream destination for nature lovers.
So why do we advise visiting Pennan Village in particular? Well, stopping by all three might be not the best option, as there is way too much to explore in the area, and Pennan houses something that has neither Crovie nor Gardenstown has - a traditional British red telephone box that was used as a setting in a Local Hero movie. So during a visit to Pennan, you can not only enjoy life in a small coastal village of Scotland but also take a picture of a famous movie set. A win-win scenario!
Scotland is famous for many things, and stunning landscapes and rich historical heritage are among them. The quiet but very charming village of Glencoe is a great place to put on your "must-visit" list because it combines both of those things and tops them with a wide range of activities to select from.
Set on the foot of the eponymous mountain and stretching along the picturesque shores of Loch Levis, Glencoe was one of the few MacDonald's villages at the time of the Massacre of Glencoe, and the village houses Glencoe and North Lorn Museum where visitors can learn about the history of the local clans as well as about the life of the village to this day. Fans of active vacations are welcome to enjoy kayaking, fishing, hiking, archery, climbing, or simply leisurely strolling along the streets of the villages and admiring the beautiful architecture.
As you can see, the region has something more to explore than Dublin, Cork, and Galway. Now, you can plan your trip to Scotland, spicing up your visits to the renowned (and crowded) cities with daycations to some less traveled, but nevertheless just as deserving the attention Highland villages. They might not boast the best sights in Scotland, but they offer something more valuable - authenticity and unspoiled beauty. Rest assured that you won't be disappointed. Nothing can match the charm of these wonderful places, and Robert Burns' "My Heart's in the Highlands" poem will make you ache like never before.