10 Must-Visit Fascinating Historic Towns in Scotland
There is an abundance of historic towns in Scotland for you to explore. From Dumfries in the south west of Scotland, to St Andrews in the Kingdom of Fife, we have listed a fantastic choice of very special towns for you to visit.
This former Royal Burgh town is nicknamed ‘Queen of the South’, and also the name of the local football club.
It was in the historic town of Dumfries, that Robert the Bruce killed the Red Comyn at Greyfriars Kirk in 1306. Historians still debate whether this act was that of ‘treason’, or ‘self defence’ between two great rivals in their cause for leadership of the Scots. This was to be a key moment in the Scottish Wars of Independence.
Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns, spent the last 5 years of his life living in a townhouse in the centre of the town of Dumfries. You can visit his house on the aptly named ‘Burns Street’, and also explore some of the local inns that he used to frequent, such as The Globe, where his seat still remains in a quiet wee bothy sitting area.
You may wish to pay your respects at the mausoleum in the town cemetery, where he lays in his final resting place, alongside his wife, Jean Armour.
The River Nith flows through this ancient Scottish town, where many Scots set sail for the New World in the 19th century.
This marvellous historical town of Dumfries, boasts a variety of places of interest to explore and discover, offering something for everyone.
Melrose, Borders, Scotland – “The Home of Rugby”
The small historic town of Melrose in the Scottish Borders, lies between the lush meadows bordering the River Tweed and the triple peaks of the Eildon Hills.
The town is centred on the well-kept ruins of Melrose Abbey, where it is believed the heart of Robert the Bruce is buried.
The heart of The Bruce was to be buried in the Holy Land. However in 1330, the Good Sir James Douglas, also known as the Black Douglas, was killed in Spain fighting the Moors, en route with the Bruce’s heart to Jerusalem. Allegedly, The Douglas hurled the casket containing the heart at the enemy shouting, “Go first, Brave Heart”. Bruce’s heart was later retrieved and returned to Melrose Abbey.
Melrose is where the ‘Rugby Sevens’ was invented in 1883. The town holds an annual rugby sevens tournament at ‘The Greenyards’.
The romantic home of Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford House, is 2 miles west of Melrose.The borders town is a picturesque town steeped in history, and well placed for adventurers in the Scottish Borders.
St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. The Home of Golf
The historic coastal town of St Andrews situated in the Kingdom of Fife, is known to many as the ‘Home of Golf’.
St Andrews is a University Town, considered a paradise to golfers from all around the world.
Each year, the town bustles with golfers who make the annual pilgrimage to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s famous old course. The old course is the oldest Golf Course in the world, and is one of seven public golf courses in the town.
The town of St Andrews is also home to Scotland’s oldest University, dating back to 1413.
Many houses in the town are built from the stones from the ruined 12th century St Andrews Cathedral.
The impressive St Rule’s Tower beside the Cathedral, is so called after the saint, who, according to legend, was shipwrecked here carrying the bones of the apostle, St Andrew.
There’s plenty to discover and marvellous short walks through cobble-stoned streets to enjoy in this enchanting town. From the 13th century,‘Bishop’s Castle’, to the first tee on the ‘Old Course’, you can stroll along “The Scores”, a leafy one-lane track, lined by ivy-covered walls, and interesting medieval architecture.
You may recognise the West Sands in St Andrews, as the opening scenes from the “Chariots of Fire”.
The town has an excellent choice of cafes, terrific pubs, restaurants and boutique shops. St Andrews is one of the most popular and best towns to visit in Scotland.
Kirkcudbright, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland. ‘The Artists’ Town’
Kirkcudbright is a small picturesque fishing town in Dumfries and Galloway. The town name ‘Kirkcudbright’ means Church of St Cuthbert, and is pronounced ‘Kir-coo-bree’.
The historic town lies on the Dee Estuary, home to a community of artists. A destination for art lovers, with many boutique art shops and delightful art galleries for visitors to browse around .
The ruined 16th century, MacLellan Castle, dominates the town’s skyline. In the old town graveyard, you can find memorials to the Covenanter, Billy Marshal. According to Sir Walter Scott, the tinker king Billy, died in 1792 aged 120, allegedly having fathered 4 children after the age of 100!!
The town is an ideal base to visit the splendours of Galloway. It’s truly one of the most charming towns in southwest Scotland.
Arbroath, Angus, Scotland, – ‘The Arbroath Smokie’ & ‘The Declaration of Arbroath’
The thriving fishing town of Arbroath, is famous for the Scottish delicacy, the ‘Arbroath Smokies’. Freshly caught haddock is flavoured and browned by smoke from oak wood-chip fires. You can savour these delicacies for yourself, as there are many cottages around the town harbour area,selling these and more sumptuous seafood specialities.
Scotland’s most important historical document ‘The Declaration of Arbroath’ was signed in the red-sandstone Arbroath Abbey in 1320. The document signed by the Scottish Nobles, asked the Pope John XXII to acknowledge Robert Bruce as King of Scotland, and to recognise Scotland’s independence.
To the north of the town, a 3-mile path winds over the craggy red sandstone cliffs to the scenic village of Auchmithe.
Here,you can also participate in some fun fishing boat trips, or cliff and cave adventures from the town’s harbour. All in all, Arbroath is a must visit town in the northeast of Scotland.
Culross, Fife, Scotland
The historic village Culross (pronounced ‘Cooros’) is on every Outlander fan’s must see wish list in Scotland.
You can see why, as it is one of the best-preserved 16th/17th century towns in Scotland. The white harled houses with red-tiled roofs, lining the steep cobbled streets are a vision to behold.
You could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped back in time as you meander through the winding cobblestone lanes and passageways, that stretch from the Mercat Cross to the Hilltop Abbey, of this former bustling Royal Burgh.
Crail, Fife, Scotland
The charming small town of Crail, surrounds a remarkable ancient stone built harbour, just a short drive from St Andrews, in the East Neuk of Fife. The medieval still working harbour is the most photographed in Scotland, and is a testimony to how special this wee town is.
Crail was granted its first Royal Charter in 1310 from King Robert the Bruce, and is one of Scotland’s oldest Royal Burghs.
Brightly coloured fishermens’ cottages are tucked into every nook and cranny, in among a labyrinth of winding cobbled streets. It boasts a beautiful coastal path overlooking the craggy coastline on the Crail Heritage Walk, making this a must-see town in Scotland.
In summertime, you can enjoy mouthwatering fresh seafood from the ‘Lobster Shack’. Word to the wise though, get in there quickly, as more often than not they sell out fast. Fresh lemon squeezed lobster, surrounded by piles of lobster creels. What more could you ask for?
If you have time for a coffee or tea, then the Crail Harbour Gallery tearoom is the place to go. Built in the cellars of a 17th century fisherman’s cottage, with a courtyard built into the rock, offers stunning views …sometimes you can see fishing boats puffing along with a flock of squawking seagulls in hot pursuit.
You may also may wish to visit the ‘Scottish Countryman’, offering unique experiences in archery, fly fishing and birds of prey and falconry workshops.
Largs, North Ayrshire, Scotland
The bustling seaside town of Largs in North Ayrshire, is a renowned favourite holiday town in the west of Scotland. Historically famous for ‘The Battle of Largs in 1263’, the last pitched battle between the Vikings and Scots.
Largs is a gateway to The Western Isles, and offers stunning coastal walks with panoramic views of the isles of Arran, Cumbrae and Bute.
View a more in-depth visitors guide on Largs here.
Doune, Perthshire, Scotland
Doune is a picturesque town, situated eight miles north-west of Stirling on the River Teith.
This historical town was once renowned as a centre for pistol making and for its formidable castle, built by Robert, Duke of Albany in the 14th century.
Doune Castle was initially built as the home of Regent Albany, ‘Scotland’s uncrowned king’. This ancient castle was also used as a filming location for Outlander (Castle Leoch, home to Colum McKenzie), the famous Monty Python film “The Holy Grail”, and also the setting for Winterfell, in “The Game of Thrones”.
Other buildings of architectural and historical interest in the village include: Kilmadock Parish Church, built in 1822, the Market Cross built in 1620, the Moray Institute and the Bridge of Teith built in 1533.
If you have some free time and an Outlander fan who enjoys a wee dram, then you can also visit the Deanston Whisky Distillery on the outskirts of the town.
The Old Town of Stirling
The old ancient town in the city of Stirling, should be on the must-visit bucket list for everyone, whether you are a homebred Scot or a visitor to Scotland. It’s one of THE most historical towns, within the beating heart of Scotland, which has so much to do and see for all age groups.
From Stirling’s Old Town Jail, to the amazing Stirling Castle (the one time home of the Royal Stewart Monarchy), the town has many interesting nooks and crannies to discover.
The Holy Rude (Holy Cross) Church (founded in 1129) in Stirling’s old town, is the only church in the United Kingdom apart from Westminster Abbey, to have held a coronation and still be in use today. It was here in 1567, that Mary Queen of Scots’ son was crowned, James VI. He later became James I of England.
Stirling is the gateway to the Highlands, and other historical places to visit locally are; Bannockburn, where the Scots defeated England in a bloody battle in 1314, and the National Wallace Monument atop the Abbey Craig. These historical sites have fabulous visitor centres and gift shops that appeal to all ages.
Scotland’s Historical Towns
We hope you have enjoyed reading this article on must-visit historic towns in Scotland, and that it inspires you to visit some of these ancient and extremely interesting locations.
You may also enjoy our article on the best places to visit in Scotland.
If you do have any queries, or would like to plan a trip to Scotland, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a braw day.
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