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Quaint Scottish Villages and Towns You Can Visit in a Day

Posted on 28 Jun 2024

There’s something about a small village. Whether you grew up in a city or even in a small town of your own, words like quaint and idyllic immediately come to mind whenever you arrive somewhere where the post office is also the police station. Where embracing a slower pace is the way of the locals. The same locals who appear to all know each other – and perhaps will soon know you, too. 

And then there are villages in places like Scotland. Where cobbled streets and alleyways which make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time hug a variety of quirky wee shops. Where ruined castles and slumbering palaces contrast the quiet streets filled with modern shopfronts. Where you go specifically looking for the local pub or bakery, praying the shops will be a treasure trove of locally crafted knickknacks that you don’t really need but you really want.  

We’re obsessed with charming villages and humble towns. Why? Because – as much as we adore big cities and historical landmarks – it's these humble, wee nooks that make up the real Scotland. It’s where you’ll find a true Scot. Perhaps a Ceilidh in the local school hall. All these unique things that make this country beloved.  

So, we make a point of stopping in them whenever possible. Sometimes for a quick coffee or rest stop, so we can support the small businesses; other times as an opportunity to explore and soak up local Scottish life.  

The best part is, many of these little villages are easily accessible and you can reach them from the capital cities of Scotland on a simple day trip. We thought we’d run through a few of our favourites - we visit them on one of our day trips across Scotland, just to make it that much easier for you! 

Coming up in this blog:

Inveraray, Argyll and Bute 

We’re starting you off strong today with the Georgian masterpiece that is Inveraray, located in the county of Argyll and Bute – an area which dominates the west part of Scotland. Back in 1745, the 3rd Duke of Argyll (head of Clan Campbell, one of Scotland’s most powerful clans), established this town on the glistening waters of Loch Fyne. To this day, within the town you will find a neoclassical church, the Inveraray Jail and courthouse (which is now a museum), plenty of adorable shops and countless eateries for you to dine out in.  

Its masterpiece, however, is the neo-Gothic Inveraray Castle, a short walk from the main streets, which was built in the mid-18th century. It remains the family home of the Dukes of Argyll and we’re only a tad jealous.  

If you’re lucky enough to visit Inveraray when the castle is open to visitors, make sure you pop in to see the MacArthur Room which houses a famously haunted object: a bed. Legend has it that, in 1644, a young Irish harpist was murdered by the Duke of Montrose’s men. And when this haunted bed was moved to the castle, the ghost travelled with it. It is said that when a member of the family is about to die, the haunting melody of a harp can be heard drifting from the room.  

Explore Inveraray on our 1-day West Highlands, Lochs & Castles tour from Edinburgh and our 1-day Oban, Glencoe, Highland Lochs & Castles from Glasgow.  


Jedburgh, the Borders 

This gorgeous little town has it all. When you first arrive, you find yourself strolling along the river, enjoying the rows of shops, admiring the colourful buildings and marketplace in the centre of town. Your eye will be drawn to the 16th-century Ferniehirst Castle (only open in July but wonderful to admire all year round), a striking red sandstone abbey, and charming alleyways all about. 

But Jedburgh is a royal burgh, with endless stories and mysteries etched into its history. The abbey sits quietly on the banks of Jed Water today but there was a time when it was pillaged and rebuilt many times over since its founding in 1138. The abbey served as a royal castle and supposedly in 1285, when Alexander III and his new queen were being married in the abbey’s church, a ghost appeared and foretold the King’s death. Alexander did indeed die the following year when he fell from his horse.  

The whole town suffered during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 13th and 14th centuries, victim to numerous attacks as it changed hands between the Scots and the English several times.  

And for fans of Mary Queen of Scots, you’ll be interested to know she stayed here in 1566 and the house where she stayed is now a museum that tells the story of her life.  

You can explore the quiet richness of Jedburgh on our 1-day Hadrian's Wall, Roman Britain & the Scottish Borders tour from Edinburgh


Dunkeld, Perth and Kinross 

Ah, River Tay. She’s a beauty, alright. She’s the longest river in Scotland, stretching past many little Scottish towns, including the idyllic village of Dunkeld.  

Dunkeld is as striking as they come. With brightly coloured houses spotting the streets, a majestic cathedral, and the incredible River Tay rushing past... it truly is the definition of idyllic.  

You catch a hint of something sweet and powerful on the air. Why? Because specialist shops line the street and you’ll be drawn into one sooner or later. Perhaps you’ll grab yourself a jar of freshly made chutney, or pop into the local bakery for a classic Scottish treat. 

If you have time to pop inside Dunkeld Cathedral, make sure you look for the tomb of the Wolf of Badenoch. This notorious figure is seen as one of the most destructive characters in Scottish history. He’s well known for his pillaging and robbing throughout the 14th century, and for burning Elgin Cathedral to the ground.  

Experience the beauty of Dunkeld on our 1-day Highland Lochs, Glens & Whisky tour from Edinburgh.  


Culross, Fife 

Let’s be honest, Culross has always been in the spotlight. Once you see her, it becomes obvious why. Situated on the shores of River Forth (which looks more like the sea), she’s got one enviable location. But ever since the release of the TV show Outlander, Culross’ popularity has skyrocketed.  

All around you are whitewashed, red-tiled buildings. The rusty-coloured Culross Palace will draw your eye – even if you’re not aware of its significance straight away. Not a literal ‘palace’, but this impressive house is a labyrinth of small rooms connected by passageways. Inside is filled with antique furniture and curious decorations, while outside is a luscious garden that featured (among other areas in town) in Outlander.  

If you visit on our 1-day Outlander Adventure (either from Edinburgh or Glasgow), make sure you take the time to wander the cobbled streets and admire the historic beauty of the mercat cross which not only marks the heart of town but historically represented the right to hold a regular market or fair.  

P.S. It’s pronounced ‘coo-russ’. 


Lochranza, Arran 

It’s a special way to arrive, pulling in to the wee village of Lochranza on the ferry. The Isle of Arran is one of our favourite places in Scotland – often referred to as ‘Scotland in Miniature’ because it truly has everything you might want or need from an iconic Scottish experience. Distilleries, castles, standing stones, beautiful vistas, stunning beaches. 

But half of what makes Arran so ideal are the villages spotted around this modest island. An island small enough, you can see it in a day – and we do on our 1-day A Day on the Island: Arran tour from Glasgow.  

Each lovely suburb you pass through is quaint in its own way. But we adore Lochranza for many reasons. First, the striking ruined castle that sits perched on the mud flats of the bay as you arrive by ferry. There are two ways into Arran but we have to say we have a soft spot for this arrival. 

Second, Lochranza houses its own 9-hole golf course. And since Scotland is where the fair game of golf was invented, we cannot suppose a better ‘must-have’ for our island of everything.  

And at the south end of the village, you’ll find what every Scottish experience requires: Lochranza Distillery. If you want to go home feeling like a true Scot, at least a visit to a distillery is required. 


Portree, Skye 

We can’t finish this blog without mentioning Portree. The Isle of Skye draws many from around the world. How could it not? It’s a mystical landscape that inspires all who step foot on it. The legends inhabit every inch of its land – not to mention the history that’s etched into its very landscape. It truly is one of the most spectacular places you’ll visit.  

And then there’s the wee town of Portree. With its row of colourful houses dominating the shore front, its collection of shops selling local products, and its quality dining experiences, Portree is the hub of activity and life on Skye. Fringed by cliffs and hugging the sea, Portree is as quaint as it is convenient – the perfect place to set up overnight before heading off into the wilds of Skye

Skye is not normally a place one can easily visit in a day, not from cities like Glasgow or Edinburgh, we’re afraid. But that’s why we love Inverness, the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’. And we have our 1-day Skye & Eilean Donan Castle tour from Inverness just waiting for you... 


For over 30 years we’ve been exploring Scotland... and we know there are still so many unique places left to uncover. It’s the history, the landscape, the people, the stories, and the wee places that take us in for a mere moment and allow us all to experience the true nature of what it means to be a Scot.  

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