Scotland has many beautiful seaside villages, remnants of the nation’s once enormous fishing industry that supplied populations as far away as Russia and the towns of the Hanseatic League. Today little remains of the traditional subsistence modes of fishing, having been replaced by large trawlers for commercial fishing. Still an intrepid visitor to the coasts of Scotland might be tempted to see the picturesque little villages which remain as evidence of this once great fishing fleet. The villages mentioned are all beautiful in their own way, some because of the quiet solitude of the surroundings and some because of the incredibly quaint high streets and houses. Some are pounded by the North Sea and this rugged location make life there quite tough, with the waves lapping at the inhabitants front doors during storms, while others are in secluded coves and lochs on the west coast. If you do visit, make sure to eat as much seafood as possible, the cold water lends itself to incredibly firm and tasty seafood and fish. In particular Scotland is renowned for the quality of its scallops, langoustines, lobsters, cod and oysters. So lets go through a few of the most famous and beautiful villages and towns by the seashore in the country.
North Berwick is a stunning little seaside resort and harbour town on the Southern side of the Firth of Forth, where it meets the North sea. The beach is long and varied, with alternating stretches of sand and rocky headlands, especially near Tantallon Castle, itself about 5km north of town. The islands just offshore of the town make for some beautiful vistas and one of them in particular; Bass Rock has a large and thriving seabird population for those keen bird watchers. Bass rock was once a volcano, a prison and is now one of the premier birdwatching locations in Europe on account of the aforementioned seabird population. There are boat tours available at the harbour which will take you very close, but be warned, the smell is rather intense. The town and harbour themselves are very pretty and quiet, so be sure to take a walk around the town and take a pint in the ‘Auld Hoose’ to wind down after. To plan a visit check out the town website here.
Pittenweem is situated on the headland known as the ‘East Neuk’, which means the East corner, or nook in old English. The village is stunning as it is a showcase of the East Neuk building style which was heavily influenced by trade with the Low Countries, resulting in small whitewashed houses with beautiful red tiles. The tiles were originally brought by the foreign traders as ballast and discarded upon departure when they were seized upon by locals to use as roofing. The port became the main landing for herring in East Neuk as the fisheries collapsed and to this day remains one of the only active ports. It is marked by many ‘skerries’, basically rocky fingers which extend out to sea and provide a deeper harbour for larger vessels. There is a tidal swimming pool and a bunch of really good pubs and restaurants catering to tourists and locals alike. If you want to see a very active port and see one of the best preserved traditional villages in Scotland then come to Pittenweem. Its location in East Neuk makes it easily accessible from Edinburgh by train then bus or by bus entirely. On the way and past it are a number of equally beautiful places to visit such as: Culross, Elie, Lower Largo, St Monans, Anstruther, Crail and St Andrews however Pittenweem is the standout village of the lot.
For more info including maps and transportation info click here.
Portree is the largest town on the island of Skye and it is just gorgeous, with a wee town square that is amongst the most functional I have ever seen, the true heart of this far-flung and isolated community. The other focal point of this community is the harbour, lined with pubs and restaurants for those eager to try Skye’s famed seafood. Most would recommend a short walk up the ‘Lump’, the hill overlooking the village where on a clear day the panorama is incredible. Occasionaly you can even see the ‘Old Man of Storr’ from up there, which is a picturesque rock formation to the north of the island. Portree could be the best base from which to explore Skye due to its central location and the proximity of the local sights.
Plockton is a tiny village on Loch Carron, in the Highlands with an absolutely stunning position, looking at the mountain of Beinn Bann and Duncraig Castle. It is really small, with only a handful of ameneties however, it has a few really good pubs and hotels with restaurants, namely the Plockton Inn. Plockton has been developed as a tourist destination, with numerous ‘Bed and Breakfasts’ or B&Bs as they are called catering to the seasonal influx of tourists. A short walk along the coast is immensely rewarding, with the dramatic landscape playing on the romantic stereotype of isolated highland communities. Come here for solitude, peace and quiet and a jovial community spirit that really feels inclusive to outsiders. Sometimes called the Highland Riviera due to its palm trees and beautiful scenery, it is the perfect place to break up a journey towards Skye from the East coast for a few days.
For more information on the ‘Jewel of the Highlands’ click on the following link.
St. Abbs is a small isolated village in Berwickshire not far from Dunbar and Edinburgh. Surrounded by jagged cliffs and the roiling sea it is reputed to be one of the best scuba diving spots in Scotland due to the clear waters that abound nearby, in contrast to the more silt laden waters further North and South. There are several islands just off the shore that provide a fun and beautiful dive for rookies and experts alike. ‘St. Abbs head’ is a rocky promontory just north of the village with a small lighthouse and some vertiginous cliffs surrounded by a National Nature Reserve. It makes a nice walk up to the head from the village and you can see the sea crashing on cliffs below for that dramatic touch. A visitors centre can be found in the village and more information can be found by clicking here.
So whether you head up to Aberdeen, the West coast, the Highlands or stay around Edinburgh as you have seen there are many beautiful seaside villages to visit and try the local fish and chips or lobster, go diving, exploring, bird watching or just soak up the atmospheric scenery. Be sure to check out these links in order to help you plan your trip in greater detail.