10 pretty coastal villages in Scotland holiday cottages

10 pretty coastal villages in Scotland

Elianne Reed 20 August 2019

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

When the weather gets colder, we dream of warmer days and sunshine, family fun on the beach and long balmy nights celebrating with friends; when the weather gets warmer we dream of cosy autumn nights snuggled up next to a roaring fire and crisp winter walks along remote and beautiful coastline.

As a nation, we are never weather-happy, but this does mean that we have the excitement of planning our next holiday adventure in our favourite season, whichever one that may be! We have put together some of our favourite coastal villages in Scotland to fuel some ideas for your next escape. We wanted to feature the more unusual places, the hidden gems of our rugged coastline, the hidden beauty which can be stumbled upon with a bit of adventure.

Here are ten of the prettiest to put on your list:

1. Plockton

Also known as 'The Jewel of the Highlands', Plockton is an idyllic highland village set on the shores of Loch Carron Bay. Traditional stone buildings that are dotted along the shoreline date back to the 19th century and look on peacefully as the former fishing town welcomes its annual visitors. Staying here will clear your head from all the stresses of daily life as the village's easy-going, slow pace helps you relax and unwind. There is so much to do here!

For the water babies out there, boat trips, sailing, sea kayaking and beach days can all be enjoyed. Biking - both road and mountain - is a popular sport up here and walking, of course, can be enjoyed at any time of year. The harbour itself offers a peaceful place to sit and watch all the sailing boats come and go, and like most little villages, the visitor centre and arts and crafts galleries are open to all. Plockton is all about quality, not quantity, and you will find some great food in the hotel restaurants, the local café and of course, the chippy!

2. Gardenstown

This beauty is one of three villages quietly existing below the cliffs, along the north facing Aberdeenshire coast at Gamrie Bay. To the east of Gardenstown, you will also find Crovie and Pennan, smaller in size. They are all beneath the cliff edge but Gardenstown is said to be the most stable. It was founded in 1720 by Alexander Garden and, originally known as ‘Gamrie’, it was specifically created as a fishing village with a lovely big harbour.

You will notice that the oldest cottages are next to the sea; as the years have gone by, more and more houses have developed and layered up the cliffs, and even onto the ground above the cliffs. It continues to be a vibrant and thriving village, enticing visitors from all over the world. History buffs will love learning about this Scottish gem, and the wildlife lovers out there will be thrilled with all of the surrounding sea life.

3. Rockcliffe

Rockcliffe is one of a number of small seaside villages spread along the stretch of the north shore of the Solway Firth, known as the Colvend Coast. To reach it, turn off the A710 in Colvend, 5 miles south of Dalbeattie, and travel just over a mile (passing Torbay en route) to the southern end of Rockcliffe itself. This is such a lovely quaint place - the arc of white painted houses and cottages look far out over the beach, sea birds surround you calling out to each other as they dip and dive for their supper, while the moving tide changes the beach from craggy rocks to open mudflats.

There is very little commercial activity here, which makes it a real hidden gem in the south. The beach offers hours of entertainment to those families with younger children who are content to play all day with a bucket and spade and challenge each other to sandcastle-building competitions. Hilly walks can be found further afield, and a few hotels and cafés in the area can fulfil those cravings for a much needed shot of caffeine or some tasty Scottish grub! 

4. Corrie

It would almost be impossible not to include an Isle of Arran delight, and instead of featuring the more well-known Lamlash or Brodick, we thought we would instead feature Corrie. You will find Corrie on the northeast side of the island, boasting two harbours that are about half a mile apart; one of them even has a small Viking longboat that is used by the Arran Viking Society.

The village itself is made up of a number of small cottages and houses lining the inland side of the A841 main road, which runs around the whole island, and here you will find a church and village hall, the Corrie Hotel and a village shop. The Isle of Arran is driveable in a day but we suggest you take your time and discover the island slowly, experiencing all the small villages, Goat Fell - the island's mountain - not to mention all the fresh local produce on offer, including the mouthwatering seafood and Arran's very own cheese shop!

5. Aberdour

Located in Fife, this beautiful seaside town is home to two picturesque beaches, a harbour, a castle, a golf course and much more. The castle is the village’s main attraction and tempts visitors from all over the globe with its gallery, fine painted ceiling and peaceful walled garden. Dating as far back as the 13th century, this is a historical marvel for many. Silver Sands beach is Aberdour's pride and joy and overlooks the Firth of Forth towards Edinburgh, the capital city itself.

You can enjoy water sports here, spend long lazy days digging sandcastles and investigating the rock pools, as well as observing the harbour's boats coming and going. For keen golfers, the Aberdour Golf Club boasts an 18-hole, par 67 parkland course which enables you to drink in stunning coastal views whilst enjoying your favourite sport. Definitely worth a visit.

6. Gairloch

Gairloch is a small seaside village set on the shores of Loch Gairloch amongst the impressive wild scenery of Wester Ross. By the time you arrive in the idyllic village you will have been spoiled by magical scenery already, but to stay a period of time here means you will be smiling all week. The name Gairloch comes from the Gaelic "ghearr loch", meaning short loch - referring to the relatively short sea loch that runs along the coast here.

The name Gairloch comes from the Gaelic "ghearr loch", meaning short loch - referring to the relatively short sea loch that runs along the coast here. The coastline is superb, lined with hotels, holiday cottages and quaint eateries. There are lots of walking routes surrounding the village which will appeal to those who are looking to stretch their legs, and there are water sports, pony trekking and whale watching activities too! There is a safe, sheltered sandy beach with good parking, and not too far from that is the secluded beach ‘Big Sand’ which is a lovely spot for beach days and picnics. This is one of the finest locations in west coast Scotland.

7. Tobermory

This is the main town on the Isle of Mull which has become iconic due to its colourful and characterful houses which line the harbour town. Built as a fishing port in 1788, the town curves around the harbour, rising into the hillside beyond, making it both picturesque and quirky – and who doesn’t love to photograph that?

Tobermory has lots to offer its visitors and the locals being charming and welcoming, want to help you enjoy it to the full. It has its own distillery where you and book a guided tour, it has a museum offering an afternoon of education if you are into delving into the past, and the Marine Centre is a great place to learn all about the areas marine heritage. Boat trips leave the island regularly helping you spot sea eagles, dolphins, seals and whales but if you want to stay dry a round of golf, set on clifftops, might be more your scene! 

8. North Berwick

Heading further South, nearby Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, North Berwick is an idyllic seaside town with everything you could want. From hotel spas and smart restaurants to long sandy beaches and trendy coffee shops, there is much to keep everyone occupied here. With views out across the sea to Bass Rock, a famous rock homing the largest gannet colony, it is a pretty town just waiting for your visit.

This is the perfect spot for anyone who is into birdwatching as it is home to a 5-Star Scottish Seabird Centre where you can learn all about the different species and also take boat trips out to Bass Rock and other surrounding islands. There is also putting greens, playgrounds, tennis courts and other sporting activities on offer here so the kids will never be bored. Tire them out and then cool them down with an ice cream from the local parlour or take a dip in the sea! Being close to Edinburgh you have the best of both worlds in North Berwick!

9. Portree

Portree is a magical village set on the coastline of the Isle of Skye. Anyone lucky enough to visit this ancient island will tell you that it is not one to miss. Set round its natural harbour and fringed by high ground, cliffs and trees, the town is both picturesque and characterful. This is one of the main attractions on the island as many visitors flock to experience the setting and culture of the village.

Live music, live theatre and concerts are a big pull to the area and the village is well known for hosting events throughout the year. It is a popular place for those looking for a base to explore the rest of the island from, travelling further to explore the likes of the Fairy Glens, Cuillin Mountains and northernly Uig. Boat cruises, pony-trekking, mountain biking and guided tours of the islands are all available from Portree, and the village awaits with eateries and pubs to re-fuel you after days out exploring.

10. Crail

Crail is a glorious seaside town located north of Edinbrugh in the pretty East Neuk of Fife. This area is quite often forgotten due to its humble position across the sea from the capital, but it is hidden gem for those who come to visit for the first time. The mini harbour can be reached by downwards cobbled steps and here you soak up some sun with an ice cream admiring all the fishing boats.

Basing yourself here gives you lots of options for exploration, especially as it is set on the Fife Coastal Route which takes you on a drive around the north east coast of the Kingdom of Fife. There is plenty to do in town too though, from galleries to tearooms you will be set for a chilled-out day! To stretch out the legs, take on the Fife Coastal Path or hire a bike and cycle until your heart is content. This is a peaceful place for a relaxing break.

Hopefully, we have managed to surprise you with some villages you may not have heard of before! We hope that you have enjoyed reading about them and manage to include one or two during your next holiday to Scotland. If you are looking for a base for your upcoming adventures, have a peek at our collection of coastal cottages in Scotland to find the perfect place to return to at night.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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