Scotland's most beautiful town

19 July 2018

falls of dochart

Falls of Dochart by Andy Magee via CC

What is it that makes a town beautiful? Is it the historic architecture, the surrounding scenery, the location or maybe it’s the atmosphere created by the people who live there? Or is it just that certain something that you only know when you experience it?  Hidden Scotland has just published it’s list of finalists in ‘Scotland’s most Beautiful Town’ competition, a diverse collection that takes in fishing villages, remote islands and some sadly, overlooked parts of the country. Just what is it that makes these places so special? Here is a quick look at our favourites and some fantastic places to stay when you visit.

Dunkeld is typically bypassed by those hurtling up the A9, but its accessibility is just the first of many attractions. It’s far enough from the main road to be quiet and peaceful but an easy drive to or from the central belt. The area surrounding the village is a designated National Scenic Area, which prevents much modern development and preserves the unique historic character. Old buildings are very much in evidence with a Thomas Telford bridge acting like a gateway to the village and the main street retains an attractive period charm. The village has a sporty and outdoors vibe to it with brilliant mountain biking, road biking and climbing within easy reach, as well as some fascinating historic sites to visit such as the National Trust owned Hermitage and the Medieval Cathedral. Flint Cottage is a short walk from the centre and is ideal for nature lovers with fallow deer and red squirrels spotted nearby and the Loch of the Lowes Osprey hide just a short drive away.

Rosemarkie has earned its place on the list in large part due to its supreme location at the end of a stunning sandy beach. It’s a fantastic and peaceful walk and comes with the added bonus of having an excellent chance to spot dolphins. The village has retained an old fashioned outlook and although little remains of the traditional industries, tourists are very well served with a variety of top notch bars, cafes and restaurants. Old buildings have been re-purposed into attractions such as the Groam House Museum which tells the story of the areas rich and fascinating Pictish history. Dolphin House sleeps 8 and is right in the heart of the village, with so much within easy reach you could easily have a holiday here without using your car.

Ballater was a hugely important town in the Victorian era with a railway station bringing coachloads of visitors to sample the waters of the nearby mineral well, as well as bringing several generations of royalty to Balmoral. The centre of the village is now a conservation area which has preserved the historic atmosphere of the place. The town is a gateway to the mountains and is surrounded on all sides by rolling hills. The upland position means it gets colder than average winters and is an absolute delight to see when blanketed by snow. Inver Lodge is a modern conversion of a traditional coaching inn, just outside the village, a perfect place to escape to in winter whether to go skiing, winter walking or just sitting spending an evening with friends around the fire.

Cromarty is a picturesque fishing village which has a fascinating nautical past. The old fashioned narrow streets and dwellings in fisher-town are extremely photogenic and a delight to amble round.  The harbour is still in use and it’s possible to arrive in style via the tiny ferry from Nigg which only operates in the summer. The thriving community here has reinvented itself, with the decline of the fishing industry it has focused on arts and entertainment to attract tourists and there is now quality dining, regular live music, events such as the annual film festival and a lovely collection of boutique shops to keep visitors occupied. Seashell Cottage is a traditional stone built cottage right in the heart of the action. One of the oldest houses in the village, it has been renovated to a high standard and makes the perfect luxury retreat for those wanting to get away from the stresses of the city.

The inclusion of Killin on this list must be due in no small part to the unique feature that dominates the village centre. The Falls of Dochart. This much photographed attraction is particularly impressive in the winter when the volume of water increases and you can sit outside at the Falls of Dochart Inn and hear the power of the water crashing past. The village is gently spread out and surrounded by green hills in every direction. For sporty people the location can’t be beat, being at the edge of the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve and the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Ardchyle House is walking distance from the village centre and handy for the numerous water-sports available on Loch Tay, but also a great place to relax as well as a place to be active.