Top 30 most popular small towns and villages in Scotland

Which small Scottish destinations are the most popular?


With staycations booming and Scottish destinations a clear favourite among holiday-makers up and down the UK, the question everyone is asking is where should I go next? It’s no secret that the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are tourist hotspots in their own right, but what about the smaller towns? What will be the most popular destination in 2021?

Holidu, the search engine for holiday rentals, decided to carry out a study to determine which small Scottish towns and cities British people have been looking for in the last twelve months. All towns with less than 20,000 inhabitants were considered for this study. The ranking was drawn up using the average number of monthly searches on Google for these towns with the terms “what to do in” and “things to do in” to determine the most popular small towns with holiday-makers.

1. Fort William, Scottish Highlands – 3,490 searches per month

Fort William has been crowned the most popular small town in Scotland, and it’s not hard to understand why! Known as the “Outdoor Capital of the UK”, this town is situated in the stunning Scottish Highlands, right on the banks of Loch Linnhe. It is a favourite with tourists every year, boasting Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak and the Nevis Range Mountain Resort that is perfect for skiing and snowboarding in the winter or hiking trails in the summer months.

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Glenfinnan Viaduct credit Jack Anstey via Unsplash

2. Oban, Argyll and Bute – 3,290 searches per month

In second place is the gorgeous Oban. For Scotch whisky enthusiasts, Oban is famous for its OBAN Single Malt Scotch Whisky, which dates back to 1794. Dubbed as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, Oban is the perfect place to visit en route to the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Oban is also known to be the seafood capital of Scotland, so expect to enjoy some of the best delicacies the region has to offer!

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Oban credit Nancy Hann via Pixabay

3. Aviemore, Highlands – 3,290 searches per month

In third place is the popular holiday resort of Aviemore and is a favourite for travellers looking to explore the wilderness of the Cairngorms National Park, covering the mountains, Glenmore, Rothiemurchus Forest and much more. Majestic mountains, gorgeous lochs and dense forests surround the town and offer a whole range of year-round activities for its visitors.

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Aviemore credit Bayo Adegunloye via Unsplash

4. St Andrews, Fife – 2,790 searches per month

The coastal town of St Andrews is located in Fife and is known for its links to the Royals and its many magnificent golf courses. Most notably is it famous for its world-class university, the University of St Andrews, which behind Oxford and Cambridge universities, is the third-oldest university in the English-speaking world.

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St Andrews credit Katie Rogen

5. Pitlochry, Perthshire – 1,920 searches per month

This cute town is perfect for a camping getaway for families who love active holidays spent in the outdoors. Blair Atholl Distillery, Blair Castle & Gardens and Pitlochry Golf Course are just a few of the must visit places whilst on a trip to this gorgeous area in Perthshire. About 8 miles outside of Pitlochry you will also find The Falls of Bruar, a brilliant scenic walk featuring series of waterfalls.

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Pitlochry credit Gary Campbell-Hall via Flickr

6. Ullapool, Highlands – 730 searches per month

In sixth place we have the pretty fishing port of Ullapool. One of the main stops on the famous North Coast 500 route, this port lies on the shores of Loch Broom and is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. Outside of the village itself you can visit stunning beaches including Ardmair and Achmelvich, as well as Rhue Point Lighthouse that offers stunning views of the Summer Isles as the sun sets in the evening.

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Pitlochry credit Gary Campbell-Hall via Flickr

7. North Berwick, East Lothian – 700 searches per month

Next up we have North Berwick, a seaside town that has a beach and shoreline to die for! Less than an hours drive from Edinburgh, North Berwick is a fantastic place to visit this summer. To be expected from a seaside town, you’ll be spoilt for choice with classic fish and chip shops and ice cream parlours in North Berwick, as well as trendy coffee shops and sophisticated restaurants!

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North Berwick credit Xavier Coiffic via Unsplash

8. Largs, North Ayrshire – 530 searches per month

Largs, located on the West Coast of Scotland, is a quaint and old fashioned seaside town. People flock to Largs for ice cream at Nardini’s art deco Italian ice cream shop. Described as the ‘nation’s most iconic ice cream parlour’, the famous art deco shop is a must-visit for anyone in the area. Kelburn Castle & Estate is another popular site to visit when in Largs, its grounds are open daily to explore and a variety of events are held here throughout the year.

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Largs credit Daniel Morrison via Flickr

9. Mallaig, Highlands – 500 searches per month

About an hour drive from Fort William is Mallaig, a bustling fishing port. Situated at the end of the famous West Highland Railway and the ‘Road to the Isles’, this is a great base to explore the West Coast and has great links to the islands of Skye, Rum, Eigg and Muck. Mallaig prides itself on its fresh seafood and traditionally smoked kippers and locally caught seafood is always on the menu in a variety of the pubs and restaurants in the area.

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Beach near Mallaig credit Pieternel Baak

10. Nairn, Highlands – 490 searches per month

Finally, in 10th place is Nairn, the fifth destination in the Scottish Highlands to be featured in this top ten. Nairn is situated on the Moray coast and one of its key attractions is its gorgeous white sandy beaches which are world-renowned and are the perfect location for dolphin spotting! Fishing, off-road cycling, wind-surfing, golfing at one of its championship golf courses or simply walking around the area, Nairn is the ideal base for a family holiday.

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Nairn beach credit K B via Unsplash

Discover the rest of the ranking in the table below:



All Scottish towns and villages with less than 20,000 inhabitants were considered for this study. The ranking was then drawn up using the average number of monthly searches on Google in the last 12 months for the terms “what to do in [town]” and “things to do in [town]” in order to determine which destinations were most popular with travellers.

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