12 Scottish Harbours & Seaside Towns You Must Visit

What a joy it is to be by the sea in Scotland. Walking along a coastal path in the fresh air, stopping for lunch at a seaside restaurant, spending the night in a cute coastal cottage or cosy hotel – doesn’t that sound good? Here we pick a selection of Scottish harbours and towns to inspire your next holiday, with some foodie suggestions too.

Photo: Scottish Castle in Smoke

1. Tobermory, Mull

Tobermory, the capital of Mull, is one of the prettiest ports in Scotland, thanks to its colourful houses and a sheltered bay where rumour has it a Spanish Armada ship sank in 1588 carrying gold bullion. In the mood for seafood? Café Fish, The Mishnish Hotel and the Fisherman’s Pier Fish & Chip Van all cater for hungry travellers. 

2. St. Andrews, Fife

St Andrews is of course famous as the Home of Golf, but many people also visit this historic town to go walking by the sea. You might recognise the West Sands beach from the movie Chariots of Fire, one of cinema’s most iconic opening sequences. It is a great place to go exploring, and there are also a choice of adventure sports available here from surfing to land-yachting. Try fish and chips at Tailend Restaurant, grilled cheese at The Cheesy Toast Shack or ice cream at Janetta’s.

Photo: St. Andrews, Fife

3. North Berwick, East Lothian

The East Lothian town of North Berwick is full of character and the busy harbour is one of the focal points. Once home to an outdoor swimming pool, the harbour area is now the location of the Scottish Seabird Centre, where families can stop and learn about the Scottish coast before a walk along the beach. In the summer months visitors will love eating fresh seafood at The Lobster Shack or Signals Bistro. 

4. St. Abbs, Scottish Borders

If you’re a fan of the Marvel Avenger films, you might recognise this pretty harbour town. St Abbs doubled up as ‘New Asgard’ in the popular film franchise. Photographers will love the cliffs and old fisherman’s cottages in St Abbs and the nearby St Abb’s Head Nature Reserve is a great place to go walking. Local restaurants where you can try the catch of the day include Ebb Carr’s and The Old School Cafe. 

5. Crail, Fife

The East Neuk town of Crail is a pretty patchwork of cobbled streets and fishing cottages, centred around an attractive harbour. In the summertime, it is a great place to walk around and explore, stopping to watch the fishing boats and enjoy an ice cream. Like other towns along the Fife coast, it is easy to access the Fife Coastal Path from Crail which stretches for over 100 miles around the area. Crail Fish Bar & Café and Reilly Shellfish Hut are brilliant places to stop for a bite to eat. 

6. Pennan, Aberdeenshire

Pennan is a tiny fishing hamlet consisting of little more than a single row of whitewashed stone cottages tucked between a cliff and the sea. The village leapt into the limelight when the British movie Local Hero was filmed here in 1982. The town has an attractive harbour which is a great place to spot wildlife – including dolphins! Stop for a bite to eat at the Pennan Inn or Coastal Cuppie. 

Photo: Pennan, Aberdeenshire

7. Portree, Skye

Skye is a place of dramatic landscapes and the natural harbour at Portree is no exception. Fringed by high ground and cliffs, the harbour is used by fishing boats as well as pleasure craft. The town itself is Skye’s cultural hub and has many accommodation options as well as foodie highlights. These include Sea Breezes, The Lower Deck Seafood Restaurant, Cuchullin Restaurant and The Harbour Fish & Chip Shop. 

8. Troon, South Ayrshire

A famous golfing town, Troon will host the 152nd Open Championship in 2024. Golf aside, Troon is a charming west coast seaside town and a great destination for a day out at the beach or a relaxed seaside holiday. Overlooking the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig, the bustling harbour is home to Ayrshire's fish market, which supplies freshly-caught fish and seafood to local restaurants like Scott’s Bar & Restaurant and MacCallum’s Oyster Bar. 

9. Stromness, Orkney

Stromness has been a haven with mariners for centuries, being the last port of call before many a transatlantic voyage. Now it is the arrival point in Orkney for ferries from mainland Scotland. Explore the quaint alleyways and absorb the atmosphere here, before venturing on to Orkney’s famous neolithic sites. Enjoy something to eat at The Ferry Inn or The Hamnavoe Restaurant. 

Photo: Stromness, Orkney

10: Portmahomack, Easter Ross

Portmahomack’s idyllic location on the Easter Ross peninsula makes it popular with leisure crafts and the village is a peaceful place to visit. A broad sandy beach runs west from the historic fishing village and there is a quiet harbour on the north side where boats can be anchored. While here you could walk out along the coast to the Tarbat Ness Lighthouse, the tallest on the Scottish mainland. Try eating at The Oystercatcher or enjoy a light bite at Carnegie Hall café. 

11: Helensburgh, Argyll

The seaside resort of Helensburgh is a gateway to many outdoor activities including the Argyll Kayak Trail and Wild about Argyll Cycling Trail. You can also access walking trails here including the John Muir Way and the Three Lochs Way. If travelling by car, make sure you explore the Clyde Sea Lochs Trail, taking you into the heart of coastal communities to the south west of Loch Lomond. The town is easy to get to from Glasgow and restaurants like Sugar Boat and Riverhill Café will tickle your tastebuds. 

12: Durness, Sutherland

Durness is the most north westerly village in the British mainland and it boasts spectacular scenery with a rocky coastline, pristine beaches and turquoise waters. Nearby Smoo Cave is a must visit, a dramatic hole in a sheer limestone cliff. With vast open spaces on its doorstep, Durness is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle! Stop for a bite to eat at Sango Sands Oasis Restaurant & Bar. 

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